Alice’s adventures in Croft Kettle …

I cannot leave the subject of Croft Kettle without mentioning one tangential association of this small pond with the world of literature.   Croft Kettle is just over a kilometre from the village of Croft-on-Tees, just south of Darlington and, in the middle of the 19th century, the rector of Croft was the Reverend Charles Dodgson.   His eldest son was also Charles Dodgson, better known by his pen-name Lewis Carroll.   Several writers have explored the ways in which north-east England fuelled his imagination and provided raw material for Alice in Wonderland and Alice’s Adventures Through The Looking Glass (most notably Bryan Talbot’s excellent Alice in Sunderland, 2007, Jonathan Cape, London). One of these, a geologist called Tony Cooper from the British Geological Survey, even brought Croft Kettle into the story.   Croft Kettle is a sinkhole, formed by the dissolution of gypsum (calcium sulphate) and there was a local legend that the pond was bottomless, leading Cooper to wonder whether this deep, deep hole in the ground so close to where he lived was an inspiration for the rabbit hole into which Alice fell and tumbled “down, down, down”. When Carroll was older, his father moved from Croft to become the Dean of Ripon, also in north-east England and another region where there were many sinkholes.   Some of these appeared quite suddenly, with catastrophic consequences for houses built in the vicinity and, intriguingly, Cooper notes that the original model for Tenniel’s illustration of Alice, lived in a house affected by such subsidence in Ripon.   Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice might have said.

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