Just eight miles from the country cottage where I’m staying in the heart of rural Cheshire is the small village of Daresbury. This was the childhood home of Charles Dodgson, a very clever young man who went on to study and teach Maths at Oxford.
Dodgson was also a writer and a dreamer, he wrote one of the most influential children’s books of the Victorian era. Writing under the pen name of Lewis Carroll, he wrote ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ first published in 1865 by Macmillan. For generations of children this book introduced a series of characters that have stayed with them for life. I include myself as one of those children.
In Wonderland Alice met the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts, Mad Hatter and the Dormouse. All these characters were brought to life in our hearts and in our imagination by the superb illustrations by John Tenniel. Long before Disney created the animated films these fabulous drawings fuelled our dreams. Their appeal reached from children to adults.
The Church of All Saints in Daresbury nestles in a typical english village. It is surrounded by trees and gravestones. Inside the church there is a very beautiful memorial to Charles Dodgson. It is a stained glass window that features the characters from Alice in Wonderland. It’s a delightful, surprise encounter on a miserable, rainy, winter’s day.
This unique stained glass window features a traditional nativity scene across the top lights, including Mary, Jesus and Joseph (centre). However the beady eyed viewer will spot Dodgson and his creation Alice, kneeling to the left of the scene. The shepherds are on the right. Then the all important characters are along the bottom, starting with the White Rabbit, Caterpillar, Mad Hatter and March Hare, Queen of Hearts and Mock Turtle. Even the Dormouse has an important position in the centre, peering sleepily from the teapot.
As I come to terms with a very strange winter, a very strange winter indeed, surrounded by unwanted laws and regulations that would have been unthinkable just a year ago, I think I’ll revisit Alice’s journey and possibly spend time with that Caterpillar. If I remember rightly he’s got opium in that pipe and I’m thinking that in life it’s always important to be open to new experiences….and to embrace new challenges head on………………
You’ll see from this article that I too keep tumbling into the rabbit hole, the more I try to finish and conclude elegantly the more I’m drawn to make just one further point………..
- Now might be a good time to read Thomas de Quincey’s ‘Confessions of an Opium-Eater’ an autobiography first published in 1821, when a laudanum addiction was almost essential in polite society.
- For thoughts and tales from Italy, The Alps, British Isles why not investigate further www.educated-traveller.com
- If escape is on your mind I’d suggest Leonora Carrington’s surrealist paintings: Leonora Carrington – Surrealist artist
- All observations are tongue in cheek and designed to brighten your day!!
A little more detail on the stained glass window at All Saints Church, Daresbury, from the church’s own web site:
The Daniell Chapel contains one of the best-known features of All Saints’, the Lewis Carroll Memorial Window. To mark the centenary of his birth, Carroll enthusiasts from all over the world subscribed to a memorial fund, which resulted in a gift to All Saints’ of this striking and unusual stained glass window, dedicated in 1935.
The window was designed by the stained glass artist Geoffrey Webb and depicts a Nativity scene, at which both Carroll and Alice are present. Below the Nativity scene are 5 panels illustrated with characters and scenes from Alice in Wonderland including the White Rabbit, the Lizard, the Dodo, the Caterpillar, Fish-Footman, Mad Hatter, Dormouse, March Hare, Duchess, Gryphon, Mock Turtle, Knave and Queen of Hearts. The famous Cheshire Cat can be found in the centre of the fifth panel. The 3 centre panels contain verses from Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘Christmas Greetings (From a Fairy to a Child)’.
Geoffrey Webb’s mark was a spider’s web that he would incorporate into the design of his windows. The web can be found in the fifth section of the Window, just above the Queen of Hearts and includes the date ‘1935’. Other examples of Geoffrey Webb’s work can be found at Manchester Cathedral, Tewkesbury Abbey, Woolwich Town Hall, St John the Divine, (Felbridge) St Mary’s (East Grinstead) St Mark’s Cathedral (George, South Africa) St Nicholas (Kingsley, Hampshire), and windows in the parish churches of Cowfold, Lindfield and Oxted. Geoffrey Webb died in 1954.
A FURTHER NOTE: My fellow blogger Sandra Hutchinson pointed out to me that Christ Church also has an Alice Window, which I’m looking forward to discovering. The window features characters from Wonderland and a portrait of Alice. There’s also an informative blog by Jim Godfrey, posted on the Christ Church web site (July 2018). https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/blog/alice
Sandra Hutchinson writes an interesting and well constructed blog. I’d recommend it. Here’s the link: www.sandrahutchinson.com she wrote fairly recently about ‘living like a student in Oxford’ which I throughly enjoyed and was better than anything I’ve written on the subject.
Oh no, here we go down the rabbit hole…….again………..
- Oxford – this is Oxford
- Oxford – A series of unexpected events…
- Live like a student at Oxford University: B & B at Christ Church College
- Try not to be late, even though the White Rabbit may have distracted you! Happy Reading!
- Written: 22nd November, 2020
- Amended: 24th November, 2020
- Updated: 29th December, 2020
A final word has to go to the Mad Hatter who’s incantation sums up perfectly this crazy, covid year………
The wonderful illustrations which so many of us associate with Alice in Wonderland date from the 1860s and were created in very close collaboration with Lewis Carroll by John Tenniel. He was already a successful illustrator at Punch magazine – one of the most famous magazines of the day, combining wit, humour and quality writing with cartoon-like drawings.
Here’s a brief extract from Tenniel’s wikipedia entry: Sir John Tenniel (28 February 1820 – 25 February 1914) was an English illustrator, graphic humorist and political cartoonist prominent in the second half of the 19th century. He was knighted for artistic achievements in 1893. Tenniel is remembered mainly as the principal political cartoonist for Punch magazine for over 50 years and for his illustrations to Lewis Carroll‘s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871).
That’s it from me: 29th December, 2020