In T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, there were two cats who lived right here in our neighbourhood in Kensington, which isn’t surprising because Eliot lived just down at the end of the street. We used to see the second Mrs. Eliot (Valerie) walking every now and then but sadly she died in 2012. But we still have cats that roam the neighborhood. All the places mentioned in one of his poems are in a little corner of Kensington.
Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer
were a very notorious couple of cats.
As knockabout clown, quick-change comedians,
tight-rope walkers and acrobats
They had extensive reputation.
They made their home in Victoria Grove–
That was merely their centre of operation,
for they were incurably given to rove.
They were very well know in Cornwall Gardens,
in Launceston Place and in Kensington Square.
They had really a little more reputation
than a couple of cats can very well bear.
Valerie Eliot granted permission for Andrew Lloyd Webber to develop a stage musical based on her husband’s poems. This became a legendary hit musical: Cats. With her portion of the proceeds, she established “Old Possum’s Practical Trust”, a literary charity, and funded the T.S. Eliot Prize, an annual prize that has been called “the most coveted award in poetry”
The recent history of the “Crossed Keys” is very interesting.
In 2012 the Crossed Keys was purchased by property developers who closed the pub and planned to develop it as a luxury private residence. Thousands of people signed a petition to save it but the new owners boarded up the pub. Squatters managed to get into the property and caused a significant amount of damage. With all the local opposition and a good chance that their plans would not be approved by the local council, the property developers sold the building to a company that reopened it as a pub in January 2014.
Score one for the Vox Populi.
The Carraras Building at 180 Hampstead Road in Camden is a real treat for cat lovers.
These carved animals are on the rear entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice – the Judges’ Entrance. The little stone cat and dog are supposed to represent fighting litigants who come to court.
This is the most famous cat in London – Dick Whittington’s cat.
Richard Whittington (c. 1354–1423) was a medieval merchant and a politician. He was Lord Mayor of London four times, served in Parliament and as a sheriff of the City. He also made a large fortune in trade, importing luxury fabrics and perhaps exporting the very desirable England woolen cloth to Europe.
He married but had no children and he used his great wealthy to fund a number of public projects, such as rebuilding Guildhall, building drainage systems in poor areas of medieval London, and a hospital ward for unmarried mothers. He bequeathed his fortune to form the Charity of Sir Richard Whittington which, nearly 600 years later, continues to assist people in need.
All photos taken by Cathey Leitch @Cathey Leitch, 2015