Alice in Wonderland’s Oxford

Oxford spires

When I think of Oxford, I think of spires and little nooks and crannies throughout the campus.  There truly are two parts to Oxford: there is Oxford the town and then Oxford the University.  The many pictures you see are often of Oxford the University, so do not fret when you walk out of the train station and you don’t see magnificent buildings with spires.

Oxford is also the home of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, originally entitled Alice Adventures Underground. Alice’s father was the Dean of Christ Church, the college where Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, otherwise know as Lewis Carroll, taught.  The story goes that on a ‘golden afternoon’ in the summer of 1862, Alice and her two sisters, Edith and Lorina, along with Charles were boating together when Alice asked him to, “tell them a story.”  Inspired by the lives of the girls, he spouted the tale of Alice down the rabbit hole.  After he told his story, ten-year-old Alice begged him to put it in writing for her.  Two and a half years later he delivered the completed hand-written manuscript to her, illustrated with his own drawings, as a Christmas present.

If you have read the “Looking Glass”, the Alice Shop is a must stop, being the inspiration for the Sheep Shop.  In actuality, it was a little grocery store just across the road from where the real Alice Liddell lived over 140 years ago in Oxford.  The shop was apparently run by a woman whose voice sounded like a sheep, and it was here that Alice used to buy her barley sugar sweets.  Today it houses books, memorabilia, gifts, and sweets, all based on the tales of Lewis Carroll.



Originally, there were no thoughts of publication.  It wasn’t until he was pressured  by several of his friends that he sought out publishing houses.  Lucky for us he published, since it has become a story told in almost every household, becoming almost as widely quoted as Shakespeare and the Bible.


Fun little anecdotes:

  • Many of the nonsensical characters and sOxfordettings were based off of real people and real places in Charles Dodgson’s life.  Those originally reading the books would have picked up on many of the references that are lost to readers today.
  • The White Rabbit was based off of the Dean of Christ Church college, Alice’s father, where he left dinner every night down a long, narrow, spiral staircase behind the ‘high table’ in the Dining Hall…hence comes the rabbit hole.
  • On the right hand side of the Dining Hall, at ground level, there are brass firedogs who guard the fire, and they have long necks…the inspiration behind Alice’s own neck growing long in the story.
  • In the Dining Hall of Christ Church, high on the left-hand wall, the fifth window from the entrance shows portraits of Alice and scenes from the book.  A secret find.
  • Neither of the Alice books have gone out of print since their first publication.
  • This pic look familiar?  It is also the dining hall for the Harry Potter films.


Other famous authors with a link to Oxford:

C.S. Lewis

J.R.R. Tolkien

P.D. James

Ian McEwan