Meet Ham House's first official feline employee


10 May 2022
If you catch a glimpse of a handsome black and white cat in the grounds of Ham House, you’re lucky to be in the presence of their first official feline employee!

To work at Ham House and Garden, employees must possess a friendly demeanour, be knowledgeable about the property, and be willing to try their hand at anything — and luckily, the National Trust property’s official pest controller, meeter and greeter, and retail assistant has all of those things!

The grandly named Lord Roscoe, who ‘owns’ gardener Janette Slack-Smith, came to Ham House, located in Richmond upon Thames, following the sad death of his predecessor. The 17th century house’s former resident cat, Simba, died when he was only six or seven years old. Janette said: “We’re not sure what happened to Simba, we just found him in the garden one day very ill. I rushed him to the vet but he died before the vet could even see him — it was so sad. He was a wonderful cat. He was definitely the Lord of the Manor.”

Janette and Roscoe in the gardens.

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A match made in heaven

A champion for cats, Janette wanted another cat to ‘work’ in the grounds of Ham House as a pest controller as since Simba’s death, the garden had once again become overrun with pesky critters. Eventually, Ham House’s head gardener agreed that they could adopt another cat as an official pest controller. So, a handsome black and white cat was adopted from the Ginger Cat House Rescue in Surrey and was employed as an official garden cat.

When Janette was searching for the ideal candidate, one cat in particular stood out. Roscoe, as he was known then, kept escaping from the cattery and didn’t like being kept confined to a small space. Janette thought he would be the perfect cat for them as Ham House has many acres of grounds to explore.

A hard-working Ham employee

Now, visitors to Ham House can find Lord Roscoe pretty much anywhere. As well as patrolling the gardens, he is employed as a shop assistant in their retail store as a visitor experience volunteer. He can also be found warming up volunteers’ laps in the visitor centre, as it can get quite cold in there.

His favourite place to be, though, is the polytunnels, of which two are heated to help the plants grow, but the warmth means it is where Roscoe likes to spend a lot of time curled up fast asleep! Janette said: “He does like it in those polytunnels but I’d rather he wasn’t disturbing my trays of seedlings while he’s in there — I’m always finding his pawprints in there!

Roscoe helping the garden team to prune a grape vine.

“He’s now so popular that we often hear over the radios that people have come to reception to ask where Lord Roscoe is, so we have to find out where he is!” 

The grandly-named Lord Roscoe may even become an Earl. Janette said: “He’s done really well in his first year but we can’t promote him just yet as we think he needs to spend more time scaring off the squirrels as they are always attacking the statues in the gardens.” 

In his primary employment as a pest controller, Janette said that Lord Roscoe does very well, but sometimes he does it a little too well as he will regularly bring presents of mice to the visitor reception. 

Lord Roscoe has even become something of a celebrity and has been featured in many news articles across the world, even appearing on TV. Janette said: “He is fantastic and is really good at promoting Ham House. Everyone loves him — all of us, we adore him.

Janette has also extended her thanks to Ginger Cat House Rescue who gifted Lord Roscoe to them and found them such a brilliant cat.

You can make Lord Roscoe’s acquaintance at Ham House and Gardens, seven days a week.

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Roscoe and the Father Thames statue outside Ham House.


Ham House is a 17th century house on the banks of the River Thames in Richmond.

Originally built in 1610, Ham House was created by courtier William Murray after he was rewarded for his friendship with a young King Charles I.

After lavishly decorating the house, William joined Charles to fight the Parliamentarians during the Civil War in 1642, which was, of course, lost. Thankfully, William’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth, established a good relationship with the new Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell and when Charles II was restored to power in 1660, Ham House became the place to entertain, and be entertained.

Ham House was home to the Murray family for 300 years and was passed to the National Trust in 1948, where its 17th century aesthetic remains to this day.