Cornish Wonderland or Down the rabbit hole at scenic Antony House.

antony houseAntony House in Cornwall. Photograph by Mark Coleman
Having been settled on a miniature peninsula about 5 miles from Plymouth, and surrounded by 75 acres of woodland and landscaped garden, Antony house presents itself to being a lovely secluded spot, turning into the paradise in spring time owing to the exuberance of azaleas, magnolias, rhododendrons and huge array of camellias having over 400 various sorts. The house, as if having had come off the pages of “Pride and Prejudice” or “Jane Eyre”, was built in 1718-1729 and clearly illustrates the typical example of Palladian architecture with inherent grace and symmetry of ancient Greek and Roman temples. The interior of Antony house, well packed with some amazing period furniture and articles, boasts a sizable collection of paintings including the works of Holbein and Reynolds. The portrait of Rachel Carew, depicted by the first English woman-painter of the 17th century Mary Beale, is said to become the prototype of the main heroine of Daphne du Maurier’s “My Cousin Rachel”.

In 2008 the serene pastoral seclusion of Antony estate was unexpectedly interrupted. Tim Burton, the father-maker of such films like “Sleepy Hollow”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Big Fish”, having created his very recognizable eccentricly-bizarre (frequently simply eerie) style in the cinematography, put his eye on Antony house as a set for his adoptation of “Alice in Wonderland”. Since the Carroll’s story about the little girl and a bunch of wacky characters in the person of the Mad Hatter, March Hare, Cheshire Cat and the others was first published in 1865, it was doomed for success and hasn’t stopped to excite people’s mind, inspiring many film directors, painters, sculptors and photographers. The master of surrealism Salvador Dali was one of those artists who could not help himself, but plunged into the Wonderland; in 1969 he painted the series of peculiar sketches about Alice’s Adventures. So how could Tim Burton, the creator of fantasy-films, could resist Lewis Carroll’s phantasmagoria? The refined lines of Antony house, enclosed by the walls of perfectly cut hedge, forming lovely hidden nooks and enforcing the feel of seclusion, and the labyrinths of paths winding through the thickets of rhododendrons, made the place perfect for the director’s make-believe.
mad hatters tea party
The world saw Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” at spring 2010, and from then Antony house impacted a perceptible surge of visitors, looking for Alice’s trail. The National Trust encourages the interest to “Alice’s Adventures” by holding the Mad Hatter’s tea parties (you better visit the site for details) and even installed the figures of the book’s characters that certainly are to an acquired taste all throughout the Antony park. The time only will show for how long this madness around “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” will last at Antony estate. Maybe when the stir around the film subdues the house will return to its accustomed solitude, or maybe it will turn into the museum of Wonderland, everything can happen, so who knows. But Antony house definitely is worth a visit not only because “Alice was there”, simply because of its own charm and attraction. So when you visit the spot just try to distance yourself from this infamous fairytale as much as it is possible – you will appreciate the whole magic of the site then and will not be disappointed by that “ugly caterpillar” or “miserably looking Alice”.

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