Adventures in Fetishland new coverTaking these photographs of a sculpture of chainsaw  carvings of characters from Alice in Wonderland the other day made me look into the connections between the Yorkshire town of Ripon and Alice.

The carvings are by ‘Chainsaw Mick’ (what a great name!) and were commissioned by Harrogate Borough Council for the Spa Gardens in Ripon to create a sculpture to honour Charles Dodgson (Lewis Caroll) and his associations with Ripon. The carvings use the trunks of thinned-out cypress trees.

Lewis Caroll was a regular visitor to Ripon during his father’s time as the cathedral’s Canon. It is suggested that the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland came from the time Caroll spent as a choir boy in Ripon Cathedral looking at the church’s animal carvings on its misericords. It is said that the idea of Alice following the rabbit down the hole came from the cathedral’s underground crypt.

Another curious feature about the local landscape is that there is a network of gypsum craters under the town. These are sometimes liable to subsidence and have in the past left gaping holes in the ground, once again a possible inspiration for the rabbit hole. Lewis Caroll must certainly have been aware of this phenomenon and seen the holes created at regular intervals when the gypsum rock collapsed. The original title of the book was Alice’s Adventures Underground.

The drawings of Alice by Sir John Tenniell were based on Mary Badcok, daughter of Canon Badcock. Caroll saw her picture in a Ripon photographer’s shop and, with her parents permission, sent it to Tenniell.

It’s the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland this year. If you want to read a kinked-up fetish/bdsm reinvention of the Alice stories then take a look at my book Adventures in Fetishland.

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