On this day in history : 20th June 1497 – The consecration of St. Mary’s Church, Fairford, in the Cotswolds – which has a stone memorial to Tiddles the cat in its churchyard….

Fairford Church – Photo credit : Andy Dolman CC BY-SA 2.0

St. Mary’s in Fairford, Gloucestershire is one of the finest ‘wool’ churches in England…. To show off their wealth successful wool merchants would splash their cash on their parish churches…. John Tame was one such merchant, it was he who rebuilt the church at Fairford…. The story goes that he had another ulterior motive for rebuilding the church – to display his collection of stained glass….

It is said that in 1492 he captured a ship that was sailing to Rome from the lowlands…. It was carrying 28 beautiful stained glass windows, intended as a gift for the Pope…. Tame brought the windows back to England, along with the party of workmen who were travelling with them…. He then had the church built purposely to take the windows…. Well, that’s how the story goes – but in reality it is believed they were made in Westminster by Barnard Flower, a Flemish glazier…. However they came to be there, the 28 stained glass windows at St. Mary’s Church, displaying scenes from the Bible, are a sight to behold….

Great West Window – Image : Mattana – own work – Public domain

Inside the church a monument to John Tame can be seen…. But what about that other stone memorial that can be found in the churchyard facing the South door? The one for Tiddles the cat….

In 1963 a tabby cat appeared and befriended the verger and his wife…. She became a firm favourite among those who frequented the church, would attend the services and make herself comfortable on the lap of any willing person in the congregation…. She no doubt earned her keep by making sure the church mice were kept in order….

When Tiddles passed away in 1980 local a local stonemason decided she needed to be remembered – and so he carved a likeness of her….

Nearly a quarter of a century later history was to repeat itself…. Another female tabby, apparently homeless, decided to adopt the church as her home….and the congregation as her family…. She was soon to become known as Tiddles 2…. She would happily curl up in a church pew by day – but as she wasn’t allowed to stay in the church overnight she had her own ‘house’ in the church porch…. She also had a basket by the door which caught the afternoon sun….

Tiddles 2

In 2009 the winter was particularly cold, her health was not so good and so she went to live with one of the parishioners…. She lived with the lady for about a year before becoming very poorly…. The Parish people raised the money to pay for her ongoing vet bills but several weeks later, in December 2010, she passed away….

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