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Church Cats 11
From Wells in Somerset,
Wells, in Somerset, south-west England, is England's smallest cathedral city, and its fine cathedral is especially noted for its music. There is a resident red tabby cat there, called Louis, who has been there for some time and is known and loved by visitors and cathedral personnel alike. In warm weather he will probably be found outside in the cathedral grounds; in winter he prefers to remain in the warm cathedral interior. Two favourite spots are by a radiator in the north nave, or on a special chair he has made his own in the Sugar Chantry.
Head virger Simon Rose says that Louis mostly likes to ignore people, the more the better, and if there are several hundred or even a thousand or so people at a service he will walk up the aisle and sit at the front watching them or washing himself! Louis is popular and all kinds of merchandise with his image are available in the cathedral shop. In May 2012 a children's book was published, Louis the Cathedral Cat by Barbara Cooke, with proceeds in aid of the Cathedral's Chorister Trust.
Louis also wanders into the grounds of the Bishop's Palace, the home of Maisie (below).
We acknowledge and thank Flickr users for images of Louis take the following links to see them full-sized: Brian Ritchie, curiousmint1, David Taylor, Johnny Jet, PhiBos55. And here are a few others: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Adjacent to the cathedral is the Bishop's Palace, which has been the residence of the bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years. It too has a cat living there, in the shape of Maisie, a tabby female who arrived from a Somerset feline family in the month of May hence her name. She's quite an explorer and loves hunting in the palace's 14 acres (about 5.5 hectares) of grounds. She also knows well the routes taken by visiting tourists and is not averse to accompanying them and maybe getting a few treats to eat. Maisie is friendly with Louis, the cathedral cat (above), who often visits the palace grounds.
The palace has a moat on which are a number of swans, famous because when they want feeding they ring a bell by pulling on a rope at the gatehouse. One day Maisie's curiosity about the swans got the better of her and she fell in the moat. She was quickly rescued by the gatekeeper's wife, who actually dived in after her and brought her safely out.
Maisie photographed in late 2012 by Kevin Cotterell
Maisie's story is the subject of a beautifully illustrated children's book, The Real Life Adventures of Maisie the Palace Cat, written by Carol Arblaster (Moathouse Books, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9572252-0-6). Carol is a singer, songwriter and Celtic harpist, and she and her husband have been the caretakers in the gatehouse at the palace with Maisie since 2006. She has written several songs about Maisie, and they are on a CD that accompanies the book. Before the songs, the story is narrated by Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells at the time. There's a nicely produced leaflet with the song lyrics and photos, including Maisie.
Black Dog Pottery of Wells in Somerset, south-west England, is based very close to the cathedral and the Bishop's Palace so although their present cat Pangur has his home at the pottery, as a friendly and adventurous young cat he regards the whole area as part of his domain. Thus he's found all sorts of places to visit, to meet people and eat any food that's going!
He's well known at the cathedral, where he disturbs 17-year-old Louis' peaceful life, will eat his food if he gets a chance and has a sleeping spot taken over from the older cat in the vergers' office. He's even found his way into the cathedral's Chain Library, approached only by a winding stone staircase and where priceless medieval books are chained to the wall and where there's a nice radiator! The cathedral shop is a favourite spot where again there might be food put down and intended for Louis and Pangur has become well known to shop customers. Then there is a cabin belonging to the cathedral masons, where they take their tea breaks, and he quite often joins them there.
As well as the cathedral, there's the Bishop's Palace, where he's known by all the stewards and where Maisie is the resident feline. She's had to get used to his incursions as well even into her own quarters in the gatehouse. She generally tolerates him, as does Louis although the two males have had a couple of fights.
Not content with the immediate surroundings, Pangur has also found his way to the town's High Street on one occasion, and had to be retrieved and brought home (from the dentist's office) in a cat basket. All this roaming has meant that there were times when he rarely went home, sometimes for two or three days at a time; everyone said he was such a sweet and friendly cat, but they had to be asked to try not to feed him. Now he has a tiny laminated label on his collar, declaring 'I am Pangur. Please do not feed me because I never come home.' Since that was placed he's been going home a bit more regularly.
Even as a kitten he had a great time playing with and 'attacking' visiting dogs, and to this day he shows very little fear of them. He fell through the banisters when about two months old; he climbs up and slides merrily down the sloping glass roof of the sun room at his home; and he used to lie in the local car park waiting for his tummy to be tickled while cars manoeuvered past him. We hope he hasn't used up all his nine lives yet!
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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 now no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.
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