Sunday, 12 June 2016

The York Cat Story

Despite living in York for several years as a student in my early 20s, it wasn't until my eldest daughter went to study at the same university I'd been to, that I discovered the story of the York Cats and the York Cat Trail.

The Cat Trail is a walk through the streets of the city centre spotting the Cats of York, the many cat sculptures hidden and not hidden at all in and on various buildings, roofs and windows.

Cat statues have adorned buildings in York for over two centuries, believed to have been used as a rudimentary form of pest control to discourage rats and mice. Most of those early cats have disappeared or been destroyed though a couple of early examples survive on the front of a former grocers in Ousegate.


The two are the last of nine cats that used to roam across the front of the building during the nineteenth century put there not only to deter rats and mice from the nearby River Ouse but because the grocer thought they might appeal to children.



The cat tradition never quite went away, but it was given a new lease of life in the early 1980s by local architect and cat lover Tom Adams. Resin statues of cats, made by local sculptor Jonathan Newdick, became signature pieces on buildings Adams designed in the city as well as on private homes out of the centre of York.

One of the first John Newdick cats Tom Adams installed was on April 1st 1982 on the front of a building in one of  York's main shopping thoroughfares Coney Street.



Adams installed another of Johnathan Newdick's resin cats on the roof of a building he was doing extension work for in 1984, and this stalking cat has a companion. A pigeon that was put up after the cat was installed by the building's owner, apparently at a cost of just £3 for a rubber pigeon from the local hardware store.

I was living in York in 1984 and passed this building almost daily and never noticed the cat or his companion on the roofline. Not once :/



Some of the Adams cats even have names, this is Chambers, another of Jonathan Newdick's cats that installed in the early 1990s on a legal firm's window ledge.

And there are cats dotted all over the city if you know where to look. Here's a few we've spotted on visits to the eldest child

York Cat Story




But they are by no means all the cats that can be found, I'm still cat hunting on every visit.

If you want to go cat-spotting next time you're visiting York, there's a York Cat Trail map, a cat statue treasure hunt through the city centre, which can be picked up free from York Glass on The Shambles, York's most famous street and home, of course, to a couple of cat statues.

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