I recently found myself as near to falling down the rabbit hole as I would come in my life. Though with a vivid imagination as mine, every day almost feels near enough to Wonderland, just without the colourful characters! If you’re a fan of Lewis Carroll and more specifically his works of art in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, then a visit to Oxford should be on your bucket list. You can visit Oxford on a day trip from London (bus or trains are frequent and inexpensive), or you can choose to stay a while in the area if you’re interested in seeing more of the English countryside – highly recommended! But for those that come to Oxford specifically to learn more about Alice and Wonderland, here is a helpful guide to help you on your visit!
But First, A Little History…
What many readers of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland don’t know, is that Charles Dodgeson (aka Lewis Carroll) didn’t come to Oxford to study literature, nor did he intend on writing one of the world’s most memorable fairytales. Instead, he came to Oxford to study mathematics, and if you re-read the stories knowing this, you will find the stories are laden with mathematical references and underpinnings. But Dodgeson also had a very clever way with words, and the entire story of Alice is a clever play on the English language.
So how did he come to writing Alice? Was Alice real or fictional? Despite loving the stories and being an avid fan, I too came to Oxford with these very questions.
As it turns out, Alice was real. Charles met young Alice Liddell at university, as she was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church college. She was the sole inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. He wrote the story on an afternoon boat trip with Alice’s family, about a a young girl who was bored and looking for adventures. Thus, we come to the first location.
Where Charles Dodgeson began writing the tales of Alice, a bored girl looking for adventures.
Christ Church College
Christ Church College is where Charles met Alice and her family, as her father was the Dean of Christ Church College and they therefore lived on site. When you enter the Great Hall (known mostly to Harry Potter fans), be sure to look up to your left and notice the stained glass window dedicated to Alice, which shows a number of characters from the story as well as Alice herself. Also within the grounds of this college, you can visit the cathedral and if you’re in luck, the door to the left will be open. Outside you will see a large garden and a small door in the wall, which leads to another garden. This was how Alice and her family made their way to church services and is said to have inspired the idea of “Wonderland”.
Is a real place indeed! Just opposite the visitor’s main entrance to Christ Church College is Alice’s Shop, which sells all things Alice and Wonderland [visit the online shop here]. But the shop is also a real reference in the book, as Dodgeson refers to it as the Old Sheep Shop. This is a great place to end your self-guided tour to buy a few trinkets to take home and remember the day you entered Wonderland!
Thanks to Visit Oxfordshire for arranging my special day in Oxford!