SEDGEMERE PEATY (1894)
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The first Abyssinians to appear in the National Cat Club Stud-book and Register were 'Queen Jumbo', (NCC: 1561)4, 'Sedgemere Bottle', (NCC: 2314)4 and 'Sedgemere Peaty', (NCC: 2315)4. Although no date of birth is given for 'Queen Jumbo', we do have a reference that confirms her date of death and for her show wins, which prove beyond question, that she pre-dates both 'Bottle' and 'Peaty'. 'Sedgemere Bottle', a male, whose colour is not given, was born in 1892. He was originally owned by Mr. Swinyard, but by the time of his registration, was in the ownership of Mr. Sam Woodiwiss.
'Sedgemere Peaty', a female, whose colour is also not recorded, but is generally accepted as a 'Ruddy', was born in October 1894 (a year after the death of 'Queen Jumbo') and her ownership followed that of 'Sedgemere Bottle'. However 'Peaty' was later owned by Mrs. H.C. Brooke.
In The Book of The Cat, Mr. Brooke, who was a strong supporter of 'foreign varieties', gives a description of the expected colour:
"The colour of the Abyssinian should be a sort of reddish-fawn, each individual hair being 'ticked' like that of a wild rabbit - hence the popular name of 'bunny cat'. The great difficulty in breeding these cats is their tendency to come too dark and too heavily striped on the limbs; the face should be rather long, the tail short and thick, and the ears large.
"The Abyssinian should not be a large coarse cat. A small cat of delicate colouring and the above mentioned body properties is by far to be preferred to the large, coarse, dark specimens one sees winning under all-round judges, merely because of their size."2
Unknown Unknown | Unknown Sedgemere Peaty, Oct-1894, ruddy Abyssinian, F | Unknown Unknown Unknown
'Sedgemere Peaty' was born in October 1894, from unknown parentage, and was owned by Mr. Swinyard at the time of her registration. It is not clear however whether she was in fact bred by him. As she is most often linked to 'Sedgemere Bottle' when referred to, it would be easy to assume that the two were in some measure related, but this pre-conception is dismissed by Mr. Brooke in his article 'The Abyssinian Cat' written in 1929:
"Probably the best Abyssinians ever seen in this country were Sedgemere Bottle and Sedgemere Peaty, the property of Mr. Sam Woodiwiss. They were, as far as I know, not related, and if this be the case it is really remarkable how two such specimens were obtained. They were very much the colour of a hare. Peaty ended her days in my possession, and I have always regretted not having preserved her skin, to at least retain her glorious colour, though her beautiful sinuous form and delicate limbs can hardly be imagined by those who have not seen her."1
In the one photo we have which includes 'Peaty', taken at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Brooke, 'Peaty' appears light in colour when compared to the two Manx cats seen with her, but the photo has been taken in bright sunlight, and if we accept Mr. Brooke's description of her, then her colour must have truly been outstanding, and very probably highly-rufoused in order for him to describe it in terms of 'glorious'.
'Sedgemere' was the cattery name of Mr. Sam Woodiwiss, so 'Peaty' would have adopted that prefix in her name upon her transfer from Mr. Swinyard to Mr. Sam Woodiwiss. Both Mr. Sam Woodiwiss and Mr. Issac Woodwiss served as Vice-Presidents of the National Cat Club2, and Sam was particularly well known as a breeder and fancier of Manx and English shorthairs, as well as a supporter of 'foreign' varieties, such as the Abyssinian and the Russian. He was an experienced judge of cats, and could be counted among those cat fanciers who were also considered to be recognised authorities on dogs, among them being Mr. Enoch Welburn, Mr. Fred Gresham, Mr. L.P.C. Astley, and Mr. Charles Lane. Both Sam Woodiwiss and Charles Lane were particularly noted and successful breeders and exhibitors of English shorthairs.
Among the famous English winners owned by Sam Woodiwiss, were the brown classic tabby 'Ch. Xenophon' (NCC:1338)?; the white, 'Ch. Sedgemere Snow King' (NCC:3355); the silver tabbies 'Sedgemere Silver King (NCC:2312), and 'Sedgemere Silver Queen' (NCC:2313); and the black, 'Sedgemere Black King' (NCC:3347). 'Xenophon' was probably the most decorated English Short-hair in feline show history. 'Snow King' later became the property of Lady Alexander and was renamed 'Ballochmyle Snow King'.
