The Pilgrim Hare

Inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit

In the north choir aisle is the carving of a hare.

This carving was made sometime between 1330-40. In the medieval period, the hare was believed to represent purity. In the context of St Mary’s, its placement in the building may have served to symbolise the Virgin Mary, Jesus, or the Holy Trinity.

The carving’s title arises from the fact that the hare is dressed as though it is going on a pilgrimage: the satchel slung over its shoulder bears a scallop shell, the symbol of St James. St James’ shrine, at Santiago de Compostella in Spain, has been a key destination for pilgrimage in Europe since the Middle Ages.

The Pilgrim Hare (and so St Mary’s) became famous with the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, in 1865. It is believed that Carroll visited St Mary’s, and having seen the carving instructed his illustrator, John Tenniel, to copy its design for the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

This carving is the source for the name of our heritage newsletter. Click here to see all editions of The Pilgrim Rabbit.

WHERE TO FIND THE PILGRIM HARE: on the door archway of the sacristy in the north choir aisle.