Douthwaite pillow mounds
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1016024
Date first listed: 26-Oct-1973
Date of most recent amendment: 24-Oct-1997
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: North Yorkshire
District: Ryedale (District Authority)
National Park: NORTH YORK MOORS
National Grid Reference: SE 69570 90389, SE 69652 90521
Reasons for Designation
A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of
rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and
skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren
construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction
of rabbits into England from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number
of purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries,
which were intended to centralise the colony and make catching the animals
easier, whether using nets, ferrets or dogs. The mounds vary in design
although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. Earlier monuments such as burial
mounds, boundary features and mottes were sometimes reused as breeding places.
The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels
or are situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the
mound may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into
the underlying subsoil or bedrock.
A typical warren may contain between one and forty pillow mounds or rabbit
buries and occupy an area up to c.600ha. Many warrens were enclosed by a bank,
hedge or wall intended to contain and protect the stock. Other features
associated with the warren include vermin traps (usually a dead-fall mechanism
within a small tunnel), and more rarely traps for the warren stock (known in
Yorkshire as `types') which could contain the animals unharmed and allow for
selective culling. Larger warrens might include living quarters for the
warrener who kept charge of the site, sometimes surrounded by an enclosed
garden and outbuildings.
Early warrens were mostly associated with the higher levels of society;
however, they gradually spread in popularity so that by the 16th and 17th
centuries they were a common feature on most manors and estates throughout the
country. Warrens continued in use until fairly recent times, finally declining
in the face of 19th and 20th century changes in agricultural practice, and the
onset of myxomatosis. Warrens are found in all parts of England, the earliest
examples lying in the southern part of the country. Approximately 1,000 -
2,000 examples are known nationally with concentrations in upland areas, on
heathland and in coastal zones. The profits from a successfully managed warren
could, however, be considerable and many areas in lowland England were set
aside for warrens at the expense of agricultural land. Although relatively
common, warrens are important for their associations with other classes of
monument, including various forms of settlement, deer parks, field systems and
fishponds. They may also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and
ecclesiastical estates. All well preserved medieval examples are considered
worthy of protection. A sample of well preserved sites of later date will also
The Douthwaite pillow mounds are particularly well preserved and good examples of their type.
The monument, which is divided into two areas of protection, includes the
earthwork remains of a group of 32 pillow mounds constructed to form a small
warren in which rabbits were farmed to produce meat and fur. The mounds now
lie within open moorland, mainly on top of a north westward pointing spur of
high ground, with a line of six mounds along the foot of the north side of the
hill. The monument is not related to the two groups of circular mounds further
to the north: these are prehistoric burial mounds, which are the subject of
separate schedulings (SM 30105).
The pillow mounds are thought to have been constructed by the shepherds of
Douthwaite Hall in the late 17th or early 18th century and formed one of two
rabbit warrens operated by the family, the second warren lying 3km to the
north east at the end of Loskey Ridge. The warren is thought to have gone out
of use in the first half of the 19th century, along with the national decline
in the industry.
The individual mounds are quite regular in form being rectangular in plan,
typically 5m by 8m, immediately surrounded by ditch about 2m wide. They are
all well preserved, the mounds having gently rounded profiles, the highest
standing to 0.7m above the surrounding land surface, 1m from the bottom of its
encircling ditch. A footpath crosses the monument following a curving path
south to north, cutting through the top break of slope of the hill spur to
form a hollow way.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 30106
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Frank, B, 'Occasional Paper' in Douthwaite Dale and the Shepherd Family, , Vol. 1, (1977), 11-14
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing