The 2nd most quoted book in the western world was written in a room above the quadrangle at Christ Church College, Oxford University.
The author was the Mathematics Lecturer, Rev Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but this wasn’t a learned treatise on mathematics. Alice in Wonderland was a book for children, and Dodgson wrote it under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll.
Alice in Wonderland was written for Carroll’s young friend Alice Liddell, who was the daughter of Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church. Although it is a book for children, it appeals to all ages. It contains brilliant verbal word play, with logic pushed beyond the limit. Alice in Wonderland has been translated into virtually every language on earth and has influenced the thinking of mankind to an extraordinary degree.
Henry Liddell moved into the Deanery at Christ Church in February, 1856. Carroll met Alice in the Deanery garden, where the Liddell children often played. He devised games and puzzles for their amusement, including word games, games of logic and a game based on croquet.
Soon after meeting Alice, he purchased a camera and photographed many famous people. He particularly loved photographing little girls and he took many photos of Alice, some of which still exist.
On July 4th, 1862, Carroll took Alice and her two sisters on a boating trip on the River Isis (the local name for the stretch of the Thames that flows through Oxford). As they were punting along, he told them a story about Alice and a White Rabbit. The story was later published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel.
In keeping with the literary theme, the Great Hall at Christ Church has recently been the inspiration for Hogwart’s Hall in the Harry Potter films. Some of the scenes from the movies were actually shot at Christ Church, including one on the magnificent 16th century staircase leading up to the Great Hall.
Christ Church is open 364 days of the year.
Special Thanks To
A.P. Watt on behalf of Trustees of the C L Dodgson Estate (Lewis Carroll A Biography)
Mrs M J St Clair (illustrations provided by, from The Nursery Alice, MacMillian) (The World of Alice)
Editions Gallimard Jeunesse Paris (Lewis Carroll and Alice – New Horizons Series)
Every effort has been made to trace the above copyright holders but some without success. We will be pleased to rectify any omissions in the future.