Review by Peter Roberts
‘The Real Alice’ is a major biography of Alice Liddell, the girl who was immortalised in Lewis Carroll’s famous stories married Reginald Hargreaves and spent more than fifty years living at Cuffnells in Lyndhurst.
Anne Clarke, a founder member of the Lewis Carroll Society, published a biography of Carroll in 1979 two years before this work. Naturally much of this book is concerned with the young Alice and her relationship with Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) at Christ Church, Oxford.
However the book also provides an insight not only into the life of Alice Hargreaves but also Forest society through a period when immense changes were taking place in land holdings and the social structure. The depression of the last quarter of the 19th century coincided with Alice’s arrival in Lyndhurst. Jonathan and Anna Hargreaves bought Cuffnells from Sir Edward Poore in 1856. Their son Reginald went up to Oxford in 1876 where he and Alice formed a friendship which evolved into an engagement and marriage.
Neither of Reginald’s parents survived long enough to meet their new daughter-in-law. Thus Alice and Reginald came to Lyndhurst to a large estate with the finest house in Lyndhurst as their home. Cuffnells has been a substantial farmhouse in the 17th century and was greatly expanded in the 18th by the politician George Rose to become one of the finest house in the county. He received visits from George III on a number of occasions.
Alice and Reginald had three children, all boys, born in the 1880s. The family enjoyed country pursuits; Reginald was a keen and competent sportsman and took the part of the country gentleman as a magistrate and on the parish council. Alice however, although playing a part in village affairs, had great sadness early in her life. Her sister, Edith, died of peritonitis aged just 22 in 1876. This tragedy was followed by the death of Prince Leopold, son of Queen Victoria, a close friend in 1884.
The First World War brought fresh tragedy for Alice and Reginald with the deaths of their first two sons. Caryl, the youngest, was recalled and never had to experience that war again. There are plaques to both of them in St Michael’s Church, Lyndhurst and a stained glass window in Emery Down. Reginald died in 1926, the final devastating blow for Alice. The estate was inherited by Caryl and she spent her final years between Cuffnells and a house in Kent, Westerham. She died in 1934 and is buried in an unpretentious grave in the churchyard at Lyndhurst.