The Ellerlands rabbit warren from the air MYD36704 (c) YDNPA, 2023
Rabbits were first introduced into England during the 12th century. Before that date there were no rabbits in Britain. They proved to be hardy and thrived and were the ancestors of the present wild population. In Norman and Medieval England the meat was a popular delicacy and rabbit fur was much in demand as a lining for the garments of the wealthy. The ‘farming’ of rabbits reached its peak in the 17th and 18th centuries when their skins were widely used in the hatting industry. Artificial rabbit warrens where rabbits could be bred and easily caught were created throughout this period. The Ellerlands is a large artificial warren with various sized and shaped mounds of soil for the rabbits to burrow in called ‘pillow mounds’. The different shapes of mound probably indicate different phases of use. Close by are what appear to be the foundations of several buildings, possibly for storage or on site processing areas. The warren lies within the deer park of Bolton Castle and may have been built during the Medieval era. Accounts dating to 1609 record the sale of rabbits or ‘cunyes’ by the ‘Warrenor of the Lords Cunyes at Bolton’ as well as his purchase of hay to feed them.