The much-loved furry res­i­dents of the Na­tional Trust’s ven­er­a­ble homes

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His­tory may have dubbed Win­ston Churchill the ‘Bri­tish bull­dog’ but in fact he was more of a cat per­son. His fam­ily be­queathed his house Chartwell to the na­tion on con­di­tion that there was al­ways a mar­malade tom with a white bib and paws ‘in com­fort­able res­i­dence’, in me­mory of the late Prime Min­is­ter’s beloved Jock. Churchill’s is not the only Na­tional Trust prop­erty with a res­i­dent fe­line – a lit­tle known fact ex­plored in a de­light­ful new book doc­u­ment­ing the love fa­mous for­mer in­hab­i­tants had for their pets.

An­other un­ex­pected ail­urophile was Florence Nightin­gale, who owned more than 60 cats dur­ing her life­time, many of whom brought the pi­o­neer­ing nurse con­sid­er­able heartache. There was Mr Muff who died trag­i­cally, hav­ing been ac­ci­den­tally shot by a game­keeper; Mr Bis­marck, best re­mem­bered for his over­whelm­ing pas­sion for rice pud­ding; and a Per­sian kit­ten named Quiz, who leapt out of a train win­dow near Wat­ford and was later re­trieved, mirac­u­lously un­hurt, by the sta­tion­mas­ter.

Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top farm in Cum­bria, mean­while, has long been home to an ar­ray of moggies – very fit­ting, given that it was the set­ting for The Tale of Tom Kit­ten. And although read­ers will be fa­mil­iar with many of the prop­er­ties in this book, from Vita Sackville-west’s Siss­inghurst to Ellen Terry’s Small­hythe Place, the sto­ries of their an­i­mal oc­cu­pants an­i­mate these his­toric houses with fresh warmth and life. cg ‘Cats of the Na­tional Trust’ by Amy Feld­man (£9.99, Na­tional Trust Books) is pub­lished in June.

from top: study for break­fast at chartwell ii by sir wil­liam nicholson. ellen terry with boo boo in about 1918 be­low: cat, the res­i­dent fe­line at beatrix potter’s home in cum­bria. far left: vir­ginia woolf’s cats sap­pho and pluto at monk’s house in east...

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