York Cats 24 feline sculptures in the city centre

The history of the cats in York

The history of the cats in York dates back at least as far as 1920, when Sir Stephen Aitcheson placed two on a building that he owned in Low Ousegate. Some say he put them there to scare away rats and mice though it's more likely that he thought they would be eye-catching and attractive. Others followed his idea and the odd cat appeared around the city in the hope that good things would happen!

It was in 1979 that local architect Tom Adams (who had drawn black cats as his signature since the 1950's) decided to resurrect the idea by placing them on buildings he designed. York based sculptor Jonathon Newdick was then commissioned to bring them to life. Tom passed away in 2006 aged 75, but his inspiration lives on through new commissions of York cats.

York Glass Ltd - Shambles. The Cat Trail leaflet is available here.

The York Cat Trail Map gives clues as to the location of most of the cats to be found around the city. The map above is adapted from the York Cat Trail, with additions and corrections. The cats have been renumbered to give an alternative route.

A selection of the cats

Don't read any further until you've Searched for the cats yourself!

Start in Walmgate for cats 1 - 3

Cat 1 lives here

Cat 2 - don't they look pleased to see me!

Go through the arch to the riverside garden to see cat 3

25 Walmgate - Alehouse and Bistro
29 Walmgate - Quality Ateration & Dry Cleaning Services.
Riverside garden behind the Watergate Inn, 24 Walmgate.
Cats 1 to 3 - an easy start
Golden Fleece, Pavement
The Three Tuns, 12 Coppergate
Perhaps cats 4 & 5 like a drink?
Cat at the Golden Fleece
The Three Tuns, 12 Coppergate
Junction of Friars Terrace and South Esplanade.
Junction of Friars Terrace and South Esplanade.
Junction of Friars Terrace and South Esplanade.
Cats 6 & 7 are down by the riverside
Cats 8 and 9 date back to the 1920s but there were as many as 9 cats on this building. The Yorkshire Evening Press of 13th April 1962 stated that Sir Stephen Aitcheson, who owned the grocer’s that occupied the buildings at the time, thought they would be eye-catching, and especially attractive to children.
Cats 8 and 9 date back to the 1920s but there were as many as 9 cats on this building. The Yorkshire Evening Press of 13th April 1962 stated that Sir Stephen Aitcheson, who owned the grocer’s that occupied the buildings at the time, thought they would be eye-catching, and especially attractive to children.
Cats 8 and 9 date back to the 1920s but there were as many as 9 cats on this building. The Yorkshire Evening Press of 13th April 1962 stated that Sir Stephen Aitcheson, who owned the grocer’s that occupied the buildings at the time, thought they would be eye-catching, and especially attractive to children.
To find cats 8 & 9, walk along the riverside back to Ouse Bridge & turn right onto Low Ousegate
Cross the road and the bridge to find cat 10 - it's not easy to see ...
... as it stalks the rooftops.
25 Coney Street. Installed Nov. 1984.This is one of the first cats used by the architect Tom Adams to ‘sign’ one of his buildings. Its partner was installed on the other side of the building and can be seen from across the river. The sculptor is Jonathan Newdick, and it is made of indestructible polyester resin.
25 Coney Street. Installed Nov. 1984.This is one of the first cats used by the architect Tom Adams to ‘sign’ one of his buildings. Its partner was installed on the other side of the building and can be seen from across the river. The sculptor is Jonathan Newdick, and it is made of indestructible polyester resin.
To find cat 11, retrace your steps along Low Ousegate, turn left and head for Coney Street

Installed in November 1984, this is one of the first cats used by the architect Tom Adams to ‘sign’ one of his buildings. Its partner (cat 10) was installed on the other side of the building and can be seen from across the river. The sculptor is Jonathan Newdick.

Continue along Coney Street to Lendal, turn left then look for cat 12.

Cat 12 - "Chambers". Another of Jonathan Newdick's cats, installed in the early 1990s on a legal firm's window ledge.

To find cat 13, you need to walk to Gillygate.

