Fringe Box



Will The Lewis Carroll Plaque Be Reinstated?

Published on: 27 Feb, 2012
Updated on: 27 Feb, 2012

by David Rose

Questions over the missing Lewis Carroll plaque that was once on a gate post of The Chestnuts in Castle Hill have increased following comments made by Martin Giles and myself during one of our recent guided history walks and talks of the town centre.

Maurice Hibberd came on the walk and talk. He was interested to hear our story of how the metal plaque, that dates back to 1933, has, in recent years, been removed by the current owners of this historic house for safe-keeping.

This is what the Lewis Carroll plaque looks like. The Surrey Advertiser has featured a story over its whereabouts.

The Chestnuts was leased by Carroll, writer of the Alice books, and lived in by six of his unmarried sisters. Carroll (real name the Rev’d Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) was a regular visitor to the house in the late 19th century and died there after a short illness in 1898.

Mr Hibbered contacted the Surrey Advertiser wondering why the borough council has not taken issue over the missing plaque. This has resulted in the newspaper running a story on the front page of this week’s Guildford edition (Friday, September 9, 2011).

In the story Mr Hibbered is quoted as saying of our walk and talk: “It was a nice evening and we all went back to the Angel Hotel for a drink and a slide show – there were pictures of Carroll’s house.

“There was one of the plaque being put on the wall at its opening ceremony, but it is not there anymore. It has gone missing. Why hasn’t the council done anything about the plaque?”

Cllr Jen Powell, lead councillor for culture and leisure, is quoted in the story saying that although it is not an official plaque, the council would very much appreciate it being displayed on the property.

“We are keen to promote and celebrate Lewis Carroll’s association with Guildford and the town’s history,” she added.

The Rev’d Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who wrote the Alice books under the pen-name Lewis Carroll.

It is, without doubt, all about making sure the famous writer’s historic connections with Guildford are kept alive. We already have the ‘Through The Looking Glass’ statue in the Castle Grounds and the ‘Alice and rabbit statue’ beside the river at Millmead.

Guildford Museum has always done its bit to champion the writer and his family’s links with the town.

I am quoted in the newspaper story saying that one idea would be to have a replica put up at The Chestnuts, with the original displayed at the museum, on loan from the owners of the house.

It would appear that Guildford is very much on the tourist trail for those fans of Lewis Carroll. He certainly commands a big following overseas, especially in the USA and Japan.

Does Guildford do enough for would-be pilgrims on the Carroll trail?

I heard that his grave in The Mount cemetery is in a sorry state with a tree growing through the plot.

Lewis Carroll’s grave in The Mount cemetery.

Well, these photos which I took today (Saturday, September 10) show that is not the case. Yes, there is a large fir tree right next to his grave and the stone cross leans at a slight angle, but the grave is well maintained and currently planted with summer bedding.

There are also tasteful signs pointing the way through the cemetery to his and other graves of his relatives who lie there.

Summer bedding on Lewis Carroll’s grave.

We can’t claim Guildford as being ‘the home of Lewis Carroll’, as he was, of course, an Oxford man. He was just a fairly frequent visitor. It wouldn’t be right, for example, to proclaim his association on road signs on the approaches to Guildford, or put his name in neon lights and strung across the High Street. All that would be rather tacky!

As long as the borough keeps his profile in focus, along with those who write and comment about the town’s history and all those who lead guided walks, we are doing what we can…. if only that plaque was reinstated though…

David Rose and Martin Giles are hosting another town centre history walk and talk this Monday (September 12), starting at 6.15pm from the Angel Hotel. It may be the final evening walk of this season. If you’d like to know more about Lewis Carroll and a little history of the town, book now. Tickets are £6 per person. Call the Angel Hotel on 01483 564555. Details also available elsewhere on this website.

The Chestnuts in Castle Hill as it looked when members of the Dodgson family lived there. Lewis Carroll died there in 1898.

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