The Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle lurks behind St Nicholas’s Cathedral It has been perching over the door of the cathedral buildings for over hundred years.
I have lived in Newcastle Upon Tyne for many years, but the city still has many surprises. Recently I heard rumours that there was a vampire rabbit in the centre of the city.
In all my years of living here I had never encountered this mysterious beast. We bravely decided to go in search of it. The vampire rabbit lurks behind St Nicholas Cathedral. You find it by going down a small partly cobbled street and there it is.
Perching atop an ornate doorway, ready to hop down on unsuspecting passers-by. The vampire rabbit’s fangs and claws drip with blood as it sits there menacingly. It’s eyes appear to follow you as you move about. His eyes are staring balefully at the cathedral.
Read more: Newcastle Cathedral Church of St Nicholas
The building itself seems nondescript until your eyes are caught by the ornate doorway and cast iron drainpipes. On looking up you see the vampire rabbit and wonder why it is there. It shows what can be revealed if you look up in a city. Even though I have been past many times I had never seen the vampire rabbit sitting there.
The rabbit sits on the back door of Collingwood House, part of the Cathedral buildings. The Cathedral Buildings, named because they are behind the cathedral, were built by architects, Oliver and Leeson in 1901. They built many buildings in Newcastle.
The front of the building is on Dean Street. It is very ornate, in typical 18th Century rocco style. Fanciful curved windows and elaborate white ornamentation contrast with pink paintwork making the building stand out. The building contains a mix of housing offices, shops and restaurants, giving no hint that a sinister grotesque lurks behind.
There are many theories as to why the vampire rabbit sits there, but the truth is that no one really knows.
One theory is that William Wood (the architect) created it as a reference to Sir George Hare Phipson who was his friend as well as being a local doctor and Freemason. It is not clear if it was meant to be a tribute or an insult.
Wood was also responsible for founding Wood, University of Durham Masonic lodge so maybe the rabbit has some significance to Freemasons.
The rabbit may also be a symbol of the coming of Spring and over the years has been made to look more menacing by the addition of the red to it’s claws and fangs.
Now the scary bunny overlooks a car park but once this was part of the cathedral’s graveyard. Legend has it that grave robbing was rife in the 19th Century so maybe the vampire rabbit was put there to scare
We may never know its history. It still makes an interesting talking point and something to speculate about.
It also makes you wonder what other oddities the city is hiding and makes you want to go and seek them out. Whilst I have discovered many places of interest in the city, most of them are well known like the Newcastle Quayside and the Great North Museum. It is fascinating to discover something that has a mystery behind it.
Do you have any oddities like this in your city? I would love to know.
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