The Cheshire Cat is a fictional cat popularized by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, known for its distinctive mischievous grin. But where did Lewis Carroll get the idea for the Cheshire Cat?
The phrase appears in print in John Wolcot's Pair of Lyric Epistles (1792): "Lo, like a Cheshire cat our court will grin."
Dairy farmingA possible origin of the phrase "Grinning like a Cheshire Cat" is one favoured by the people of Cheshire, which boasts numerous dairy farms; hence the cats of Cheshire grin because of the abundance of milk and cream.
Cheese moldsBrewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says grinning like a Cheshire cat is "an old simile, popularized by Lewis Carroll. It has been said that cheese was formerly sold in Cheshire molded like a cat that looked as though it was grinning." The cheese was cut from the tail end, so that the last part eaten was the head of the smiling cat.
Grinning Cheshire Catt, St Wilfrid's Church
The cat carving in St. Nicolas Church
Church carvingsThere are many reports that Carroll found inspiration for the name and expression of the Cheshire Cat in the 16th century sandstone carving of a grinning cat, on the west face of St. Wilfrid's Church tower in Grappenhall, a village adjacent to his birthplace in Daresbury, Cheshire.
Lewis Carroll's father was Rector of Croft from 1843 to 1868, and Carroll lived here from 1843 to 1850. Historians believe Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat in the book Alice in Wonderland was inspired by a carving in Croft church.
In 1992, members of the Lewis Carroll Society attributed it to a gargoyle found on a pillar in St. Nicolas Church, Cranleigh, where Carroll used to travel frequently