Friday, 22 November 2013


Towser the mouser
A fine bronze of Towser a long haired tortoise shell female cat, can be seen at the Glenturret Distillery near Crieff in Scotland. Towser was the distillery cat for 24 years between 1963 and 1987 and lived in the still house where its job was to catch mice. Each morning the stillman would find that Towser had laid out an average of three mice each day for his inspection.
The Guinness Book of Records entry gives the figure of 28,899 mice which it is estimated that Towser caught in those 24 years.
A special cat flat and ramp is still used by Towser's successors




Cat’s monument


This fine monument stands on a small island in the Grounds of Shugborough House in Staffordshire the home of the Anson family who became Earl’s of Lichfield.  Admiral George Anson  circumnavigated the  world in the 18th century and it is thought that this monument was to commemorate the cat that accompanied him.



The cat's memorial


A medieval cat flap


Cat flaps are a common feature in many a household door.   If you look below the 14th century clock in Exeter Cathedral, you will see a small door with a hole in it, a medieval cat flap.   The story goes that mice were constantly responsible for nibbling away the ropes holding the clock weights hanging behind the small door.  Apparently the sexton was given a special allowance for a cat to attend to the matter and he cut the hole in the door to allow the cat unlimited access.


Medieval cat flap

A wild cat


Back in the 15th century. Sir Percival Cresacre was Lord of the Manor at Barnburgh in South Yorkshire.   Legend has it that one moonlit night, Sir Percival was returning home on his horse Winifred, when a wild cat sprang onto the horses back.  The horse bolted unseating its rider and the cat then attacked Sir Percival who fought back strongly.   Their struggle raged towards St Peter’s church at Barnburgh and ended up in the church porch where, although severely wounded, the knight used his last ounce of strength to push the cat with his feet.  He actually managed to crush the cat against the church wall finally killing it.   When the alarm was raised, a local man called Woodford found Sir Percival dying in the church porch and heard the story of his fight with the wild cat before he died.   A worn family crest can be seen on the church tower at Barnburgh.   The arms of the Cresacres is three purple lions rampart on a golden shield and has a crest of a cat on a mountain.   A crest is usually an additional grant of arms which indicates that at a later date a cat played some part in the history of the family, adding some authentication to the story.


Barnburgh Church

The Dun Cow


A fine sculpture of a cow to be seen on the river bank reminds us of Durham's origins and the legend of the Dun Cow.
St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne (Holy Island), died in 687 and was buried in Lindisfarne Priory.  In 875, in danger from Danish raiders, the Lindisfarne Congregation left the island and began their ‘wanderings’ through the north of England, taking with them St Cuthbert’s body and other treasures including the Lindisfarne Gospels.  They eventually settled at Chester-le-Street in 882.  Some two hundred years later following further danger the congregation resumed their wanderings and in 995 whilst near to Hetton to the east of Durham, the coffin transport came to a standstill and would not move any further.   After intense meditation the monks prayers were answered when St Cuthbert appeared in the vision of a monk called Eadmer who told them to take the coffin to a place called Dun Holm.  Dun Holm meant Hill Island, later called Duresme and finally Durham.   The monks were then able to continue but nobody seemed to know where Dun Holm was.  Luckily the monks heard a milkmaid asking another milkmaid if she had seen her dun cow and was told that it had been seen grazing near Dun Holm.   The monks followed the milkmaid in her search for her cow and thus arrived at the appointed place on a promontory of a peninsular in the River Wear.   Here they built a ‘White Church’ as a shrine for St Cuthbert’s relics, and so the Cathedral and the City of Durham was founded.
Sculptures portraying the Dun Cow and the Milkmaids are set in the north-west turret of a gable on the north front of Durham Cathedral.
 The Dun Cow




The  Old  Dun  Cow


An old cottage in Halfpenny Lane, just outside Longridge in Lancashire, bears the date 1616 above the door, together with the rib bone of a cow  The story goes that during a severe drought in the 17th century,  the old dun cow  provided enough milk for all,  long after the wells had run dry.  Legend has it that a local witch was caught milking the cow into a sieve and the cow died.

