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Wonderland comes to Ripon

Alice1 Alice2 Alice3 Alice4


As a tribute to the children’s classic, chainsaw sculptor Mick Burns has created a wonderful installation in the Spa Gardens and I do hope that it will escape further damage by vandals who probably don’t have a creative bone in their own bodies. The Caterpillar lost its head and the White Rabbit its nose a few weeks ago in an overnight attack, but the talented Mr Burns has replaced them and added some more figures. The Cheshire Cat is my favourite, but you can also see the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Dormouse as well as a set of playing cards. So why are they in Ripon, you might wonder.

Recent events in our little North Yorkshire city, where the latest large sinkhole opened up earlier this month and partially swallowed a 100 year old property, caused a flurry in the media and have put paid – for the time being at least – to any ideas of building housing on the adjacent land. Subsidence due to gypsum, the raw material of plaster of Paris, is nothing new to Riponians. If water flows through the bedrock fast enough, gypsum dissolves 100 times faster than limestone and greatly increases the risk of collapse of the ground above. Close to the River Ure, for example, a garage was swallowed up in 1997 by a hole six metres deep. In the previous century, a collapse in that same area resulted in a hole twenty metres deep. That one and others would certainly have been known to the author of Alice in Wonderland.

The father of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, was at one time a canon of Ripon Cathedral and his family, who stayed at the nearby Old Hall, would have seen at first hand the destruction caused by sudden and dramatic collapses. Alice’s long fall down a deep hole at the beginning of the story really can be seen as the stuff of nightmares!

On a more cheerful note, visitors to Ripon Cathedral can still view medieval carvings with which the author must have been familiar. On the misericords behind the choir stalls, one of these shows a griffon hunting one unfortunate rabbit while another seeks refuge down a hole. Did they, together with the sinkholes, inspire Lewis Carroll to write his famous story? I suppose we shall never know for sure, but we Riponians, whether by birth or adoption, like to think so.







28 February, 2014 - Make the first comment on this story

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