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Lewis Carroll and Croft Church

Carroll's famous Cheshire Cat was inspired by a carving in Croft Church

Croft on Tees is home to what might be the most famous smile in literature. Historians state that Lewis Carroll's famous Cheshire Cat was inspired by a carving in Croft Church.

Lewis Carroll, the famous author of such masterpeices such as, Alice in Wonderland, Jaberwocky, Through the Looking Glass and many more was very closley connected to Croft. His 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.

It would be safe to say that one of Carroll's most famous characters is the well known, 'Chershire 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 feline'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 creature 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

Throughout the passage of time many relics have been discovered within The Croft Rectory. 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. 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".


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