The Black Rabbits of Ladyhill
One of my favourite subjects over the years has been Lady Hill in Wensleydale. Driving up the Dale the road takes you through the viollage of Aysgarth and then, as you drive on towards Hawes, Ladyhill is there ahead of you. It’s very distinctive, crowned with a group of elderly Scots pines.
For a long time I have been trying to find out more about the hill. It was planted with tree’s to celebrate one of Queen Vctoria’s jubilees (still not sure which one) but I had heard hints that there was more to the place than that.
A few days ago I was teaching an art group and, during a local history discussion, an unlikely story emerged: Ladyhill used to be famous for black rabbits which were sold to the Czar of Russia.
I went away and did some research on the excellent Out of Oblivion website and a few other places. There was a purpose built rabbit warren with a high enclosure wall at Ladyhill. The wall was both to keep specially-bred rabbits in and to keep local wild rabbits from getting amongst them and doing what rabbits do so well.
Moon Over Ladyhill
The rabbits in the warren were a variety that was born with black fur. As they matured the fur turned to silver. Both types of pelt were farmed and sold to the hat trade – and some of them regularly went to Russia. The trade began in the eighteenth century and continued to the 1930s. The local Wensleydale Railway (parts of it are still running) was used to take the pelts away in the latter part of this business.
Limited Edition Print
I’ve recently done two paintings of Ladyhill (the ones at the top of the page) that are featured in The High Country – my next exhibition - which is at Herriot’s Gallery, Hawes from May 21st.
For details CLICK HERE.
I’ve also done a screen print of Ladyhill in winter and a limited edition print of Ladyhill, (above and left) both of which are available from the Masham Gallery.
To contact CLICK HERE.
More of my work is always available at The Masham Gallery
CLICK HERE to visit
8/2/2018 01:41:18 am
Thank you for doing the research on this amazing land mark Ian. I struggle to find any information on this place.
6/9/2019 03:00:55 pm
Hi I just wanted to leave a comment to give you a tiny bit more information that I have about Lady Hill! I believe the rabbits were “farmed” by Frank Sayer Graham, the owner of Heather Cottage in Aysgarth, where I lived as a child. It’s such a beautiful landmark, we were very fond of it as children
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