Backwell Environment Trust

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Warrener's Cottage

Location

From the Jubilee Stone, take the sign-posted permissive-path heading south for about 50 metres and the remains of the cottage are located on the right hand side. There is an information board next the path. 

History

The largest known dwelling in Jubilee Stone Wood are the remains of a cottage and garden referred to on old maps as either ‘Warren House’ or simply ‘The Lodge’. The first written references to the cottage date from the 1780s when the building was repaired after a severe storm. The ruins visible today suggest that the cottage would have originally covered an area of about 40sq metres with the adjacent walled garden (located to the left of the cottage) about 1200sq metres. 

Rabbit Warrens

Rabbits (or ‘coney’) were introduced into England by the Normans and were highly valued for their meat and fur during the Middle Ages and have remained so almost up to the present day. It is thought rabbits originally came from south-western Europe so to ensure they would thrive in our cooler climate, artificial warrens were built consisting of low, flat topped mounds varying in size from a few metres to over a kilometre in length. These mounds were often referred to as ‘pillow mounds’ and were once quite a common sight in the English countryside.

Warreners were appointed to protect and harvest the rabbits and it was not unusual for the Lord of the Manor to allocate them suitable accommodation as part of their position. As rabbits were officially classified as ‘game’, no warrens could be established during the period without the express permission of the King.

The warren in Jubilee Stone Wood was granted to Sir Richard Rodney on the 10thJune 1318 by order of King Edward II. References from a survey of the Manor of Backwell in 1709 record that the warren at that time covered an area of 3 furlongs by 1½ furlongs (600 x 300 metres) and would consequently have had the potential to produce many thousands of rabbits per year. The warren appears to have been in continual use until 1812 when the introduction of the Enclosure Act divided the area of the warren into fields which were subsequently allocated to Court Farm. After this date the fields were most likely used for other agricultural purposes and the warren was almost certainly abandoned. 

The Cottage & Garden

The warreners who cared for and eventually killed and processed the rabbits were often provided with purpose built accommodation. This was sometimes of a higher standard than was usual for the period and illustrates the importance of rabbits at the time. The cottage would have been a two-storey structure built of shaped limestone blocks extracted from the local bedrock and made watertight with a thatched roof. The warrener would have used the ground floor as a workshop to process the rabbits whilst using the upper storey as his living accommodation. When not working this arrangement would have enabled him to keep a watchful eye out for both predators and poachers approaching the warren. The large adjacent garden would have also allowed the warrener to grow his own produce enabling him to be relatively self-sufficient. After the warren was abandoned, the records show the cottage was still lived in up until 1843, however it too fell derelict some time between 1843 and 1882. 

Surveying the Warrener's Cottage's Remains

Warreners_Cottage_Survey

© 2017 Backwell Environment Trust