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Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll's Surrey links

PUBLISHED: 15:00 30 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:59 20 February 2013

With Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and co bringing the ever popular Alice in Wonderland to a whole new generation of cinema goers, Laura Godolphin takes a look back at the life and Guildford links of Alice's creator, the author Lewis Carroll

With Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and co bringing the ever popular Alice in Wonderland to a whole new generation of cinema goers, Laura Godolphin takes a look back at the life and Guildford links of Alice's creator, the author Lewis Carroll



Smashing box office records so recently set by Avatar, Tim Burtons vivid new adaption of Alice in Wonderland, starring such luminaries as Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman, has brought new life to this much loved story.


However, Alices original adventures began in the no less colourful novels of Lewis Carroll, an Oxford mathematician who spent time during the later years of his life in Guildford.


Becoming Lewis Carroll


Born in Cheshire, in 1832, as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, he used the pseudonym of Carroll with the publication of his first novel, Alices Adventures in Wonderland in 1865.


Dodgson was the third child and eldest boy of eleven, and studied mathematics at Christ Church College in Oxford where, in 1856, he met the girl who many believe was the inspiration for the character of Alice: Alice Liddell, daughter of the college Dean.


It was in boating trips with Alice and her sisters Edith and Lorina that Carroll first began to describe the imaginative land of Wonderland, told initially as a tale to amuse the children.


After being begged by Alice Liddell to write it down, he eventually came up with the manuscript that became Alices Adventures in Wonderland, which was received with great critical acclaim.


Moving the family to Chestnuts


In 1868, Carrolls father tragically died, leaving him in charge of his six unmarried sisters. It is then that he came to Surrey, looking for a house to rent for his family, and eventually settled on a property called the Chestnuts overlooking Guildford Castle.


Although Carroll continued to live and work in Oxford, he visited his sisters often and during a stay at the Chestnuts, in 1871, he completed a sequel: Through The Looking Glass.


Carroll was fond of walking over the North Downs and it is thought that during a walk across the Hogs Back he came up with his 1875 poem, The Hunting of the Snark.


Lewis Carrolls final resting place


Lewis Carroll diedon January 14 1898 at the Chestnuts andwas buried nearby at the Mount Cemetery, where a cross erected for him by his sisters can be seen to this day.


His family continued to live at the Chestnuts for some years into the twentieth century. A memorial plaque to Lewis Carroll was put on the wall outside but was removed in 2005 after an attempted theft.


Alice in Wonderland statues


Alice herself is still present in Guildford, for those who know where to look: in the form of two statues created by Jean Argent. One features an early scene from the first book of Alice sitting with her sister as nearby a rabbit runs down a hole. This can be found next to the River Wey at Millmead. The other depicts Alice partway through the Looking Glass and is in the Castle Gardens.


While, at Guildford Museum, you can find objects owned by the family during their time at the Chestnuts. The museum is to hold an exhibition Curiouser and Curiouser the lifetime and legacy of Lewis Carroll later this year, from Saturday July 10 to Saturday September 18. The exhibition will include pictures taken by Lewis Carroll, which are on loan from the Lewis Carroll Society.


Meanwhile, Surrey History Centre in Woking also holds several significant archives relating to the great author.


Photo: Wakeling Collection / Guildford Heritage Services

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