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Alice's Adventures in the Orangery

29/10/2015

When Alice Pleasance Liddell was a little girl, she inspired the Oxford Logician Lewis Carroll to write a story with her as the star. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have been delighting children and adults alike ever since - but the story of the real Alice does not end there. Her life was as unusual and fascinating as the children's story she inspired, and bizzarely, she lived out her days tending to an enormous orangery.  Alice LiddellPhotograph by Lewis Carroll


As a young woman, Alice met Prince Leopold, one of Queen Victoria’s nine children, on a Grand Tour of Europe. The pair never married, but the Prince named his first daughter ‘Alice’ and she named her first son ‘Leopold’. 


At the age of 28, Alice married the cricketer Reginald Hargreaves in Westminster Abbey and moved with him to the family estate he had inherited, Cuffnells, near Lymington in Dorset. They were married for 46 years and tragically lost two sons in the First World War. Hargreaves passed away in 1926, leaving Alice a widow with an enormous estate to support.


The Cuffnells estate included an enormous orangery at least 100ft long. In 1833 it was described in JC Louden’s Gardener’s Magazine: 


“The house is well placed, and there is a magnificent conservatory attached to it, but with rather too opaque a roof, so that the trees planted in it, though they are tall, have not that vivid green, and strong healthy appearance, which they would have if the roof were entirely of glass.” 


A century later, it was in a state of disrepair and Alice Liddell-Hargreaves spent her declining years restoring it. She sold her copy of Alice’s Adventures Underground, the original manuscript of what would later become Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, to fund the project. She raised £15,400, more than enough to restore the conservatory and grounds and provide her with a satisfactory pension until her death at the age of 83. 


You don’t have to have inspired a timeless novel or inherited a rambling Dorset estate in order to enjoy a conservatory. Just drop into one of our showrooms in Wymondham or Diss or give us a call on 01379 650517.