Churchill was a big fan of animals of all shapes and sizes and he maintained something of a menagerie at Chartwell with black swans, pigs, horses, cats and dogs, not to mention a Butterfly house. Towards the end of his life, he was given a ginger cat with white chest and socks as a birthday present from his private secretary, Jock Colville.
Churchill was very fond of the cat, whom he named Jock after his secretary, and would take him along when he travelled between Chartwell and his London home in Hyde Park Gate.
After Churchill died in 1965, Chartwell was given over to the National Trust to care for in perpetuity by Churchill’s family. However, the family made a special request. They asked that a marmalade cat with white bib and socks should always be resident at the house. The National Trust have kept this promise and the latest Jock in residence, Jock VI, was a rescue kitten from the animal shelter, Croydon Animal Samaritans.
In the summer of 2017 my daughter and I went to meet this famous feline and to have a chat about Churchill and his cats with Katherine Barnett, House and Collections Manager at Chartwell, who is a bit of a cat fan herself!
Jock was a very friendly cat and according to Katherine he is a big hit with the staff and visitors. His posts are the most liked on the Chartwell Facebook page and when he first took up residence at the house the story was featured in newspapers as far afield as Australia!
He was a handsome cat with a funny little white moustache and he didn’t stop purring the whole time I was there (which might have had something to do with the packet of Salmon Dreamies I had in my pocket!) Certainly, I suspect Churchill would have been very fond of him.
In the grounds of Chartwell you can see the graves of Rufus, Rufus II (who were Churchill’s much-loved poodles) and Jock, i.e. the first Jock, who lived at Chartwell until his death in 1974.
Recently, I have heard that Jock’s eyesight is deteriorating. I hope he continues to live a long and happy life in the beautiful surroundings of Chartwell and goes on to charm all the cat-loving visitors he meets.
You can read more about our visit to Chartwell and our encounter with Jock VI in the Monumental Tales book.