A NEW book entitled ‘The Treasures of English Churches: Witnesses to the History of a Nation’ which features photographs of what may be the earliest ‘Easter Bunnies’ is soon to be published.
The book is being published in May by the National Churches Trust with support from CCLA Investment Management.
Although rabbits were brought to England by the Romans, according to legend the Easter Bunny came to the UK from Germany in the 1600s. Originally an Easter Hare, it was believed to lay a nest of colourful eggs for children who were good.
The oldest Bunnies in England appear occasionally – and endearingly – in medieval church stonework.
One of the UK’s best known Easter bunnies is inside St Mary’s Church in the village of Elmley Castle in Worcestershire (pictured). He is a charmingly naïve fourteenth- century lone rabbit built into a wall inside the porch.
Another vintage Bunny is the one featured at St Mary’s church, Beverley, East Yorkshire. This early fourteenth-century carving of an upright-walking rabbit carries a satchel over his shoulder. It is thought to be the model for John Tenniel’s picture of the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
The third contender is in the church of St Nicholas in Barfreystone, Kent. It’s part of a Norman wall frieze that shows a donkey and a monkey carrying a rabbit in a hod while a crouching man looks on.
The rabbits are featured in ‘The Treasures of English Churches: Witnesses to the History of a Nation’ by church photographer Matthew Byrne.
Releasing in May, the new book charts the history of England through its unique church furnishings, decorations and artwork, many of which have survived the upheavals of war, plague and reformation.
From stunning Saxon sculpture to masterpieces of medieval woodcarving, polychrome brilliance of Victorian interiors to the moving memorial legacies of two world wars, the book is a new and remarkable window into English history.
Matthew who has been exploring, studying and photographing English churches for nearly 40 years, said: “I hope this book will help encourage readers to venture out and discover for themselves England’s wonderful churches.
“Getting more people to visit churches is one way in which these magnificent buildings can be safeguarded for the future, as it helps to show those responsible for funding church buildings that they remain an important and loved part of our heritage.”
The fully illustrated hardback 160 page book will be published on May 13, 2021, by Shire/Bloomsbury at £20. It will be available from all major bookshops. Further information is available HERE.