Wednesday, 13 April 2011

London's Cat Statues

Whittington's Cat
Dick Whittington's Cat

Once upon a time... Dick Whittington, a poor country boy, came to London with his cat, seeking fortune. On Highgate Hill, he lost heart and turned to go home. Then he heard the Bow Bells ring out: 'Turn Again Whittington! Thrice Lord Mayor of London!' And so he followed their call.

Today, there's a memorial to Whittington and his cat at the bottom of Highgate Hill, where he heard the bells. While the real Dick Whittington indeed was Lord Mayor of London in 1397, 1406 and 1419, we don't know if he actually had a cat...

Hodge, 'a very fine cat indeed'
Hodge

Hodge was Dr Samuel Johnson's (1709 – 1784) cat. His statue is in the courtyard outside Dr Johnson's House at 17 Gough Square, City of London. It shows him sitting atop a copy of his master's famous dictionary, with a couple of empty oyster shells next to him; he's looking towards his master's house.

According to Dr Johnson, Hodge was 'a very fine cat indeed'. This is how he is described in a passage in James Boswell's Life of Johnson–if you want to read more, Hodge has got his own Wikipedia page, too.

Dr Salter's Cat
Dr Salter's Cat

Dr Salter's Cat–actually, his daughter's cat–is sitting on top of the Thames Wall in Bermondsey. The little girl is leaning against the wall, and her father is sitting on a bench nearby, waving at her. These three sculptures are Dr Salter's Daydream, created by Diane Gorvin.

Alfred Salter (1873 – 1945) was a local doctor and philanthropist. His beloved daughter Joyce died young, at the age of nine, of scarlet fever. The Daydream shows the doctor in old age, remembering happier times.

Cat statue in Queen Square, Bloomsbury
Sam

Sam is at home in Queen Square, Bloomsbury. Little is known about Sam; his sculpture was unveiled in 1997, in in honour of Patricia Penn (1914 – 1992), a local resident who had been very active in the area.

You can find Sam in the south-western corner of the square.

The Heal's Cat
The Heal's Cat

The Heal's Cat is watching over the grand staircase at Heal's department store on Tottenham Court Road.

This bronze cat sculpture was made by the French sculptor Chassagne. Sir Ambrose Heal, the owner of Heal's at that time, bought it in 1925, planning to sell it in the store; he liked it so much that this never happened.

About this article, and mapping London's cats:

I'm friends with some of London's pub cats. I created this Google map, London Cat Map, about a year ago, and started adding their homes to it. Then I thought, the immortalised predecessors of my furry friends should be on the map, too; I had already visited their statues on my ramblings around London, except for Dr Salter's Cat.

Earlier this week, I went to see that one, too, and took the last pictures that I needed for this post. I'd been planning for a little while to pay these lovely cats tribute by showing some nice portrait photos of them.

I think that although the Heal's Cat isn't the same kind of sculpture as the others, he's settled in well. On the other hand, I've decided not to include the Black Cats of the old Carreras Cigarette Factory (now the Greater London House), or the Catford Cat–they're cool, but they don't tell the same kind of story. And let's not start with those big cats, such as the Trafalgar Square Lions or the Southbank Lion, this would be a bit out of proportion. However, there's also Kaspar and his story... maybe another time.

If you do know any other cats that should be added to the London Cat Map, please feel free to add them. That is those feline friends that are at home in pubs or shops, for example, that we can all visit and say hello to. Or, rather...

Miaow!

5 comments:

  1. What a great post! I had an internship at Dr Johnson's House and adored the Hodge statue! I've always always found the Carreras Cigarette Factory somewhat creepy looking, I must say.

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  2. This is brilliant - I must consult the Cat Map before planning my next visit to a London pub...

    Good to see Hodge making an appearance, he is a very fine cat, as the statue says.

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  3. this is a great post, and really want to visit Dr Salter's cat!

    There are some great stories about the Heal's cat, one where it was actually sold! the details are on the 1920's tab here: http://www.heals.co.uk/page/heals_1810_2010_book

    There is a great bar on Lower Marsh, Waterloo (the name escapes me) that has two gorgeous black and white cats.

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  4. What about the topiary cat at the Savoy Hotel - which also has a very interesting story.

    (Sadly, I believe Dr Salter's cat, along with him and his daughter, have been taken and melted down for scrap?)

    I look forward to more cat stories

    best wishes from Alison (raf)

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  5. Yeah, the Dr. Salter statues were stolen 1 1/2 years ago.... :(

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