As we drove into the ancient walled city of York, my brother said “see that cat on the window ledge, well there are more of them across the city but I don’t know where they are”. The cat in question was a white concrete model above the Cactus Trading Post at Number 26 Gillygate. So my challenge for the day was to track down some pussies in York.
York was founded in 71 BCE, and is better known for its Roman origins and landmarks such as York Minister, Clifford’s Tower, the Shambles, the city walls and gates, and the well-hidden Holy Trinity Church. Plus there is Betty’s tea shop, the racecourse, the quilt museum, and kit-kats.
Holy Trinity Church – with box pews
It is a gorgeous city and the shop fronts and facades inside the walled city are beautiful, plus they contain a fascinating array of sculptures and signs. These include the red chained devil, Minerva the Roman goddess of wisdom, a nautical figureheads, the golden slipper, and other statuettes.
But as a serious cat lover, I found the task of tracking down these sculptures to be quite satisfying. I had previously enjoyed seeing the multitude of cats being cared for at the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in Roma and observed the abundance of moggies on the streets of Chefchaouen (شفشاون/الشاونv) in Morocco.
The actual history of the York cats is not particularly well documented. Cats first appeared on buildings in the 1920’s when Sir James Aitcheson a local grocer placed two cats on outside of his premises. Historically, sculptured cats were used to frighten away rats and mice since the time of bubonic plague. More recently, local architect Tom Adams had placed cats on buildings he designed from the 1970’s.
So the hunt began. I started at the Cat Gallery, armed with a set of clues on the location of many of the up to 22 cats distributed around the city. The key was to look beyond the ground floor for cats made from concrete, steel, polyester resin, fiberglass, etc in various poses such as sitting, climbing, stalking, lounging around, etc.
Towards the end of my hunt I met a woman on a similar mission. She had lived in York for 25 years and was only recently made aware of the existence of the moggies. So she was on a reconnaissance mission ahead of a visit by friends. Importantly she had a brochure listing the location and details of each cat – a tool that would have made my hunt easier, but less of a challenge. For details of the brochure go to http://www.thecatgallery.co.uk/acatalog/York-Cat-Trail-Leaflet.pdf
There is also a very good website with full details of each cat and their location. Go to http://catsinyork.com/
After the hunt it was time for refreshing pint of Yorkshire Terrier, in the Last Drop Inn just across from King’s Square. The name Last Drop could be misunderstood as a reference to a shortage of beverages, rather it alludes to the execution of criminals by hanging in the adjacent square.