Alice through the Looking Glass: Behind the scenes of the Victorian Wonderland

The asylum is really a 4-star hotel in Surrey...

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Much like the 2010 original, Alice through the Looking Glass is bonkers. There’s time travel, surreal chases, Johnny Depp with a seriously silly wig and even sillier voice (again).

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From the moment Mia Wasikowska’s Alice steers her trusty ship The Wonder back to London to help out Depp’s Mad Hatter, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was all a porthole into producer Tim Burton’s mind.

In fact, most of the magic happened at Shepperton Studios in Middlesex with a liberal sprinkling of CGI, but director James Bobin wanted an authentic Victorian Wonderland so also went further afield.

For example, the villagers of East Horsley in Surrey will recognise the asylum in Alice through the Looking Glass as Horsley Towers. This local landmark was built in the 1820s by Charles Barry, the architect also responsible for Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), but owes its great hall and clock tower to Lord Lovelace, who bought it in the 1850s.

Nowadays, it goes by the name of Horsley Park and is a 4-star hotel with a croquet lawn, 5-a-side football pitch, sauna, gym, indoor pool and rooms from £75 (afternoon tea with a Hatter or even a Doormouse isn’t included, sadly).

Meanwhile, those bustling London docks are actually in Gloucester. “Most people don’t even know Gloucester has docks,” says James Bobin, “it’s a really well-preserved, industrial Victorian area and they’ve got all the fantastic period buildings that surround it.”

The Ascot mansion that also turns out to be a gateway into Wonderland was two country houses squished together. The outside was Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, which was Winston Churchill’s country retreat of choice during the Second World War and had a cameo in the final season of Downton Abbey.

As for the plush interiors, they belong to Syon House in Middlesex, which is open to the public on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at this time of year (tickets cost £12 for adults, £5 for children).

James Bobin and location manager James Grant explain why they chose to film at Gloucester Docks in Creative England’s video below:


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Alice through the Looking Glass is in UK cinemas now. You can read our review here.