The 'Hargreaves' bookcases are flowered with golden 'trellage' or 'trellis' in brass panels and designed in the elegant early 19th century French or 'antique' manner with Grecian moulded cornices and reed-sunk pilasters capped by palm-flowered 'pateras'. Their 'commode' doors display the finest feather-figured mahogany that was a speciality of the firm of Gillows. Gillows featured this pattern of flowered pilasters in their design for book-cabinets supplied in 1811 for the library created by the court architect Lewis Wyatt (d. 1853) for Tatton Park, Cheshire (J. Hardy, 'Gillow Furnishings and the Tatton Park Library, 1811', Regional Furniture, 1998, pp. 94-98; and N. Goodison and J. Hardy, 'Gillows and Tatton Park', Furniture History, 1970, pp. 1-39, pls. 8B and 8A). Various members of the Lancashire Hargreaves family patronised the Gillows from 1809, and these bookcases could have been supplied for the Rev. John Hargreaves (d. 1818) or for Colonel John Hargreaves of Ormerod House, near Barnsley (Gillow Archives in Westminster Libraries).
The papers of Alice Liddell (who in 1880 married Reginald Hargreaves) were kept in the bookcases. Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church had formed a unique friendship with one of the Christ Church dons, the deeply religious Charles Dodgson and on 4 July 1862, Charles L. Dodgson "Lewis Carroll" (1832-1898), and a fellow don, Robinson Duckworth took the three Liddell sisters, Alice, Ina and Edith on a river expedition which became the genesis for the legendary children's classic fairy-tale Alice in Wonderland. The young girls, possibly bored with the riverine odyssey with the older men, cried out for a tale to be told. The Oxford don obliged by constructing a tale about Alice's adventures down a rabbit hole:
'Duckworth and I made an expedition up the river to Godstow with the three Liddells; we had tea on the bank there, and did not reach Christ Church again til quarter past eight ... On which occasion, I told them the fairy-tale of Alice's Adventure's Under Ground...'
Later, Alice begged him to to write the story down for her. He finally did so and at Christmas in 1864 presented her with a hand-written booklet containing the tale and illustrated with his own drawings. That story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, have become possibly the two greatest children's classics of all time.
Charles Dodgson wrote to Alice Liddell in 1885, five years after her marriage to Reginald Hargreaves 'I have had scores of child-friends since your time, but they have been quite a different thing'. Dodgson is unequivocal in the influence exerted upon him by the young Alice: he wrote to Mrs Liddell saying that without Alice's 'infant patronage I might possibly have never written at all'.
The bookcases were used by the Hargreaves family to store photographs, papers and other personal effects belonging to Alice Hargreaves, née Liddell. The collection of papers was partly sold in 1928 and the remainder was on loan to to Christ Church, Oxford from 1982 until 2001: the bookcases were used to store and display some of that vast collection.