A CHURCH carving from the 14th century, which may have inspired Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat, is to be restored after suffering water damage when thieves stripped the lead roof.
Work on the stone decoration of a sedilia in St Peter’s, Croft-on-Tees, in North Yorkshire, is part of a £160,000 restoration that will include improvements to capitalise on the Croft’s literary links.
Carroll’s father was Rector at St Peter’s from 1843 until his death in 1868, and the author spent his teenage years in the village. He wrote the first verse of his nonsense poem Jabberwocky at the rectory, possibly drawing on the local legend of the slaying of the Sockburn Worm.
The sword that supposedly killed the beast is still presented to each new Bishop of Durham as they cross over the Tees into the county on Croft bridge. Carroll also may have styled the argumentative brothers Tweedledum and Tweedledee on two Croft families who feuded for generations.
His connection has made St Peter’s a popular venue for fans of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and, to meet the demand, part of the church is being converted into an interactive display centre. An extension will provide lavatories and a kitchen. The church has already raised £90,000, and has launched a Just Giving web page to help find the rest (justgiving.com/stpeters-croftontees).
The project manager, Steve Hill, said: “We have a lot of visitors from Japan, the US, Brazil — up to 100 people at a time. It was decided to use the church as a community centre, not just for worship, but to get visitors through the door to help sustain it for the long term, and offer an exciting and interesting facility for people to learn about our heritage.
“As a small village church, St Peter’s punches well above its weight. Churches like St Peter’s are fortunate, as they have these magnificent heritage items, but have a relatively small congregation. The only way they can grow their congregation and survive financially is to exploit their history and heritage.”