I wonder what life was like for a black cat like me in the 12th Century Norman Period in a place like Arundel Castle. I would hopefully have been part of the Royal Court, being hand-fed haddock or loitering outside the kitchen, hoping for some scraps of pheasant from the roasting spit, while watching battled-scarred young men put on their armour and prepare to leave for the perilous Crusades. Outside the Castle, life was hard on the streets for both humans and cats, and medieval people were superstitious about cats and persecuted them. In fact, cats have taken a bad rap throughout history, particularly in Europe, where they were associated with witchcraft. Yet around the same time in Egypt, cats were kept to control rat populations and protect food stores, and gradually became members of Egyptian households and were even worshipped. It wasn’t long before the cat craze spread to India, China and other Asian countries and now I like to think they we are highly regarded pets.
Arundel Castle overlooks the River Arun in West Sussex and has a 1,000 year history spanning from the reign of King Henry I (1068-1135) to being passed to the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years. It has been at the forefront of English history and displays a unique and priceless collection of fine furniture, tapestries and clocks dating from the 16th Century. John and I, and a couple of other friends, wandered around the corridors and rooms, mouths open in awe at the shiny polished silverware, the grandeur of the paintings and the skilled craftsmanship evident throughout the castle.
We also took a stroll through the peaceful grounds and the meticulously kept gardens. The gardens are divided into formal courts and have a central canal pond with water fountain, an ideal place to dip my paws and freshen up. The gardens are imaginatively planted and managed in an eco-friendly way and there were various gateways to walk through and pavilions with seats based in oak where we could rest. I enjoyed chasing the insects in the peach house and vinery, hiding in the herbaceous borders and taking a nap under the palm trees. Altogether, the gardens were lovely and had a rustic charm.