IS it a rabbit, or is it a hare - and why is it there? There are lots of questions surrounding today's Object of the week.

TODAY’S object s a mysterious vampire rabbit perched above the ornate door of a historic North East building.

This grotesque is in Newcastle and you may well have walked past it, without even noticing Hidden away on the east side of St Nicholas Cathedral, St Nicholas Churchyard can be entered near the Queen Victoria statue close to the junction of Collingwood Street, Mosley Street and Cloth Market.

Though going back to medieval times, the old churchyard is dominated by tall red brick buildings of the period 1901-1905.

Most intriguing is the ornate window with the aforementioned vampire rabbit, one of the most talked about features of Newcastle’s street architecture.

It features on a red brick building of 1901.

The Northern Echo:

The front of the building faces out to Dean Street on its eastern side but there is nothing so ornate on the front as this rear window and its rabbit that faces towards the cathedral and its former churchyard.

With its black painted exterior, googly eyes, red-painted claws and pricked ears it has a comical and slightly sinister appearance that is perhaps reminiscent of some kind of medieval grotestque.

The rabbit wasn’t always pained black to look so sinister – it used to be a kind of creamy white colour.

But there are no precedents for vampire rabbits as grotesques – so why is it there?

Some say the rabbit is masonic or that it was meant to be a hare – a nod to the work of engraver Thomas Bewick, whose workshop was very close by and whose work features a range of hares and rabbits.

If it is a hare – whose ears were mistakenly put on backwards – it could be a reference Sir George Hare Phipson, a local doctor, Freemason, and friend of the cathedral’s architect Others speculate that it was designed to guard against grave robbery, once common in the area.

* Thanks to local historian David Simpson for his help in compiling this feature. For more on North East culture and history, visit his website at

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