Easter bunnies have arrived early at Tattershall Castle – and their disorderly digging is putting one of its treasured outbuildings at risk.
A 100-year-old toilet complex has begun to slip into the surrounding moat because a vast network of rabbit warrens has weakened the earth at the base of the structure.
The building itself, an old-style “earth closet” – or hole-in-the-ground toilet – is attached to an original 15th century brick wall, which is a key part of the site.
It is listed in the “Don’t Miss” section of the castle website as “The leaning toilet-block of Tattershall”.
The burrowing has now caused a large crack in the stone wall, part of the Grade I listed building, which is now in danger of slipping further – and ending up into one of the two moats there.
The owner of the site, The National Trust, is looking to repair the damage and be rid of the saboteurs as soon as possible.
Conservation work on the earth closet involves the implementation of rabbit-proof netting and fencing.
Sara Blair-Manning, general manager for the National Trust for North Lincolnshire and South Nottinghamshire, said:
“Rabbits have been a small problem but numbers have escalated in the past three or four years and this is why we are investigating the netting and fencing.
“The rabbits are not underneath the Castle but burrowing near the Curzon toilet building which is on the opposite side of the castle.
“The earth closet is part of the Scheduled Ancient Monument area and we have an outline budget of £100,000 for the works, as they will include some restoration work of the affected moat areas.
“No rabbit control measures are being employed on site at Tattershall Castle at present.”
Officials say that the structure will be brought back into use when it has been restored, and the fluffy menace has been removed.
The red brick castle which dominates the flat landscape around Tattershall and Coningsby was built by Ralph Cromwell, the Lord Treasurer of England, between 1434 and 1447.
There are 149 steps to the top of the tower, which was one of the first of its kind in the country.
From the summit visitors can see for more than 20 miles and pinpoint distant landmarks such as Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital.