I’m currently studying a MOOC (massive online open course) from the University of Michigan which is called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. This week’s readings are two of the works of Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Inspired by my reading I went to visit the small village of Daresbury in Cheshire where Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) was born in the Old Parsonage in 1827. His father, Revd Charles Dodgson, was the vicar at the church of All Saints and Lewis Carroll spent the first 11 years of his life in the village.
The original church was built as a chapel of Norton Priory and would have been of a timber construction. After the Reformation a stone built church replaced it, but all that is left of this is the tower. The present church was built in 1870 and is not the one that would have been familiar to Lewis Carroll as a child. All that remains of the old church is the tower and the stone font, which is now in the churchyard.
In the Daniell Chapel is a stained glass window marking the centenary of the birth of
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Paid for by enthusiasts from all over the world it was designed by Geoffrey Webb and shows a nativity scene at which Lewis Carroll and Alice are present. Below the nativity are five panels showing scenes from Alice in Wonderland. You can see the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat, amongst others. The three central panels contain verses from Lewis Carroll’s poem Christmas Greetings (From a Fairy to a Child). For a closer look at the Alice window: http://daresburycofe.org.uk/tourism/alice-window/
The Lewis Carroll connection is also celebrated in the recently built Lewis Carroll Centre, at the back of the church. It tells visitors more about Lewis Carroll’s life and times and how he came to write the stories about Alice. It’s a beautiful addition to the church and if you can’t visit in person take a look at the website: http://lewiscarrollcentre.org.uk/
After I’d visited the church I went to the site just beyond Daresbury where the Old Parsonage used to be. It was a bit muddy after all the recent rain, but we kept following the White Rabbit until we came to the spot where Lewis Carroll was born. The parsonage was burnt down in 1884 but the land is now owned by the National Trust and the rooms of the parsonage are marked out in brick. It had a schoolroom, a parlour, cellars and seven upstairs rooms. Charles and nine of his brothers and sisters were born here and Rev Dodgson also took in paying pupils who learnt Latin and Ancient Greek. The 1841 census lists a total of 22 people living in the house. It must have been very crowded.
A wrought iron archway shows the site of the front door and with a little imagination you can see how it would have been when Lewis Carroll lived there and how the beautiful countryside all around must have delighted and inspired him.