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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 was a resident red tabby cat there, called Louis, who had been there for some time and was known and loved by visitors and cathedral personnel alike. In warm weather he would probably be found outside in the cathedral grounds; in winter he preferred to remain in the warm cathedral interior. Two favourite spots were by a radiator in the north nave, or on a special chair he made his own in the Sugar Chantry.
Head virger Simon Rose said that Louis mostly liked to ignore people, the more the better, and if there were several hundred or even a thousand or so people at a service he would walk up the aisle and sit at the front watching them or washing himself. Louis was popular and all kinds of merchandise with his image were 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 used to wander into the grounds of the Bishop's Palace, the home of Maisie (below).
Louis retired from cathedral life in late 2016 and went to live in a comfortable home with one of the cathedral families. At around 20 years old he'd become deaf, but apart from that was reported to be fit and well and enjoying his creature comforts. However, in November 2019 he suddenly became ill, and X-rays showed shadows and fluid on his lungs. With a poor prognosis it was decided best to put him to sleep to avoid further suffering. He'd had a wonderful life, and will be very much missed by all who knew him.
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 was friendly with Louis, the cathedral cat (above), who often visit 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 dived in after her and brought her safely out.
Maisie photographed in late 2012 by Kevin Cotterell
Maisie's story was 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). A singer, songwriter and Celtic harpist, Carol wrote several songs about Maisie which were on a CD accompanying the book. Before the songs, the story was narrated by Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells at the time. A nicely produced leaflet had the song lyrics and photos, including Maisie.
Black Dog Tiles of Wells in Somerset, south-west England, is based very close to the cathedral and the Bishop's Palace so although their cat Pangur had his home at the pottery, as a friendly and adventurous young cat he regarded the whole area as part of his domain. Thus he found all sorts of places to visit, to meet people and eat any food that was going!
He was well known at the cathedral, where he disturbed Louis' peaceful life, ate his food if he got a chance and had a sleeping spot taken over from the older cat in the vergers' office. He 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 was a favourite spot where again there might be food put down intended for Louis and Pangur became well known to shop customers. Then there was a cabin belonging to the cathedral masons, where they took their tea breaks, and he quite often joined them there.
As well as the cathedral, there's the Bishop's Palace, where he was known by all the stewards and where Maisie was the resident feline. She had to get used to his incursions as well even into her own quarters in the gatehouse. She generally tolerated him, as did Louis although the two males had had a couple of fights.
Not content with the immediate surroundings, Pangur also found his way to the town's High Street, and had to be retrieved and brought home once (from the dentist's office) in a cat basket. All this roaming meant 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. A tiny laminated label was put on his collar, declaring 'I am Pangur. Please do not feed me because I never come home.' After that was placed he went home a bit more regularly.
Even as a kitten he had a great time playing with and 'attacking' visiting dogs, and showed very little fear of them. He fell through the banisters when about two months old; he climbed up and slid 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 no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.
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