Friday, 15 July 2016

The Alien Well Hall Cat (of Maudsley Road)

Original post: ww1greenwichwomenatwar.org/2016/07/15/the-alien-well-hall-cat

“The Alien Well Hall Cat’ as reported by the Pioneer in July 1918 belonged to John Carote of 26 Maudsley Road. 

Why was this cat being reported in the local paper as an alien? 
More like a chicken killer, because John’s neighbour, Joseph Speight a cadet-servant, (four houses away at No 34), claimed that this cat had killed nine of his chickens. Things must have got to a pretty state for the matter to have gone to court.

Joseph and his wife Amy had four children at this time aged between 1 and 7. Were the children upset by the death of those chickens I wonder? 
In 1927 Joseph was returning to the UK from Japan, giving his profession as ‘assistant’.

John’s actual surname seems to have been not Carote but Cawte – the newspaper, as sometimes happened, got it wrong. He was an older man, 56, at the time of the court case. His wife Helen Jane was his second wife and they had had two children – one would have been 6 at this time so perhaps the cat was her pet. 

John Cawte had been a cab driver and so its not clear whether he would have had a particular skill to offer at the Arsenal. The houses both families lived in Maudsley Road were the most expensive Class 1 houses. It was the judge who referred to the cat as ‘another alien’ on being told it was a Persian. This has to be seen in the context of the First World War and their concerns about aliens.

Rather interestingly given the strict rules about washing windows and the hanging out of washing, the Tenancy Rules say nothing about either the keeping of pets, or of animals such as chickens in the garden. Not doubt the eggs from the chickens made a welcome addition to the family’s diet and I wonder how many other residents kept them. They were kept in a fowl-hut apparently with wire fencing to offer protection, but this was not enough to prevent the wiley cat killing then and carrying off (the plaintiff’s wife reported seeing this happen although the defendant claimed that the cat was on his windowsill at this time!).  The judge however, was inclined to believe Mr Speight, because not all cats were chicken killers and he believed this cat of John Carote must have developed a taste for chicken! The defendant was ordered to pay £1 with costs. He was also told to have the cat killed by taking it to the cats Cats Home. I wonder if he ever did!

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