Where Gladstone became dizzy

Great Orme, Llandudno

Great Orme, Llandudno

The connection between Llandudno and Alice in Wonderland is never knowingly undersold – http://www.wonderland.co.uk/llandudno and http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/tauspace/llandudno.htm and http://www.attractionsnorthwales.co.uk/news/324/llandudno-s-connections-with-alice-in-wonderland – even though it’s entirely spurious.

Dean Henry Liddell, father of the real Alice, purchased an unpromising plot on the West Shore from the Mostyn Estate and built an elaborate Gothic villa which he called Penmorfa, “the end of the shore”.

The house was completed in 1862:  Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was inspired to write Alice in Wonderland by a boat-trip on the River Isis near Oxford on July 4th 1862, and completed his manuscript in February 1863;  there is no record of him visiting Llandudno during that period.

This didn’t prevent the construction of the white-marble statue of Alice, unveiled by David Lloyd George in 1933.  Strenuous attempts to protect this twee souvenir from vandalism eventually led to its removal to the middle of a lake:  http://www.northwalesweeklynews.co.uk/conwy-county-news/local-conwy-news/2011/06/30/llandudno-s-alice-in-wonderland-statue-to-moved-to-a-safer-location-55243-28963871.

There’s a much better story about Alice Liddell than anything to do with Lewis Carroll.

When the Liddells first came to Llandudno the only route around the Great Orme was a precipitous walkway called Cust’s Path, built in 1856-8.  This was so vertiginous that when he came to stay at Penmorfa W E Gladstone had to be blindfolded and led to safety by Dean Liddell and his family, including Alice.

Cust’s Path was adapted for road vehicles between 1872 and 1878 as the four-mile Marine Drive.  Building it wiped out the last remaining cave-dwelling on the Great Orme, occupied by Isaiah and Miriam Jones.  Isaiah was famous for having attempted to fly using seagull’s wings attached to his arms:  his wife nursed him to a full recovery and he lived into his eighties.

She lived to the age of 91, dying in 1910, and protested that having brought up thirteen children in a cave she disliked the more modern accommodation she was given in compensation for her eviction.  From her Welsh name, Miriam yr Ogof, “Miriam of the Cave”, her many descendants are still nicknamed ’R’ogo.

You can ride round the Marine Drive in a vintage coach [http://www.alpine-travel.co.uk/vintagecoaches.htm], drive round it on payment of a toll, or walk.  Half way round is the Rest-and-be-thankful Caféhttp://www.restandbethankful.net.

You can even stay at the Lighthouse, built by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board in 1862 and now a sumptuous bed-and-breakfast guest-house:  http://www.lighthouse-llandudno.co.uk.

Near the western end are the fragmentary remains of what was called Gogarth Abbey but is in fact the thirteenth-century palace of the Bishop of Bangor, Anian, his reward from King Edward I for baptising his eldest son, the first English Prince of Wales and later King Edward II.

Dean Liddell’s Penmorfa, which for years was the Gogarth Abbey Hotel, was demolished, despite protests, after a botched restoration attempt, in 2008:  see http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/2008/11/20/llandudno-s-alice-in-wonderland-house-to-be-demolished-55578-22298706 and http://www.greatorme.org.uk/Trail13.html.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on seaside architecture, Away from it all:  the heritage of holiday resorts, Beside the Seaside:  the architecture of British coastal resorts, Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage and Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage, please click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.