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Cockney Cats

March 5, 2017
by the gentle author

I could barely contain my excitement when fellow felophile Stefan Dickers summoned me urgently to the Bishopsgate Institute last week to share his latest discovery unearthed in the archive, Cockney Cats by Warren Tute with photographs by Felix Fonteyn from 1953

Micky is the centre of the Day family of Copley St in the parish of Stepney

The whole family pamper him and have a wonderful time

Bill on weekdays, William on Sundays, the cat at the Bricklayers Arms in Commercial Rd has a wonderful life since the Guv’nor Jim Meade was once a Dumb Animals’ Food Purveyor. At seventy-seven Jim looks back on a long and distinguished life in Stepney during his thirty-two years as Guv’nor.

Yeoman Warder Clark & Pickles on Tower Green

On duty at the Tower of London

The tail-less cat of the guardroom who came out to watch Pickles being photographed

Min, Port of London Authority cat has many friends among the dockers and very good ratting at night

Min of the magnificent whiskers has made her home in the office of K Warehouse in the Milwall Docks

Customs & Excise cat guards the Queen’s Warehouse and is paid a Treasury Allowance of sixpence a day

Mitzi has the run of her ship from the lifeboats to the Officers’ Mess

Old Bill the railway cat, his favourite position is the entrance to Blackfriars Station

Old Bill takes cover when necessary in the rush hour

Tibs the Great (1950-64), the official Post Office cat at Headquarters, does not normally live in this 1856 pillarbox

This cat’s curiosity unearthed a box of ancient stamps and seals, some dating back to Queen Anne

Minnie the Stock Exchange cat was a self-willed and determined kitten who adopted the dealing floor as her own preserve

Minnie enjoys the banter in the tea room

Tiger of The Times is the best office cat in Fleet St

Tiger of The Times is equally at ease whether in the Board Room …

… or doing his rounds in the Print Room

Sneaking back into Lloyds of London is difficult even for the resident cat

Cecil is the Front of House cat at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Cecil is very elusive in his many hiding places from which he has to be coaxed by the Royal Waiter before the performance can begin

When thirteen people sit down to dine at the Savoy and the thirteenth guest is Jimmy Edwards, almost anything can happen. The famous black cat is invited to occupy the fourteenth place so that everyone can enjoy the sparkling conversation.

Bill at the Tower of London (1935-47)

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

Schroedinger, Shoreditch Church Cat

Doorkins Magnificat, Southwark Cathedral Cat

East End Cats

The Cats of Spitalfields (Part One)

The Cats of Spitalfields (Part Two)

The Cats of Elder St

Blackie, the Last Spitalfields Market Cat

and read about

Mr Pussy in the Dog Days

Mr Pussy is Ten

Mr Pussy in Winter

The Caprice of Mr Pussy

Mr Pussy in Spitalfields

Mr Pussy takes the Sun

Mr Pussy, Natural Born Killer

Mr Pussy takes a Nap

Mr Pussy’s Viewing Habits

The Life of Mr Pussy

Mr Pussy thinks he is a Dog

Mr Pussy in Summer

Mr Pussy in Spring

27 Responses leave one →
  1. March 5, 2017

    I didn’t realize cats were popular with the staff at the Tower ravens yes, this is a nice blog by GA today. London cats must have had a bad time during WW2 with casualties lots of suffering then, with us humans . Top cat was Simon of HMS Amethyst he was awarded the Cats VC after
    the River Yangtze incident he died from his war wounds in 1949. He is buried in the PDSA cemetery in East London. A happy cat is one who has a warm duvet at the bottom of your bed. After all they are in charge we live with them !don’t we. Poet John

  2. March 5, 2017

    What a treasure trove, thanks GA

  3. Greg Tingey permalink
    March 5, 2017

    There used to be a vast Orange/Marmalade cat at Liverpool St station, until just before the rebuild started.
    He was most often to be found near the “Fat & Thin” pair of pillar-boxes on the concourse

  4. Colin Barber permalink
    March 5, 2017

    Love the title – ‘Cockney cats’ and the pics. Especially the publicans’ cat photo – “Bill in the week, William on Sundays” haha. Very ‘proper’

  5. trixie-elaine permalink
    March 5, 2017

    charming cats and lovely story, TY

  6. March 5, 2017

    There is nothing I do not love about that. Amazing how many cats are called Bill (or William on Sundays). Thank you so much for adding to a lovely, bright Sunday morning, GA. I shall show this to Susan when she returns from biffing the new cat next door.

  7. March 5, 2017

    Adorable, every one!

  8. Teresa Stokes permalink
    March 5, 2017

    The photographer, Felix Fonteyn, was the elder brother of the famous ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn. Born Felix Hookham, he also changed his name. Some years ago I found a box full of his photographs in my local paper recycling in Bayswater, and to my eternal regret I took just one out and put back the rest. The one I kept was of a rabbit seller at Paddington Station, which I lent to a friend and he lost it.

  9. March 5, 2017

    Fantastic. They all look such characters!

  10. Ros permalink
    March 5, 2017

    Cats rool ok? What a marvellous collection! Interesting about the photographer being the brother of Margot Fonteyn and changing his name too.

