Site of Alice Liddell’s holiday home, West Shore
Site of Alice Liddell’s holiday home
A house called Penmorfa was built here in 1862 for the father of Alice Liddell. The photo on the right shows the original house, probably in 1863. The man striking an artistic pose is almost certainly Lewis Carroll, who wrote his story Alice in Wonderland for Alice Liddell
The house was added to over the years and became the Gogarth Abbey Hotel. During the Second World War, the hotel was taken over as the officer’s mess for the coastal gunnery school (which you can read about here). In the 1970s scenes for TV adverts for PG Tips were filmed at the hotel, using chimps dressed as humans. Among the visitors were members of major business families including Cadbury (chocolate), Pilkington (glass) and Wedgewood (pottery). Businessman and Conservative MP Basil de Ferranti arrived by helicopter, which landed on the hotel’s lawn.
In 2008 the building was demolished to make way for a block of luxury flats. The photo below, taken in 2004, shows the building’s full extent.
The Victorian photo provides the most persuasive evidence that Lewis Carroll (pen name of Rev Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) visited Llandudno, a subject of debate since the White Rabbit memorial was unveiled near here in 1933 with a reference to Carroll visiting. Alice Hargreaves (nee Liddell) was asked that year when Carroll had come to Llandudno. She replied: “It could not have been before 1862, as we were not there then.” This implies that he did visit.
The photo was in an album which Carroll presented to Alice. Also in the album was a photo from the zig-zag path behind the property. He was a talented amateur photographer, in the early years of photography. For the photo of Penmorfa, he would have posed Alice and her family and himself, and then instructed his assistant to remove the lens cap for the 30-second exposure.
He wrote a sequel called Through the Looking Glass which refers to local landmarks. The two rocks out in the bay were known locally as the Walrus and the Carpenter. The mine entrance nearby and the zig-zag path also tie in to the story.
The lowest photo shows the staircase in Penmorfa which Alice would have climbed to go to bed.
With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society
Postcode: LL30 2QY