England is full of breathtaking—and mysterious—structures whose purposes are definitively tied to the country’s storied history. From the Tower of London to Stonehenge, there’s no shortage of incredible sites that offer an incomparable peek into the past for residents and visitors alike.
Even among such renowned company, the little-known Thetford Warren Lodge is quite special. At first glance, it may not look like much, but there’s more to it than what initially appears.
While it’s not nearly as ancient as you may expect, the purpose behind it couldn’t be more adorable. (Hint: it has a lot to do with rabbits!)
These days, we tend not to think of rabbits as being particularly exotic. In 15th century England, however, rabbits were considered prized luxury items, particularly for their fur and meat.
After they were reintroduced to the region by the Normans, rabbits became extremely valuable. In fact, vicious poachers of these precious bunnies were a legitimate threat to landowners at the time, who frequently kept rabbits on their property.
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It became necessary, then, for those English landowners to employ resident “warreners” to care for the rabbits and defend them from outside threats. That’s where these nigh-impenetrable fortresses, called warren lodges, came in…
The buildings were home to both the rabbits and the warreners, and they were designed to keep the valuable bunnies safe. Eventually, though, rabbits started to escape from their lodges and rapidly multiply in the wilderness, thus lowering their value. Most warren lodges were therefore left completely abandoned by the 18th century.
Thetford Warren Lodge, which dates back to about 1400, however, was a different story. Boasting arrow slits for defensive purposes, walls that are three feet thick, and, at one point, barred windows, it was in use until as recently as the 20th century.
Located in the Breckland region of England, Thetford Warren Lodge continued storing and drying rabbit skins long after other warren lodges were abandoned. In fact, it was only discontinued after it was destroyed by a fire in 1935!
One primary reason the lodge survived for so long was due to the sandy consistency of Breckland’s soil, which made it poor for agricultural use. As a result, much of the local economy revolved around rabbits until well into the 19th century.
Many old, large structures in England are rich with legends of folklore, and Thetford Warren Lodge is certainly no different. In fact, one of these legends may seem familiar to Monty Python fans: a ghostly rabbit with glowing red eyes.
This creepy bunny is said to be a dark omen that signals the impending doom of whoever is unfortunate to lay eyes on him. Other legends say that a leper once lived in the lodge, while another suggests that it may also be haunted by a ghost.
Regardless of what you believe about the folklore regarding the Thetford Warren Lodge, there’s still plenty to appreciate about the history surrounding this unique structure. So hop on over to England; it’s definitely worth a visit!
Luckily, rabbits seem to be fine these days, though it’s a shame that a giant building like the Thetford Warren Lodge no longer houses them. Still, it’s a fantastic piece of history!
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