Articles in Featuring Felines are written by
Church Cats 6
Southwark Cathedral cats, London
Doorkins and Hodge
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.
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.
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.
In the end one of the vergers gave the ginger cat a home away from the cathedral.
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.
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.
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.
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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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