The shop where the girl who inspired the beloved character once bought sweets is now a book-themed commercial curiosity.
Unless you’re a huge fan of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and have read the books, you may not be familiar with the Old Sheep Shop, which appears in Wool and Water, the fifth chapter of Through the Looking-Glass. In the book, Alice finds herself in a shop owned by an old Sheep, and, after a brief, “very queer” boat trip, buys an egg which turns into the famous Humpty Dumpty, all without any clear transition—just as in dreams.
The Sheep’s shop, like many characters and things in the Alice books, was inspired by contemporary Oxford in real life. Specifically, it is said to have been based on the grocery store that Alice Liddell, major inspiration for Carroll’s iconic “dream-child,” frequented to buy her favorite sweets: barley sugars.
Located right opposite Christ Church College, of which Alice’s father was Dean and where Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—the real name of Lewis Carroll—taught mathematics, the little shop was originally built in the 15th century along with the building next door. They were remodeled in the 17th century, and the shop continued to sell groceries through the Victorian era to the mid 1960s, when Alice in Wonderland memorabilia began to show up on its shelves.
Today, it has officially become Alice’s Shop, filled from corner to corner with Alice-related gifts and souvenirs, including candies, tea bags, postcards, handmade magnets, thimbles, Disney figurines, and books.
Know Before You Go
The shop is open every day from 11 am to 4 pm except on Saturdays, when it is open from 11 am to 5 pm
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