The above photograph of 'Xenophon' was taken inside the cattery of Mr. Sam Woodiwiss, and accompanies an article on "Cats As Cup Winners" by E. Leuty Collins, published in Windsor Magazine. The writer had this to say about Mr. Woodiwiss:
"A man now pre-eminent in the study of cat life as a hobby is Mr. Sam Woodiwiss, of Finchley, whose remarkably victorious 'Xenophon' holds still the champion sway. Not only is Mr. Woodiwiss devoted to cats, but he is also an enthusiast on the subject of dogs. 'Xenophon' was prized at £2,000, and has won his master every possible honour a cat can - eight championships, over twenty first prizes, besides cups, specials, etc., etc. He is a most homely cat of immense size, and with exceptionally fine sable markings. His pet name is 'The Man'."5
The last owner of 'Sedgemere Peaty' was Mrs. H.C. Brooke and we are indebted to Mr. Brooke, not only for the only photo of her in existence today, but for his great description of her best qualities, including her beautiful coat colour. It was on his property, amongst the very eclectic collection of animals that he and Mrs. Brooke owned and cultivated, that 'Sedgemere Peaty' ended her days.
If we accept that 'Sedgemere Bottle' and 'Sedgemere Peaty' were unrelated, then there are no records available that assist us to identify any siblings.
Only one record exists of a show win, and that was a third place, at the Crystal Palace show of 1895.
There are three sources confirming progeny from 'Sedgemere Peaty', but all appear to refer to one and the same cat, a female Abyssinian, the result of a breeding between 'Sedgemere Bottle' and 'Sedgemere Peaty'. This was 'GONDOR OF DARLINGTON',(NCC:3263)5.
From the entry in the Register of the National Cat Club, we can derive that 'Gondor' was bred by Mr. Swinyard, (the original owner of 'Peaty') and became the property of Mrs. Charles Heslop. This entry also confirms that she was shown successfully, gaining two first at the Crystal Palace, the latter one, as late as 1899. But her date of birth (given as Sept.1894) conflicts significantly with that of her dam 'Peaty', who is already on record as being born in October 1894!
The second entry is found in Volume 2 of The Cat Club Register, under the name of 'Gondar', where we find confirmation of her parentage, as well as Mr. Swinyard as breeder, and Mrs. Heslop as owner. Again, the date of birth is the same, in conflict with that of her dam.
The third entry is found in Volume 3 of The Cat Club Register, under the registration of 'Gondor's' own daughter, 'Schmid', a 'grey-ticked' Abyssinian female born 5th July, 1899. 'Schmid' is sired by Mrs. Heslop's own Abyssinian male 'Schmider' but out of 'Goudar', who is noted as the progeny of 'Bottle' and 'Peaty'. There is little doubt that this is one and the same cat, namely 'Gondor of Darlington'.
But two issues are now raised, the first being, what is the real date of birth for both mother and daughter? Given that 'Gondor' was not shown until some years later, and that her own daughter 'Schmid' was born in 1899, it seems reasonable to assume that the date of birth of 'Gondor' has been inaccurately recorded. It is more likely she was born in September 1895. In addition, she had to have been born before her dam 'Peaty' changed into the ownership of Mr. Sam Woodiwiss.
Of significance to feline historians of the breed however, is the fact that 'Schmid', a grand-daughter of 'Peaty', is described as a 'grey ticked Abyssinian female'. Does this then make her the first blue Abyssinian on record? It is also significant that she is NOT described as a 'Silver', or as a 'Chinchilla' Abyssinian. Both terms were in use at the time to describe Silvers.
In fact, much conjecture exists as to the colour of many of the early Abyssinians, and it seems probable that a good many of them were in fact silver, as was the first on record, 'Queen Jumbo' and later, Mrs. Carew Cox's 'Ouizero Taitou'. Names suggestive of the colour abound among the earliest cats, such as 'Aluminium', 'Platinum', 'Quicksilver', 'Silver Menelik', 'Silver Fairy', and 'Silver Ideal' to name just a few.
Although Mr. Brooke personally regarded the Silver an alien colour variety in the Abyssinian breed, preferring instead the lovely ruddy undercoat, he never-the-less has nothing but praise for the work done by Mrs. Carew Cox, whom he almost single-handedly credits for the survival of the Abyssinian breed, through its many and various trials and tribulations:
"About thirty years ago some very good Abyssinians were shown by the late Mr. Heslop, of Darlington; Mrs. Alice Pitkin also exhibited some fair specimens, many of hers, however, being too dark and "British Ticks" in type. Later Mrs. Clark, of Bath, possessed many excellent specimens.
