The Catford Cat
Catford is a town in the south-east London borough of Lewisham, and it has a notable and appropriate landmark a giant fibreglass cat guarding the entrance to a shopping centre called the Catford Centre. It was designed, produced and installed in 1974 by one Owen Luder from a company called Embassy Signs, so as to 'herald with its paw the opening to Catford Shopping Centre.'
In about 2008 there seems to have been some talk that Lewisham Council was going to demolish the cat as part of a development scheme; this caused a huge outcry from local residents, many of whom remembered it from their childhood and regarded it as a local icon it was even said that it was 'the best thing about Catford'! The cat remains in place in fact in mid-2011 it was given a new coat of paint, which people said was long overdue. It's listed on a 2013 Lewisham Council web page as an item of Catford Public Art. The Catford Centre is scheduled for redevelopment within a year or two, but we hope its feline guardian will remain to beckon shoppers!
A balloon resembling the Catford Cat (above right) was seen at a Bike and Kite Festival in Blackheath, south London, in 2009 (photo © Stephen Craven).
We acknowledge and thank Flickr users for images of the cat take the following links to see them full-sized: Carlos Adama, Lucy Hayward, David Fisher.
Dr Salter's Cat
Dr Alfred Salter was a local philanthropist and social reformer in the district of Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, which was one of the poorest and least healthy parts of the city early in the twentieth century. He did much to improve people's dreadful living conditions, amongst other things setting up a community health service years before the National Health Service existed, and in order to help his patients better he went to live in the area with his family. This had the sad result that his daughter and only child, Joyce, contracted scarlet fever; twice she recovered from it, but when she caught it for the third time, in 1910, she died. She was just eight years old.
Alongside and upon Bermondsey Wall East on the Thames Path, by the river near Cherry Garden Pier on the border between Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, sculptor Diane Gorvin created Dr Salter's Daydream, a three-part sculpture group commissioned by the London Docklands Development Corporation and unveiled in 1991. It showed a kindly Dr Salter in old age, sitting on a seat and waving to his daughter Joyce, who leaned against the Thames wall with her cat nearby. It represented the daydream of an old man remembering happier times when his 'sunshine' was still alive.
Many thanks to Malcolm Robinson for supplying the photos above.
Theft, and a campaign launched
Sadly, in November 2011 the statue of Dr Salter was stolen from its position near the river in Bermondsey almost certainly the victim of metal thieves to sell for scrap. The little girl and the cat were removed for safe keeping by Southwark Council, and a £1000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible. It wasn't the first time a metal sculpture had been stolen.
A community group, along with the then local MP Simon Hughes and many others, worked with the council on plans for a replacement, and if sufficient funds could be raised it was hoped not only to replace the figure of Dr Salter but also to include Mrs Ada Salter in the sculpture group; additional security measures were also part of the plans. A website was set up with information and the means to donate. The original target of £50,000, which Southwark Council promised to match-fund, was reached in mid-2014, but there was a setback when the estimated cost of CCTV surveillance increased substantially, meaning additional funding was needed.
The revised target of £60,000 having been reached and matched by Southwark Council, two new statues were commissioned and created by the original artist, Diane Gorvin. As well as a new depiction of Dr Salter, his wife Ada was also honoured with her own statue for the first time; she was the first female mayor in London and the Labour party's first female mayor in Britain. The new group, including the original ones of daughter Joyce and her cat replaced in their rightful positions after being in storage, was unveiled in a ceremony in November 2014 in the presence of local MPs and councillors. Dr Salter's statue was unveiled by his grandniece Johanna Crawshaw, and that of Ada by Nick Hudson and Janet Kendall, her grandnephew and grandniece. The statues are now covered by a CCTV camera installed nearby in a bid to prevent further theft. An exhibition of photographs of the Salters was displayed after the ceremony in the nearby church of St Peter & the Guardian Angels.
(Thanks to reader Anneke Dubash for drawing our attention to the new statues.)
- The Salter Statues website
- Facebook: Dr Alfred Salter and Ada Salter.
- Londonist, Nov 2011: Statue Of Dr Salter Stolen From Bermondsey.
- Nayler blog, Nov 2011: Alfred Salter statue stolen.
- The Greenwich Phantom blog, Nov 2011: Londonís Saddest Statue Gets Even Sadder
- Southwark Council, Dec 2011: Plea issued for safe return of Salter statue - Council's offer of reward matched by Dr Salter's last remaining relative.
- SE16 Community, Feb 2013: Dr Salter's Daydream 2013: first images - sketches of the new Dr Salter and Ada Salter statues.
- London Rewind, Apr 2013: Dr Salter's Daydream.
- SE16 Community, Jul 2014: Salter statues could be unveiled this year as appeal reaches £50k target.
- Wikipedia: Alfred Salter.
- SE16 Community, Nov 2014: Salter statues unveiled on Bermondsey Wall East
- Londonist, Dec 2014: New Salter Statues Unveiled In Bermondsey
- London cabbie and tour guide, Robert Lordan, has followed the history of the sculpture group, writing three good illustrated articles on his View from the Mirror blog in Feb 2012, Nov 2014 and Dec 2014
We acknowledge and thank Flickr users for some images here: Amanda Oliver, Bluebeart, Laura Nolte and Steve James take the links to see them full-sized.
Unveiled in 1997, a bronze sculpture of Sam the cat honours local resident and nurse Patricia (Penny) Penn (1914-1992), a 'formidable lady' but very popular who had been very active in the area in the 1970s, campaigning to protect it from developers and to preserve historic buildings.
The playful statue, at Queen Square Gardens, Holborn depicts the feline about to jump off a wall onto the ground. It was donated by the local community in memory of Ms Penn, who was also a cat lover: Sam was one of her pets and, according to friends, her 'alter ego'.
Sam's statue was stolen in August 2007, but in May 2009 a new Sam was unveiled, this time secured with steel rods in the bricks.
We acknowledge and thank Flickr users for some of the images here:
and David Bennett;
also Kim Stallwood's blog
and Björn Haglund at a Google page for Queen Square Park & Garden take the links to see them all full-sized.