  11. Daniele permalink
    March 5, 2017

    Wonderful!

    Makes me think of the cat life in Wapping.

    My small, diddly cat would take on anyone crossing a nondescript bit of concrete outside our flat – regardless of the fact that his opponents were foxes or cats thrice his size – hence found myself breaking up noisy 4 am cat fights and pulling him out of central fighting ring frays twice-weekly until I finally decided, as he came in yet routinely with teeth marks from the local foxes round his neck or bloodied from taking on Big Mo that he wouldn’t see the year out if I didn’t consider giving him the snip.

    Got to know locals from Fluffy the school cat – think she might have come to a bad end with the Fox Brothers as we heard some horrendous cries before a notice went up announcing her disappearance – to Jet, Gecko and Bashed Up-the-stray who all dominated the local landscape due to a diversity of feline advantages.

    Sadly only have a few snaps left from these night life antics as many pics went the way of my disappeared mobile phone ….

  12. Jim McDermott permalink
    March 5, 2017

    The Customs and Excise cat is a dead ringer for my own fellow, who, unfortunately, wouldn’t get out of his bed for sixpence a day. Leaner times, in every sense.

  13. March 5, 2017

    I loved this one. The photos are priceless, each one capturing a reality. The last was especially moving.

  14. March 5, 2017

    How wonderful! — And how timely……Just last night we saw the current documentary film,
    “Kedi”, about the notable cat population in Istanbul.
    Thank you for this amazing array of cats and their admirers. The line forms to the rear.

  15. March 5, 2017

    Dear GA this post made my day what a wonderful cornucopia of London felines all working hard and clearly well loved too! Give Mr Pussy a tickle in case he gets jealous!

  16. Susan permalink
    March 5, 2017

    It’s so lovely to see that there was a time when cats were allowed places, and even encouraged to be there. I’m certain they would now NEVER be allowed in the bank, or a restaurant, or even down at the docks. What an antiseptic, rule-ridden world we live in!

  17. March 5, 2017

    perfect Sunday post!

  18. Nina Archer permalink
    March 5, 2017

    …. such a lovely article today – thankyou …. I forwarded it to my American email-friend and she responded with ‘Lovely, what a great way to begin Sunday – cool’ ….. sez it all really !! …..

  19. Chris F permalink
    March 5, 2017

    Cats know things… They know cat people… They know who they can trust and who to avoid… They can tell if you are a soft touch and I truly believe that they know when you are lonely because a stray cat has always turned up at our house to replace a recently deceased mog. There must be a cat grapevine where they let each other know of local vacancies… I remember every cat that has ever taken up residence with me and allowed me to feed and fuss them and in return to shred my furniture to pieces and to show me a modicum of affection or disdain as the mood takes them and to allow me to be there at the end as I weep uncontrollably over the loss of yet another bag of fur and whiskers. They’ve got us weighed up… We need them more than they need us… Cats know things….

  20. March 5, 2017

    I read this great post early on the Sunday morning of this weekend’s course ” how to write a blog that people will actually want to read” taught by the Gentle Author. This was a repeat visit for me, having been inspired and guided to set up my blog at the first course with the G.A. Which I attended two years ago . I was happy to discover that the course was as valuable and enjoyable as the first time around and I can now see where I am going with my blog. Two days spent in perfect Georgian rooms in the company of creative people with specialist expertise ranging from published poetry to vintage clothing to cyber crime prevention is as humbling as it is inspirational. The teaching is encouraging, empathetic but very clear sighted and I think we have learnt as much about ourselves this weekend as we did about the practicalities of writing an interesting blog.

    Thank you Gentle Author. This course is very special.

  21. March 6, 2017

    This reminds me of a Pathe News reel. I can imagine the Patrician voice over.

  22. paddy kerr permalink
    March 6, 2017

    Was in total cat heaven looking at these gorgeous photos of London’s moggies. How thankful I am that the British love cats – most animals in fact – I simply cant imagine life without them. Thank you GA for this delicious find.

  23. March 7, 2017

    My personal favourite is Minnie the stock exchange cat. She was no doubt trained in insider dealing.

  24. Alison permalink
    March 7, 2017

    I love all of these! Not only do these pictures feature wonderful cats, but they also show a different time—for example, the printing presses on Fleet Street. Best of all: the cat named Pickles at the Tower of London. I had a cat named Pickles (he lived to be 19), who also had a “swirl” pattern on his side. Perhaps my Pickles was a reincarnation of the Tower Pickles!

    Thanks for another great post.

  25. gabrielle permalink
    March 7, 2017

    Tough times but a certain beauty in the simplicity that’s very much missed.

  26. Suzy permalink
    March 12, 2017

    Love this!
    How proud does Pickles look?! Such a withering gaze from him.

  27. Jenny Moore permalink
    March 24, 2017

    As always I’m late to this but I’m sure many people must remember the cat that used to live at Barbican Underground station in the 1990’s or thereabouts (admittedly my memory is hazy – it could have been slightly earlier – or later!). I often had cause to travel there for work and used to enjoy the chance to give him a quick stroke between the ears as he sat atop the ticket barriers in lordly fashion, quite untroubled by the stream of passers-by.

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