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. This example may have a Medieval origin, but it is more likely to have been established during the middle of the 18th century by Thomas Metcalfe who owned Woodhall Park. It was used for the breeding of silver haired rabbits whose skins were in particular demand in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The fur then went out of fashion, but the rabbits continued to be raised for the purpose of coursing with dogs.
Woodhall warren MYD28002 (c) YDNPA 2023 (CRW30)
The high drystone boundary wall (around 1.8 metres high) was built as much to keep breeding wild rabbits out as much as to keep the silver haired rabbits in. It was constructed with vermin traps in its upper sections. Several walls run across the enclosure into which are built pit traps or ‘types’ for capturing the rabbits. The warrener in charge of the site lived in a small house at one end of the enclosure rebuilt for that purpose in 1757.
Woodhall warren rabbit trap MYD28002 (CRW1) (c) YDNPA 2023
Dennison, E (2004) ‘Woodhall Rabbit Warren, Carperby’ in White, R F & Wilson, P R (eds) (2004) Archaeology and Historic Landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Occasional Paper No 2 pp137-144