The Last Wolf in England: Background

Humphrey Head at high tide

It is claimed (but can't be proved) that the last wolf in England was killed at Humphrey Head around the year 1390

There were wolves in Britain from earliest times, but efforts were made to exterminate them from at least the time of King Edward I.  By the late middle ages, they were very rare in England, although they lingered on in Scotland until the 17th or 18th century.

A local folk tale reports that the last wolf in England was killed in 1390 by John, son of Sir Edgar Harrington of Wraysholme, after a chase all the way from the Coniston Fells to Humphrey Head.  The tale was told by the Lancashire poet and author Edwin Waugh in his "Rambles in the Lake Country" (c.1893), who prints an anonymous poem telling the story (probably by himself) which had been published in the Ulverstone Advertiser 'some years ago'. 

The tale was retold at length, with lots of romantic detail, in a rare little book published in Grange-over-Sands in around 1906 by Mrs Jerome Mercier, entitled "The Last Wolf - A Story of England in the Fourteenth Century".  

 

Text and photo by Bill Shannon