What I tell you three times is true
‘Well I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice; ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life’
Begin at the beginning and go on…
Dodgson attended Richmond Grammar School for a year while his father was vicar of Croft
Hunting for erratics amongst the river-worn cobbles of Frenchgate.
Zealous and Consistent members
The town has two subterranean legends. One tells of how a potter named Thompson discovered a cave beneath the castle. In the cave was a round table around which were a group of sleeping knights. Upon the table was a great sword and a horn. Thompson reached for the horn, waking knights from their sleep. Thompson fled and as he ran he heard a voice behind him say..
Potter Thompson, Potter Thompson!
If thou hadst drawn the sword or blown the horn,
Thou hadst been the luckiest man e’er was born.”
The second legend concerns a tunnel that runs from the castle to Easby Abbey. The tunnel was supposed to have been dug to allow the abbots to escape from the marauding Scots. Some soldiers wanted to explore the tunnel but found it too narrow. They sent a drummer boy into the passage and instructed him to beat his drum as he walked, allowing the soldiers to track his progress from the surface. At a point between the castle and the abbey the drum fell silent and the boy was never seen again.
A stone has been erected on the riverside path to mark the point where the drumming ceased. The local legend is that the drummer boy’s ghost still walks the passage and occasionally his drum can still be heard beating.
Charles Dodgson is better known as Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I have previously written about his young life at Croft on Tees and the possible influences the area had on his writings, The Conyers Falchion and the Hells Kettles.
When Dodgson was twenty years old his father became a Canon at Ripon Cathedral. During his many visits to Ripon, he wrote Ye Carpette Knyghte and several pages of Through the Looking-Glass.
There is speculation that Dodgson may have found inspiration for some of his characters from the misericords carved beneath the seats in the cathedral’s choir stalls. The links are tenuous but they give me an excuse to post a bunch of photos of these beautiful 15th century carvings.
A few other carvings
Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) moved to Croft Rectory at the age of 11. About a mile from the rectory there are three ponds called Hells Kettles, the local people believed that these pools were bottomless. It has been suggested that the author’s vision of Alice falling down a deep vertical hole into an underground land was inspired by these pools.
The kettles were formed by underground water dissolving gypsum deposits.
read more here
“Ther are certeine pittes or rather thrée litle poles, a myle from Darlington, and a quarter of a myle distant from the Tese bankes, which ye people call the Kettes of hell, or the deuil’s Ketteles, as if he shoulde sée the soules of sinfull men and women in them: they adde also that the spirites haue oft béene harde to crye and yell about them, wyth other like talke sauouring altogether of pagane infidelitye. The truth is (& of this opinion also was Cuthbert Tunstall Byshop of Durham) that the Colemines, in those places are kindled or if there be no coles, there may a mine of some other vnctuous matter be set on fire, which beyng here and there conſumed, the earth falleth in, and so doth leaue a pitte. In déede the water is nowe and then warme as they saye, and beside that it is not cléere, the people suppose them to be an hundred faddame déepe, the byggest of them also hath an issue into the Tese. But ynough of these woonders least I doe séeme to be touched in thys description, & thus much of the Hell Kettles.”
Raphael Holinshed’s Second Booke, of the hystoricall description of Britaine,
“The kettles next morning were boiling and foaming,
A groan in the deeps was full ghastily booming,
A sulphureous stench was ymixt in the air,
And the carles they were cowed and said many a prayer.”
The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Darlington