Church Cats

If you have a cat, you know you don’t own the feline, they own you. Your house is not yours, it belongs to your cat. You are just the caretaker. In England some churches are a cat’s domain.

Unlike in the United States or some other places, many British churches are open or unlocked during the day. This is great for tourists who would like to enter and view the architecture or interior. It is also great for people who want to have a quiet moment to reflect. Propped open doors or constant visitors have enabled some local cats or strays to claim the building as their own. They may like to get out of the rain, enjoy the soft seat cushions on the pews, or even sun themselves where light filters in through the stained glass windows onto the floor.

Locals are so used to seeing particular cats lounging about that they know them by name. They may even be afforded the status of official church cat.

We were told by locals in Corsham that this was Cyril. He was owned by a local florist, but he liked to hang out at the church by day. We met him inside the church. He walked us out and walked right back to the florist shop around closing time.

Some church cats belong to a local and just like to hang out at the church. Others are strays that have shown up at a church and the staff end up adopting them and allow them to stay. The cats presence helps curb the mouse population.

Another cat I encountered inside a church in the Cotswolds. This one followed us outside the church as well. He tailed us around the churchyard.

Southwark Cathedral in London even elevated the status of their church cat by honoring her in stone with a grotesque. The named her Doorkins because she would be waiting by the door to be let into the church every morning before they adopted her.

The grotesque made in honor of Southwark Cathedral’s church cat-Doorkins.
Doorkins is older now. She is less social and sleeps a lot. Here she was in the Harvard chapel in the church. She was on a comfortable chair.
Doorkins enjoying a nap.

In her heyday Doorkins was more sociable. She met the queen when she visited Southwark Cathedral. She would join in church services and choir practices angling for a pet or a scratch behind the ear. Even though she is on in years and is less active, she still enjoyed a little attention.

They sell this book at the Southwark Cathedral store relating Doorkin’s story.
This is Jones of St. Paul’s in Covent Garden in London. Jones is getting on in years as well. He is named after Inigo Jones who designed the church. His sibling, who passed on was Inigo and he was named Jones.

I have been lucky enough to meet some of these cats. The ones I met were people friendly and enjoyed attention. In a country that obviously favors dogs, church cats in England can be considered an icon.

Bampton Area: Downton Abbey

If you are a fan of the British TV show Downton Abbey you are probably aware of what stands in for the big house on the show- Highclere Castle. But do you know where they actually filmed the outside village scenes for the show? The village that stands in for Downton is Bampton. There are also some filming locations in nearby villages.

Bampton

Bampton is a village located in Oxfordshire in England’s beautiful Cotswolds region. There are some filming locations to see that are all in one little area of the village.

St. Mary the Virgin was used for interior and exterior shots.

St. Mary the Virgin’s church in the village was renamed St. Michael’s and All Angels on the show. Both Crawley sister’s weddings were filmed inside the village church.

Inside of the church
Church gate House or the Old Bampton Rectory- Isobel Crawley’s house on Downton Abbey

Bordering the churchyard is a private house that is used for outside shots as Isobel Crawley’s house. It is known as Churchgate House or the Old Bampton Rectory.

This location was used as the exterior for the Cottage Hospital in Downton Abbey.

Adjacent to Churchgate House is the Bampton Library which stands in for The Cottage Hospital on the show in exterior shots. This building is where Dr. Clarkson worked treating villagers. You can buy Downton Abbey related books, postcards, etc. there.

Swinbrook
This photo is from a friend who was with me on the trip. She graciously allowed me to use it. The rest of the photos I took.

Very close to Bampton is the Swan Inn at Swinbrook. It is only two miles away from Burford. The Swan Inn was the exterior filming location of the pub where lady Sybil and Branson stayed while planning to elope.

The interior of one room in the Swan Inn. I don’t know the lady in this photo. There was always someone in this room so it was impossible to take a photo of it without including someone.

The Swan Inn has outstanding meals and desserts. I highly recommend including it as a meal stop. Everyone in our group was with very pleased with their meal and we all ended up ordering sticky toffee pudding or Eton Mess as a dessert.

Shilton
Shill Brook with the hump-back bridge in Shilton

Two miles south of Burford is Shilton. The Old Forge, next to Shill Brook was the public house in Downton Abbey. This is where Bates worked in season 2 for a stint. The 18th century hump-back bridge was also featured.

How to Get There

If traveling by car, the places I mentioned are not that far apart. Just a few miles from one place to the next. If you are comfortable driving in the U.K. this may be the option for you.

If you would rather someone else do the driving I can recommend another option. I did a van tour with 5 other friends through Cotswolds Adventures. You can pick the locations you would like to go or have him pick the spots. The guides are knowledgeable and professional. The owner of the company is fluent in Japanese, so if you are from Japan and a Downton Abbey Fan this may be the best tour for you. There are other guides this tour uses as well. You can view Cotswolds Adventures website here: https://www.cotswoldsadventures.co.uk

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, it may be worth your while to stop in to Bampton and these other surrounding villages. Most tours do not stop at these villages so you won’t be dealing with crowds. They are just some of the many beautiful villages in the Cotwolds region.