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24 September 2014

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A grin without a cat
Croft Church
Croft Church, where Lewis Carroll's father was rector.

Croft on Tees is home to what might be the most famous smile in literature.

Historians think Lewis Carroll's famous Cheshire Cat was inspired by a carving in Croft Church.

video The Rector (56k)
Croft's present-day Rector interviewed.
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Carroll in Croft
Local historian David Simpson's site.

Carroll homepage
More about Carroll's life and work.

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 Lewis Carroll's real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

 Born 1832 in Daresbury, Cheshire.

 Moved to Croft on Tees in 1843.

 Published "Alice in Wonderland" in 1865.

 "Through the Looking Glass" published in 1871.

 Died in Guildford in 1898.

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Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll
Carroll at 25.

Lewis Carroll's father was Rector of Croft church and Archdeacon of Richmond from 1843-1868. Carroll was 11 when he came to live on the Tees.

He was one of 11 brothers and sisters, and first started making up stories to entertain his family.

Much of "Alice in Wonderland" is said to have been set in and around the rectory and church.

The first verse of the famous nonsense poem "Jabberwocky" was written at Croft. Local historian David Simpson thinks it was based on the legend of the Sockburn Worm.

Sockburn lies to the east of Croft, further down the Tees.

The Cheshire Cat

Carved stone cat
The Cheshire cat?

Croft church has a sedilia - a seat for the clergy built into the wall - at one end of which is a carved stone face of a cat or lion.

Could this have been the original Cheshire Cat? Seen from a pew it has a smile as wide as that famous moggy's.

But if you stand up, the grin seems to disappear, just as it eventually does in "Alice in Wonderland".

Lewis Carroll, real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, created the inscrutable evaporating feline for his "Alice in Wonderland".

`Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; `but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!'
Alice in Wonderland, 1865


A child's shoe.

In 1950 the floorboards of Croft rectory were taken up. They had lain undisturbed since Carroll's time.

Underneath were found various Victorian artefacts, which may have belonged to Carroll's family.

They are still kept at the church, and include a child's shoe, and a white glove.

One of the white Rabbit's gloves?

The shoe is just the type that Alice might have worn, and the glove is reminiscent of the White Rabbit's gloves in "Alice in Wonderland".



Tennyson's niece in Croft.
Carroll took this photo of Tennyson's niece in Croft.

Lewis Carroll was multi-talented to say the least.

He was famous not only as a writer and mathematician, but also as a photographer.

On the right is a photo of Alfred Lord Tennyson's niece which Carroll took in the gardens of Croft rectory in 1857.


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