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Patrick Roberts

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Church Cats 6

Southwark Cathedral cats, London

Doorkins and Hodge


Doorkins Magnificat, Southwark Cathedral cat until 2020, London

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Doorkins Magnificat in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral Between Christmas and New Year of 2008 a tabby cat turned up unexpectedly at Southwark Cathedral, near London Bridge on the south bank of the river Thames, looking for some food and warmth. This seemed like a heaven-sent opportunity, because for some time there had been a growing problem with increasing numbers of church mice in and around the building, and members of the cathedral staff had been actively considering taking on a cat. Just at the right moment, as enquiries were going to be initiated — one appeared! As the doors were being opened one cold morning she appeared from beneath a bush near the main doors, and made it quite clear she'd be pleased to 'make friends'. It was at first thought that she belonged to one of the nearby residents; but as time went on and she appeared each morning to greet the vergers, it seemed she had adopted the churchyard as her new home. As a result she was fed regularly by the vergers and, although not baptised, was given the splendid name of Doorkins Magnificat — because she hung around the door in the mornings waiting for them to arrive and let her in.

Doorkins Magnificat - Southwark Cathedral church cat She had an uncanny sense of timing and was there without fail each morning, awaiting her breakfast ('Felix' brand was a favourite, as was 'Sheba'). If particularly hungry she would wait by the door again for something further to eat in the evening, when the cathedral was locked up, but not every day. Regular donations of food were made and so she always had plenty available, and parishioners and visitors frequently enquired after her. Doorkins was at home within the cathedral community, loved to lie on the grass in the churchyard when it was warm enough, and enjoyed the attention of office workers who came to eat their lunch on the green space. At first she found the hustle and bustle of visitors inside the cathedral a bit daunting, so preferred 'to say her prayers in the morning, when there were fewer visitors around', said head verger Paul Timms.

Doorkins Magnificat of Southwark Cathdral It turned out that Doorkins was not unknown in the slightly wider community, and spent some time at the nearby Borough Market, where she was seen hunting mice. At night she slept — if she was not outside — at the foot of the stairs to the cathedral boiler-house, but it was hoped she could be encouraged to spend more time indoors as the colder winter nights approached. Failing that, a small hole would be cut in the boiler-house door and a cat-bed placed inside, so that she could be snug and warm in winter.

Doorkins updates

Doorkins Magnificat of Southwark Cathdral 2010
In late 2010 we received the following report on Doorkins, and were pleased to hear she'd made herself at home (it should be noted that at this point Doorkins was still thought to be a 'he', hence the male references in the message reproduced below; she wasn't identified as female until a later vet's visit):

'He is very much part of the architecture and is becoming increasingly more popular with visitors and the congregation as he becomes more confident around them. He has an uncanny sense of timing and knows when it is 7.30 am and the doors open, and when it is 6 pm and the doors close and time to go out for the night. He is using his litter tray, and can be found sleeping during the day in one of the clergy stalls — and on occasion on the bishop's throne!

'He has a real appreciation of music and worship even to the point of joining in from time to time. On one occasion he was seen leaving his seat and walking across the altar space during a sermon — not sure if it was a sign of disapproval of the preacher!'

Doorkins Magnificat of Southwark Cathdral Ginger-and-white companion for Doorkins in 2011 2012
During 2011 Doorkins was joined for a while by another cat, a ginger tom, but the two of them didn't get on and when they met in the cathedral, said Paul Timms, 'Their "singing" at one another ended up competing with the choir!'

In the end one of the vergers gave the ginger cat a home away from the cathedral.

Thought by this point to be 10 or 11 years old, she continued to be very much at home in the cathedral and was well liked by clergy, staff and congregation. She even met the Queen when the latter was visiting! 2017 also saw the publication of a very attractive illustrated book about her life at Southwark — see the Folios section.

In late October 2019 it was announced that Doorkins was retiring from cathedral life to live with one of the vergers, where she would be warm, safe and comfortable as old age caught up with her. It had been noticed in the previous months that her hearing and vision were deteriorating, and so her home for the past 11 years was becoming hazardous rather than a place of safety for her.

Following a sudden deterioration in her health and a stroke, Doorkins died peacefully at home on 30 September in the arms of Paul Timms, the cathedral's head verger who had taken her home for her retirement not quite a year earlier. She was cremated and her ashes were buried in the churchyard. Uniquely, we think, a service of thanksgiving for her life was held towards the end of October, presided over by the Dean, Andrew Nunn. Although numbers attending were strictly limited owing to the coronavirus regulations, it was streamed live for the wider public — the video can be seen at YouTube. See also an article in the Guardian.

Doorkins had a Twitter account, still available to view in early 2022, and the Cathedral has pages about her here. See also a nice piece at the Spitalfields Life blog, with some lovely photos.


Doorkins' name inscribed on the cathedral's churchyard wall, 2021

In June 2021 the Dean tweeted that Doorkins' name had been inscribed on the churchyard wall,
close to where her ashes are buried.

Warm thanks to the head verger of Southwark Cathedral, Paul Timms, for supplying much of the original information and photos about Doorkins. With our thanks also to other sources: in the 2010 update above, Forever Wiser at Flickr; in the 2012 update, Steven Craven at Geograph (left) and Martina Tierney at Flickr (ginger cat, right); and emily horne at Flickr for the main title image.

Southwark Cathedral cat Doorkins Magnificat Doorkins Magnificat of Southwark Cathedral

The additional images above from April 2011, of Doorkins making full use of the Bishop's Throne, were supplied by Ruth from her Aimless Scribblings blog, to whom many thanks.


Hodge, Southwark Cathedral cat, London

Following Doorkins' death, the cathedral staff missed having a cat around and were considering taking on a successor — also necessary to keep the rodents under control. There was already a relationship with Catcuddles, a sanctuary that rescued and rehomed cats and had been the recipient of some of the surplus food and treats donated to Doorkins (far more than she could ever eat). So they were approached with a view to finding a new cathedral cat.

Catcuddles suggested Hodge, a large and friendly tuxedo who'd been rescued from the streets of east London during 2020; he'd had a large growth on his face, but that had been successfully removed and he was now fit and healthy. It was decided he'd go to the cathedral for a trial period to see how he got on — and remarkably the day chosen for his arrival turned out to be the very day that Doorkins died. It seemed almost as though he was meant to be there — and he could hardly have fitted in better. Described as friendly, affectionate and rambunctious, he has 'a voracious appetite for both food and love'!

After a couple of months, during which he proved himself to be an ideal candidate to succeed Doorkins, Hodge was officially adopted and introduced to the congregation on St Nicholas' Day, 6 December 2020. Aged probably around 5 years old, he should have a long and happy tenure at Southwark.

Hodge, Southwark Cathedral cat, London

Hodge the Cathedral Cat (the Cathedral's pages)
Hodge at Twitter
Hodge at Instagram
Welcome to Hodge (Facebook clip)
Southwark Cathedral introduces Hodge the Cat (London SE1 site)

Read about some more Church Cats

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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.

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