This cat, made of concrete, was bought from a garden centre and put in place by the person who lived in the flat above the shop it sits upon. Installed early 1980's.
This cat, made of concrete, was bought from a garden centre and put in place by the person who lived in the flat above the shop it sits upon. Installed early 1980's.
Cat 13, made of concrete, was bought from a garden centre and put in place by the person who lived in the flat above the shop it sits upon. Installed early 1980's.
John Ward Knowles, the famed stained glass manufacturer had a workshop in Stonegate. Cat 14 is above the door.
John Ward Knowles, the famed stained glass manufacturer had a workshop in Stonegate. Cat 14 is above the door.
Cat 14 is in Stonegate. It looks like the pigeons have taken their revenge!
Cat 15. The Cat Gallery - Low Petergate
Cat 15. The Cat Gallery - Low Petergate.
Cat 15 is just around the corner, in Low Petergate.
Cat 16 "Bob". 36 Goodramgate - Goji Vegetarian Cafe and Deli.
Cat 16 "Bob". 36 Goodramgate - Goji Vegetarian Cafe and Deli
Feeling peckish after all that walking? Cat 16 is conveniently placed.

Look for a "Snickleway" (Bedern) on the other side of Goodramgate and follow it into Bartle Garth, past the wonderfully restored Bedern Hall into St Andrewgate.

Here, in relative peace and quiet away from the crowds, search for cats 17, 18 & 19.

Black cat on residential building in Spen Lane, off St Andrewgate. A Tom Adams cat, made by Jonathan Newdick.
Black cat on residential building in Spen Lane, off St Andrewgate. A Tom Adams cat, made by Jonathan Newdick.
Cat 15: 1. St Andrewgate. A Tom Adams cat, made by Jonathan Newdick.
Cat 15: 1. St Andrewgate. A Tom Adams cat, made by Jonathan Newdick.
Cat 19: ½ St Andrewgate - one of the York Cats (½ size, of course) is climbing the wall around the side.
Cat 19: ½ St Andrewgate - one of the York Cats (½ size, of course) is climbing the wall around the side.
Cat 17, on a residential building in Spen Lane, off St Andrewgate, is another Tom Adams cat, made by Jonathan Newdick. Cat 18 is at 1 St Andrewgate. Cat 19 is at ½ St Andrewgate (yes, really) and is ½ size, of course.

The remaining cats are all very close together. To find them, continue along St Andrewgate to Kings Square and Colliergate.

Cats 20 & 21: Barnitts shop, Colliergate.
Cat 20: This is the latest, and possibly the last Tom Adams cat. Installed May 2006.
Cat 21: Tom Adams. A similar cat used to adorn the Sarah Coggles shop on Low Petergate.
Cat 22: Tom Adams installed one of Johnathan Newdick's resin cats on the roof of a building he was doing extension work for in 1984, and this stalking cat has a companion. A pigeon that was put up after the cat was installed by the building's owner, apparently at a cost of just £3 from the local hardware store. Installed Nov. 1984.
Cat 22: Tom Adams installed one of Johnathan Newdick's resin cats on the roof of a building he was doing extension work for in 1984, and this stalking cat has a companion. A pigeon that was put up after the cat was installed by the building's owner, apparently at a cost of just £3 from the local hardware store. Installed Nov. 1984.
Tom Adams installed one of Johnathan Newdick's resin cats on the roof of a building he was doing extension work for in 1984. Cat 22 has a companion, a pigeon, that was put up after the cat was installed by the building's owner, apparently at a cost of just £3 from the local hardware store. Cat 20 (near the clock) was installed May 2006. Cat 21 looks like it's been in an accident! . A similar cat used to adorn the Sarah Coggles shop on Low Petergate.

Our trail ends in Shambles where we'll find cats 23 & 24.

Cat 23: York Glass Ltd - Shambles. Get the Cat Trail Map here.
Cat 23: York Glass Ltd - Shambles.
Cat 24: The Edinburgh Wool Mill, Shambles
Cat 24: The Edinburgh Wool Mill, Shambles

By their very nature, cats come and go (according to legend, these cats will have 216 lives!) and new ones may appear from time to time. This guide was prepared in December 2016 and is, as far as I know, a complete list of the city centre cats at this time.

Roger Walton, 9/12/16

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Roger Walton
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All photos ©Roger Walton

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