Anyone that has visited Llandudno could not have missed all of the statues and businesses that link the town to the classic novel, Alice in Wonderland.
But not many people really know the real backstory and one of the most common questions we get asked is “what is the connection between Llandudno and Alice in Wonderland”?
Alice in Wonderland was written by Charles Dodgson, using the pen name ‘Lewis Carroll’. He left Rugby at the end of 1849 and matriculated at the University of Oxford in May 1850. He was a talented mathematician and won the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship in 1855, which he continued to hold for the next 26 years.
In 1856, Henry Liddell arrived as the Dean at Christ Church, bringing with him his young family. They lived in Oxford, but in 1862, they built a holiday home on the west shore of Llandudno named ‘Penmorfa’, which they regularly visited.
Charles became close friends with the Liddell’s, in particular the three sisters Lorina, Edith, and Alice. During a boat trip in July 1862, Alice asked Charles to entertain her and her 2 sisters with a story. Charles delighted the girls with stories about a girl named Alice and her adventures after falling down a rabbit hole. Alice loved the story and asked Charles to write it down for her, which he promised to do.
A couple of years passed and in November 1864, Charles presented Alice with a manuscript of ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’.
It is widely accepted that ‘Alice Liddell’ is the true Alice, from the Alice in Wonderland stories. There are references in the books that bear similarities to places around Llandudno, in particular around the location of the Liddell’s holiday home, Penmorfa. Most striking is a small cave close to the holiday home where Alice used to play. Some think this could have been the inspiration behind the rabbit hole through to Wonderland.
A number of people dispute whether or not Carroll ever visited Llandudno, however a photo of the front of Penmorfa does contain a gentleman that is believed to be him. In a later interview, Alice was asked to confirm that he visited. She did not deny the visit, only said that “it could not have been before 1862, as we were not there then” – implying that he had visited.