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Fragments 16

London Cat Statues

The Catford Cat
Dr Salter's Daydream
Sam, who belonged to Patricia Penn

Elsewhere on the site are accounts of two of London's best-known historical cats,
Samuel Johnson's Hodge and Dick Whittington's (fictional) cat.
Here are three other, more contemporary ones.

The Catford Cat

The Catford Cat, borough of Lewisham, London

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.'

Catford Cat Catford Cat Catford Cat Balloon resembling Catford Cat, Bike and Kite Festival, Blackheath, London, 2009

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.

Sculpture by Diane Gorvin erected by River Thames, London, in memory of Dr Alfred Salter, his daughter Joyce and her cat

Figure representing Dr Salter's daughter Joyce, with her cat Cat figure, part of Dr Salter's Dream sculpture, River Thames, London 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

Statue of Dr Alfred Salter stolen from Bermondsey in 2011 The cat sculpture at Rotherhithe, removed for safekeeping 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.

New statues

Sculpture of Mrs Ada Salter, erected at Bermondsey East Wall 2014 New statue of Dr Alfred Salter, erected at Bermondsey in 2014, following the theft of the previous sculpture in 2011 The Salter Statues by the River Thames at Bermondsey, London - Dr Alfred Salter, Mrs Ada Salter, daughter Joyce Salter and Joyce's cat 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.)


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.

Sam Penn

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.

Bronze statue of Sam the cat, who belonged to campaigner Patricia Penn

Sculpture of Sam the cat, Queen Square Gardens, Holborn, London Statue of Sam the cat was stolen from Queen Square Gardens, London in 2007, and replaced in 2009 Statue of Sam the cat, Queen Square Gardens, London Sculpture of Sam the cat, London Queen Square Park and Gardens, Holborn, Lonon WC1


We acknowledge and thank Flickr users for some of the images here: Laura Nolte, Glyn Thomas, and David Bennett; also Kim Stallwood's blog — take the links to see them all full-sized.

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Our featured feline at the head of the page, and your companion through Feline Fragments, is Maggie. She came as a kitten from Powys Cat Rescue. One of their volunteers had seen her wandering around, apparently uncared for, and thought her rather young to be just left to roam. The person 'responsible' for her said she 'didn't care', and so the youngster was taken in for rehoming. Only about 4 months old when I brought her home in 2003, she was a self-assured soul, probably because of her early experience, and was soon climbing all the available trees in the garden. She was a determined hunter in her earlier days, and was usually outside, but now prefers snoozing unless the weather is good. She has superb whiskers — and as the photo shows, loves getting into things! (see it here without the puzzle effect)

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Page created December 2009, with later revisions and additions