After an absence of ten years, I recently moved back to a village just outside the Welsh seaside town of Llandudno. At first the town seemed much the same as I remembered. And then I walked around a corner and bumped into this ...
... an enormous wooden statue of Alice in Wonderland's White Rabbit, which seemed a little bit random to say the least! But I did some research and found out that these carved wooden characters from the famous book by Lewis Carroll appear all around Llandudno as part of the Alice in Wonderland Trail. Alice herself waits outside the railway station and The Queen of Hearts is located close to one of my favourite Italian restaurants. But the one I like best is The Hatter, who can be seen gazing up at the Great Orme from the Promenade.
So what is the connection between this Victorian seaside town and one of the most famous children's classics of all time?
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, more famously known as Lewis Carroll, was a clergyman and mathematics don at Oxford University. He had written stories from a very young age but he was inspired to write Alice's Adventures in Wonderland while taking the three eldest daughters of the Dean of Christ Church College (Lorina, Alice and Edith Liddell) on a boat trip up the river to Godstow. During this trip Dodgson told the girls a story, which would later become Alice's Adventures Underground. In 1864 he presented this story as a handwritten manuscript, complete with his own illustrations, to Alice Liddell as a Christmas gift, "In memory of a summer's day". A longer version was finally published in 1865 as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel.
|St Tudno Hotel
Much has also been made of the family's friendship with Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria. He matriculated at Christ Church College in 1872 and often visited the Liddell family at the Deanery in Oxford. In 1873, Prince Leopold paid a secret visit to Llandudno and stayed at the Imperial Hotel - but why? There was at least one occasion where Prince Leopold had taken Alice Liddell on a boat trip along the river at Oxford. Did they have a secret romance in Llandudno? We'll never know but later, after they had both married other people, Alice named her second son Leopold - and Prince Leopold called his daughter Alice ...
Penmorfa was sold in 1873, later to become part of the Gogarth Abbey Hotel. Despite a huge local campaign, the house was sadly demolished in 2008.