The Cat and Fiddle Inn, New Forest

Hey diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The Cow jumped over the moon,
The little dog laughed to see such fun
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

The sign from the north side
Carving above the door
The sign from the south side

The postcard of the carving shows all the elements of the nursery rhyme - cat and fiddle, cow, moon, dog, dish and spoon.   The first sign shows the cat, his fiddle and a sheet of music.   The reverse side of the sign shows the cat playing his fiddle, the jumping cow, the dog, the dish and the spoon.

The Cat and Fiddle Inn is a well known pub in the New Forest    How did it get its name?   On the reverse of one of my postcards is printed the following: "CAT AND FIDDLE INN.   3 miles from Christchurch on main Southampton Road.   One of the most ancient roadside inns of this country.   The last place of call for pilgrims and way-farers on the west boundary of the New Forest.   Maintained for this purpose by the Saxon Monastery of Chistchurch Twynham.   Ancient hostelry known as the house of Catherina Fidelis, from which the present name is derived.   Well-known resort of smugglers and highwaymen in the 18th Century.   The inn parlour is the scene of the last meeting between Roden the Rider and the Smugglers.   See 'The Moonrakers', a story of Smugglers in 1747 (by E.E. Cowper).   Main structure of building unaltered.    R.G. Cheney, Proprietor."

Another story and I quote from the children's Michelin I-spy book - "Cat & Fiddle".   This name features in the well-known nursery rhyme which begins 'Hey diddle diddle . . .' but no one seems to agree on the origin of the phrase.   One popular idea is that it refers to the sixteenth-century English knight called Caton who when fighting the French was referred to by his enemies as Caton le Fidele - 'Caton the Faithful'.

So you take your choice as to where the name originated.   Agreement is that it came from foreign words, - Latin or French - but whether male or female is open to dispute!   I don't know how old the nursery rhyme Hey diddle diddle is, but ever since postcards the nursery rhyme has always been on the board outside the pub.   That is, apart from when Harvester recently took over the business and put their own sign up.   There was such an outcry from local inhabitants it was soon replaced!

There are a lot of cards for a postcard collection and not too difficult to get them into a date order.   Some have gone through the post and obviously have postmarks; then there is the growth of trees, wooden fencing changes, and last but not least which way round the sign is facing, no doubt taken down for renewal or cleaning.   Mostly the cards are photographic, but occcasionally artist ones crop up, notably one by A.R. Quinton with an update and one by F.E. Quinton.    Publishers were many and varied, mainly local.

The following is a selection of the cards in my collection.

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The first postcard shows a car, motorbike and sidecar, and a couple of bicyles outside the "Cat and Fiddle" Inn.   A number of my cards have old cars outside showing this to be a good place for refreshment during a drive in the New Forest early in the 20th century.   The second card is the one which has the story of Catherine Fedilis on its reverse, so the people are possibly the proprietor R.G. Chesney posing with his family and friends.   The third card shows a horse and cart with a farm worker and this form of transport is on several cards.

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These two postcards are by the well-known artist A.R. Quinton.   The first one shows a lovely old car in front of the Inn, but over the years newer models were built and the cards became difficult to sell.   So, as frequently happened with cards published by Salmon of Sevenoaks, it was "updated" by A.R. Quinton himself or another Salmon artist, hopefully to make the card more attractive to the public.   To my mind it looks less interesting with no cars or people but that is because these days we have our thoughts in nostalgia!

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Another card with plenty of lovely old cars.   Looks like it might be a Sunday when people have gone for a drive in the New Forest and stopped for refreshment.   The second card is a quieter day of the week - perhaps this is the innkeeper's car.   The card was published by Nigh from Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.

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These two cards are published by Judges of Hastings.   The first one is a real photograph as were most of their cards.   The next one, as you can see, is exactly the same but printed to make it look like a painting and was postally used in 1930.

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These three cards are from a later date as can be seen by the change in the cars parked at the rear of the inn.   Also a new signboard has been made.

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These three cards have been published by J. Salmon of Sevenoaks and were printed after World War II.   The first one was painted by F.E. Quinton who spent the War Years in the Army.   He is a relative of A.R. Quinton mentioned above.   The second card, a multiview titled The New Forest includes the first card.   So too does the third card, but on this modern card printed much more recently the colour has become unattractive.

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This card is a modern card painted by an artist whose name does not appear on the front or reverse.   So what was his task?   Was it to paint a picture of the Cat and Fiddle Inn as he imagined it might have looked earlier in its life or was he in fact given an earlier drawing to work from?   The second card is golden age size, deckle-edged and published by a local company, Thunder and Clayden of Bournemouth.

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On the reverse of the first card you can read "The New Forest holds a fascination for many people.   There are varied walks through here where it is often possible to see wild deer at close quarters.   It's a wonderful sight to see them grazing amidst the varied combination of woodlands, wild heaths and open lands.   The New Forest Ponies run freely over this land throughout the year, though some are here only for summer grazing."   The second card shows the inn as it is today with a new signboard and notice by Harvester telling you there is food in the bar all day long.   Finally , below is my photograph taken when we visited just a few years ago.


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January 2007