Toby, The Hall Cat - An Introduction
Toby was Alex Moulton's much-loved pet cat. As such a prominent figure at The Hall over the past twenty years, it was thought appropriate that Toby should be offered the opportunity to contribute to the new website and perhaps give some insights into The Hall Estate and past events. Below, we introduce Toby in the somewhat unusual (and rather unique) manner of appending his obituary.
For many years, Moultoneers and other visitors to Moulton Bicycles in Bradford on Avon may have noticed an unusual sign at the top of the driveway – “Please take care, Toby the cat may be crossing.” Such was the importance of Toby in Alex Moulton’s life, we all had to watch out for him.
Toby came to The Hall as a stray in 1997, and quickly realised he was on to a good thing. Warmth, food and the odd stroke made him feel welcome, and he settled down. Alex, despite having had many Labradors as pets, liked having Toby around the place and he became a permanent part of the domestic scene.
The question of a cat flap was raised very early on. It seemed incongruous to insert a flap within one of The Hall’s great doors, and anyway, Alex thought that Toby would rather like direct access to the heat of the Aga in the kitchen. Hence ‘Toby’s Tunnel’ was expertly created by stonemason Michael Lintern – a full nine feet through the north face of The Hall. Alex would say that he gave up shooting as he had, in his advancing years, a disinclination to kill - and the arrival of Toby reinforced this mindset. Toby himself had no such compunction; for many small rodents and birds their final journey was through the tunnel and into the kitchen.
Toby enjoyed being the centre of his master’s attention, and would often interrupt a meeting by jumping on the table and rolling over, angling for a stroke. Papers and drawings would be scratched and creased. Although Alex would sometimes admonish him, Toby was always quickly forgiven. He was part of the furniture, and he knew it.
In later years, Alex would often joke that Toby was the true owner of The Hall, a role that Toby played admirably - patrolling the grounds, dropping in at the bicycle factory, keeping an eye on the housekeeper and being on time for meals and meetings. A framed photograph hangs in the passageway, depicting Toby sat comfortably on the roof of Alex’s Bentley. The inscription reads “He knows where his place is.”
Alex said that he and Toby had a bet on to see who could live the longest. “I think Toby will win” he confided. Toby appeared nonchalant about this, but when Alex died he refused food for two days and was never really the same again. Old age caught up with Toby scarcely six months after his master died, and the local vet was called to put him to sleep. He has been interred under the stone terrace of The Hall, his final resting place marked by a brass plaque: ‘Toby - The Hall Cat’.