By Margaret Crosby

CRITICS of Margaret Thatcher would say she talked nonsense. Lewis Carroll definitely did….or at least wrote it, most notably in his weird and wondrous poem Jabberwocky.

Strangely, it seems, these two characters may have had something else in common - a Cumbrian ancestry.

It is widely known that the Alice In Wonderland author has links to this part of the world, for in the 1870s, Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, would visit Cumberland to stay with his uncle, the wonderfully-named Skeffington Lutwidge, who at one time lived at Holmrook Hall.

And, more recently, local historian Alan Routledge, discovered that the Lutwidge family connection started in Whitehaven, with one Thomas Lutwidge, a successful merchant who traded in tobacco, wine…and slaves.

Lewis Carroll was the great great-grandson of Thomas Lutwidge and, it seems, Margaret Thatcher was also descended from the same man - his five times great-granddaughter.

The Lutwidge brothers (James, Walter and Thomas) had arrived in Whitehaven from Ireland in the 1690s and as their sea-faring fortunes flourished, were to be found living in style in grand houses on Lowther Street, though they opposed the Lowthers, regarding them as rogues and cheats.

Lutwidges served as High Sheriffs of Cumberland, and the family gave money towards the defence of Whitehaven after the 1778 raid on the town by John Paul Jones.

Thomas Lutwidge (1670-1745) and his wife Lucy (Hoghton of Blackburn) had several children, including Henry, whose son Charles usefully became controller of customs for the Cumbrian coast. Another was a daughter Emily, who married John Cookson.

The Cooksons’ daughter, Sarah Jane would marry Henry Francis Cockayne-Cust and it was their son, aristocrat Henry John Cockayne-Cust (1861-1917), known as Harry who at the family estate Belton House (Lincolnshire), is said to have taken advantage of Phoebe, a domestic servant, fathering an illegitimate child. That child, a daughter named Beatrice Stephenson (Phoebe had married a Daniel Stephenson) would in turn marry the Grantham grocer Alfred Roberts, and give birth to Margaret.

Mrs T, who wed Denis Thatcher and served as British Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990, never admitted descent from Harry Cust, but as the years passed her behaviour became increasingly regal. Glamorous socialite, Lady Diana Cooper, who was also a product of Cust’s womanising, referred to Mrs Thatcher as ‘my niece.’

Perhaps the Iron Lady had blue blood after all.