The Cat House - Atlas Obscura

The Cat House

Henfield, England

This Tudor cottage is adorned with many canary-clasping cats, which originally served as a reminder to a local clergyman of his pet's murderous ways. 

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The Cat House is a beautiful thatched timber cottage that sits on Henfield’s Church Walk. Though built during England’s Tudor period, in 1550, it did not become the “cat” house until more than 300 years later in the 19th century, when its then-owner furnished it in the feline fixtures we see today.

The tradition goes that the cats were placed on the house in memory, not of the owner’s cat, but his canary, which can be seen in the paws of each cat.

The tragic tale of the canary tells that Nathaniel Woodard, a local clergyman owned a cat that snuck into the house and killed its resident canary. Heartbroken and seeking revenge, the house’s owner fixed depictions of the incident on the house so Woodard would be reminded of his cat’s transgression each time the clergyman passed on his way to church.

Should Woodard choose to turn away in shame, then an accompanying string of shells and bells that hang from the house would be shaken as a further reminder.

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April 10, 2024

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