 The Old Dun Cow 

The  Ketton  Ox 


The old North Riding of Yorkshire town of Yarm, now in the modern county of Cleveland, was an important coaching stop and in 1848 this tiny town had no less than 16 inns, half of which are still in use today. 

The imposing  Ketton  Ox,  dating from the 17th century,  now the oldest inn in the town,  gains its name from a huge cow.  This famous shorthorn was reared by Charles Colling of Ketton Hall in 1796 and grew to the huge size of 220 stones and was valued at the enormous sum in those days of £250.

This inn was also a popular venue for  cockfighting  and a special room was set aside in the attic for that purpose.   When the ‘sport’ became illegal in 1849, cockfighting continued and a ‘decoy’ room was constructed alongside the original in case the place was raided.   Curious oval shaped windows, now covered up, gave good light into the arena.

The Ketton Ox
Bull baiting


The Bull and Dog Inn in the main street of Sleaford in Lincolnshire reminds us of the cruel ‘sport’ of Bull Baiting which was prevalent in former times.   A fine old plaque on the pub wall, dated 1689, depicts a bull being baited by a dog.  


The Bull and Dog

The bull would have been tethered to a metal ring, either in the ground or on a wall. and would have been baited by a bulldog, one of the oldest breeds of British dog.    This 'sport' was abolished in 1835.    A remaining example can be seen at Eyam in Derbyshire

Moffat Ram
The Colvin Fountain, Moffat, Scotland.
 Situated at the top of the High Street at Moffat is the Colvin Fountain with its ram, which signifies the importance of the local sheep farming industry. It was sculptured by William Brodie R.S.A who also sculptured Edinburgh's 'Greyfriars Bobby'. A curious thing about this sculpture is that the ram is missing its ears and has been since it was presented to the town in 1875 by William Colvin. "It has nae lugs" was the cry at the unveiling ceremony much to the embarrassment of the sculptor. A sheep racing event has been established in the town centre in August each year.

Pickering in North Yorkshire is a delightful small market town at the foot of the North York Moors and the southern terminus of the North York Moors Railway.

The name of this town apparently derives from pike and ring. Alongside the A170 road on the western outskirts of the town is a large pond known as Keld Head Spring and legend has it that it was a favourite haunt and bathing place for the young King Pereduras whose palace was nearby. The story goes that the king lost a ring, a heirloom passed from father to son to ensure the continuation of the royal line. Apparently he accused a young servant girl of stealing the ring, but sometime later the King was dining on a huge pike which had been caught in the pond and as he cut it open Pereduras found the lost ring inside the fish. The triumphal discovery prompted him to call the town Pike-a-ring. In the truest tradition of fairy tales, he married the servant girl and they all lived happily ever after.

Keld Head spring
Fish Ladder
This fish ladder, completed in 1951, is alongside the Pitlochry Power Station on the River Tummel. It was constructed as a result of a 1943 Act of Parliament which laid a duty of care on the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board to preserved fish stocks in waterway power schemes. The first of its kind in Scotland, the ladder consists of 34 separate pools, each rising 1.6 feet higher than the last over 339 yards to enable fish, especially migrating salmon, to reach the upper part of the river beyond the dam. A fish counter records the number of fish making the journey and they can be observed at a special glass walled viewing area.

The Snake Catcher

Brockehurst is a village in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire.
A very fine marble stone in the old churchyard marks the grave of an unusual New Forest character, Harry Mills, who died in 1905 aged 67 years.   Better known as Brusher Mills’ he had lived in an illegal shack in the forest for almost 30 years.   Actually the shack was burned down just one day before the 30 years required to claim the home and land upon which it stood under ancient forest law.         He was known as ‘Brusher’ simply because of the meticulous way he brushed the village cricket pitch.   His main occupation however was that of ‘snakecatcher’ and he is credited with having killed a total of 3186 New Forest adders which he sold to London Zoo as live feed for the larger snakes.   The gravestone depicts a carving of Mills near to his shack and several snakes.    The local pub is called ‘The Snake Catcher.’



Unknown said...

Lots of interesting facts. Great to see animals given their place. 'mon the cows

Unknown said...

Lots of interesting facts. Great to see animals given their place. 'mon the cows

zerowhite said...

Very interesting, thanks