An English Wonderland

The latest silver screen version of 'Alice' is an extravaganza of live action combined with CGI effects straight out of Hollywood, but Carroll's book has its roots firmly in Victorian England. Here we let you in on some of the secrets behind the mad-hatter world where rabbits carry fob watches and caterpillars smoke hookahs.

Lewis Carroll was a remarkable man. His real name was Charles Dodgson and he was a logician, Anglican deacon and amateur photographer, as well as professor of mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford. That's where he met the Liddell family and became friends with their daughters, including, of course, Alice. It was to the Liddell girls that he first told the story of Alice's adventures underground in a story full of symbolism, mathematical and linguistic play, and satirical comment on Victorian society.

Many of the characters in Carroll's madcap world, now brought to life under the masterful direction of that wizard of cinematic art, Tim Burton, were based on people who would have been very familiar to the Liddell children. If you visit Christ Church, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the college where, not only will you find out some of the history of this jewel of English university architecture, but you'll also discover who the White Rabbit really was, and why he was always late. You'll even get to see the original rabbit hole, and the tree where the Cheshire cat lurked.

Oxford is full of connections to the Alice books. Across the road from Christ Church is Alice's shop where the Liddell sisters bought their sweets, which, with its sheep-voiced shopkeeper features in the second book, Through the Looking Glass. Today, the grocery shop, in a 500-year-old building, has been converted into a tea-room and also sells all manner of things associated with the stories.

Carroll originally started to tell the Wonderland story to the Liddell sisters on a boat trip on the Thames in Oxford, They were headed for Godstow, and Oxford River Cruises offer you the chance to follow their route and enjoy a lazy lunchtime picnic cruise, a Mad Hatter's Tea Party trip, or a number of other options, including hiring a boat to do your own exploring.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tim Burton turned to England for some of the locations for the new film, which stars the unmatchable Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Burton's British partner Helena Bonham Carter  as the Red Queen. He found what he was looking for in the south west, and the crew went on location in and around Plymouth, Devon. The scene where Alice sets sail for China was filmed in Cornwall, in the historic harbour of Charlestown, a delightful and unspoiled coastal village.

For other scenes, Burton was looking for "…a perfect, pocket-sized mansion; something beautifully symmetrical, with intimate interiors, wide views and landscaped gardens." And that's a perfect description of the beautiful National Trust property Antony House, an eighteenth century mansion in Torpoint, Cornwall. Although the cameras and the film crews are long gone from the house and grounds, the National Trust to celebrate their role in the film, has created the Alice in Wonderland Experience, an enchanting, family-friendly visitor experience with special events and giant installations featuring scenes and characters from the Alice stories. As well as an intriguing rabbit hole that takes visitors into a magical garden where they may feel as if they've drunk some of Alice's shrinking potion, there will be croquet on the lawn, and Mad Hatter’s tea parties at weekends and Bank Holidays.

Further information:
Tourism in England
Alice in Oxford