"I bred quite a number at that period, perhaps the best being 'Chelsworth Peaty', who greatly interested Queen Alexandra, then Princess of Wales, when I exhibited her, suckling a ferret, at a Botanic Gardens Show. I sent quite a number to Continental menageries and fanciers; early in the century, however, I gave up all dog and cat breeding, and left London for the West Country to devote myself entirely to hunting.
"Had not Mrs. Carew-Cox about this time devoted herself to the breed I very much fear it would, ere now, have become extinct. Neglected - Heaven knows why - by the Fancy at large in an inconceivable manner, this beautiful and interesting breed certainly owes its existence to-day mainly to the devoted care and affection bestowed upon it by Mrs. Carew-Cox, who for a quarter-of-a-century has fostered it in the face of discouragements which I verily believe would have "choked off" any other person in the Fancy.
"Not for her the "big business" in stud fees, the "queued-up" queens, the cups and specials galore, which fall to the lot of many Long-hair breeders; no, in the face of rotten judging, lack of recognition, poor prizes, lack of market, and a heart-breaking mortality in kittens, this plucky lady has carried the Abyssinian flag triumphantly through. She cannot (or modestly will not?) tell me how many champions she has bred since some thirty odd years ago she fell in love with the first specimen she saw at an hotel at Winscombe, Somerset, where they were said to have been left by one who had been a traveller in "furrin parts".
"Incidentally, I may mention that a good many years back Mrs. Carew-Cox published a couple of letters from a gentleman who had been shooting in Abyssinia, and who stated that he had there shot a pair of wild cats, whose skins he brought to England, and which seemed from the description to correspond in every way with our present-day exhibition specimens."1
The final days of dear 'Peaty' are recorded in a notice that appeared in the news columns of Our Cats Magazine, 18th May 1901:
"The best Abyssinian cat which has for years, since the death of Mrs. Woodiwiss' Sedgemere Bottle, been seen in the showpen, has joined the majority. Sedegmere Peaty was but seldom shown, as she was delicate, but she easily won first prizes when shown at the last N.C.C. Shows at the Botanic and Crystal Palace. Owing to her very bad teeth, it was very difficult to feed her, and of late she had been suffering internally, so that it was almost a relief when she died last week. She was of exquisite colouring and beautifully shaped, and was a special pet of Mrs. H.C. Brooke's."9
None currently available.
It is difficult to deny that 'Sedgemere Bottle' and 'Sedgemere Peaty' represented, in their day, the very best examples of the Abyssinian breed up to that time and for some time beyond as expressed in this opinion published in The Book of The Cat (1903):
"A very taking variety is the Abyssinian. A good specimen should very strongly resemble what one might well expect the Egyptian cat to become after generations of domestication. Since the death of 'Sedgemere Bottle' and 'Sedgemere Peaty', there have been no cats penned of such superlative merit as were these two specimens. The photograph of 'Sedgemere Peaty' which we give, hardly does justice to the cat."2
In the Book of Cats (1867) by C.H. Ross, although no description is given of the Abyssinian cat, we do find this statement: "In Abyssinia cats are so valuable that a marriageable girl who is likely to come in for a cat is looked upon as quite an heiress"6. Today, the Abyssinian cat is still highly prized. It is so popular as a companion cat, and the number of breeders so few, that cat fancier who are able to successfully acquire an Abyssinian, even as a pet, honestly feels like they have won the lottery!
The story of the Abyssinian is one which epitomises the expression 'through trials to triumph'; for 120 plus years later, the Abyssinian cat is no longer the second class citizen of the feline world, struggling to hold its own. Abyssinians have taken 'Cat of the Year' in many Associations around the world and are now proudly shown on every continent! They are our link to the ancient cats of the past, have contributed their colour and pattern to breeds of the present, and are sure to be the forthright companions of mankind, well into the future.
Registers associated with this article include The Incorporated Cat Fanciers Association of Great Britain (TICFAGB), National Cat Club (NCC), The Cat Club (CCR), Beresford Cat Club (BCC), Feline Federation Francaise (FFF), Siamese Cat Registry (SCR), US Register & Studbook for Cats (USR)including Supplement(USRS), The Studbook of the American Cat Association (ACA), and the Studbook & Register of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).
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