Benjamin of the Durhams
Photo: Burgess, Market Lavington. Our Cats Magazine, 20th December, 1902. Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


'Benjamin of the Durhams' was one of only a few well-known English 'Orange' (Red) Persian males at the beginning of the new 20th century. His owner, Mrs. D'arcy Hildyard was better known for her Creams, in which she specialised, producing such famous cats as 'Matthew of the Durhams' and 'Miriam of the Durhams' before being bitten by the bug to breed and specialise in 'Orange' cats. She began her interest in reds by breeding her Cream queen 'Josephine of the Durhams' to Mrs. Neate's orange male, 'The King's Own' and from this she produced two rare red females, 'Mehitabel of the Durhams' and 'Glory of Prittlewell'.

The first photograph of 'Benjamin' is that by Burgess, of Market Lavington, which first appeared in Our Cats magazine, on 20th December 1902 and was subsequently republished in Frances Simpson's classic work The Book of The Cat in 1903 in her chapter on Orange Persians.

The main difficulty for breeders of 'orange' long-hairs was to produce a cat without barring. Most of the first oranges were red tabbies but seldom with good patterning. Over time, breeders selectively bred them to reduce the effect of barring, much in the same way as breeders for Shaded Silvers selectively bred for coat clarity and the removal of any sign of tabby.

In her chapter on 'Orange Persians' Miss Simpson gives the Standard of Points for 'Orange Self or Tabby' and then explains:

"It will be noticed that the heading of these points is 'orange self or tabby'; but as I have pointed out, the cats exhibited as orange Persians are neither self-coloured nor can they be called tabby. So it remains to be see which type of cat will in due course be the established one. I incline towards a self-coloured orange in the Persian breeds, and a very handsome cat this would be - of just one tone of bright even colour, perhaps slightly lighter on the flanks and stomach, under the tail, and with a frill of a paler tone. In fact, very much the type of a smoke cat, in two shades of brilliant orange. At the same time, if real orange tabbies can be bred with the distinct body markings these should be encouraged."4


    |   Unknown
Benjamin of the Durhams, 1901, Orange M
    |   Unknown

There is regrettably, no surviving information about 'Benjamin's' breeding and no exact date of birth, although it is known he was born some time in 1901. However, an article published in Our Cats magazine on 28th February 1903, which includes a precis on Mrs. Hildyard's cats, does give us an insight into how he became her property and why he has no known pedigree. Mrs. Hildyard had formed strong friendships with both Mrs. F. Neate, owner of the Orange male, 'The King's Own', and Mrs. Woodcock, mistress of the 'Of Wigan' cattery. At the time the article was written, Mrs. Hildyard was on a customary winter holiday, and staying with Mrs. Woodcock and boarding all her cats in Mrs. Woodcock's new boarding facility at Southport.

Mrs. Woodcock's outdoor boarding cattery at Southport.
Photo: Our Cats Magazine, 28th February, 19032
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

The article was based on a visit to that property and provided a wonderful photograph of the luxurious accommodation afforded the inmates of the cattery. From that article we have gleaned this critical and humorous anecdote:

He is a most fascinating fellow, with a charming face, short nose, and well-shaped head.

"Benjamin, the only gentleman in that creamy-tawny cattery, should certainly sing 'My face is my fortune'. He was bought by Mrs. Neate for a song, a pedigree-less cat. Mrs. D'arcy Hildyard bowed to the demands of this very sweet face, purchased him and declares she has been trying to get rid of him ever since. I ask you candidly, does she look as though she were very anxious to do so? He is a most fascinating fellow, with a charming face, short nose, and well-shaped head. He is not perfect, but that is not his role. He leaves that to Miriam. He has proved himself an excellent sire - witness the beautiful litter by him at the last kitten show.

"We made no enquiries as to how long Mrs. Hildyard intended to stay in her present pleasant quarters, but can only offer our congratulations to any fancier who can induce Mrs. Woodcock to give her and her cats change of air, in sunny, dry, and cheerful Southport."2


With no known heritage, there is no opportunity to trace siblings. Of shows, there is only one award recorded, a third prize won at Manchester. This also appears in his stud advertisement, published in 'Our Cats' in March 1903.


'Benjamin' does have a good history as a working stud. But he was used almost exclusively by Mrs. Hildyard in her quest to produce reds. She believed that to produce a good red, you needed to use Creams as the best viable outcross, which is why she bred her cream queen, 'Hazeline of the Durhams' to Mrs. Neate's orange male, 'The King's Own' to produce both 'Mehitabel of the Durhams' and 'Glory of Prittlewell'. Once she had bred red queens in this fashion, they were then bred back to 'Benjamin' to secure more reds of both sexes. Her views and experiences, as well as those of Mrs. Neate, are recorded in their own words, by Frances Simpson. Mrs. Neate had this to say about the breeding of orange cats:

"It is most difficult to breed oranges without white lips and chins; the pink nose, too, is a feature in the breed that I do not like. I have found crossing an orange male with a cream female the surest way to breed sound-coloured specimens of both sexes and varieties, e.g. 'Mehitabel of the Durhams' ( a really rich coloured unmarked orange queen, and quite free from the objectionable light shading on lips and chin); she was bred by Mrs. D'Arcy Hildyard from her cream female 'Josephine of the Durhams' and 'The King's Own'."4

Mrs. D'Arcy Hildyard then enlarges on the subject, from her own experience:

"Until comparatively lately I confined myself entirely to the breeding of creams, and my efforts were attended with considerable success, both in multiplying the cats of that colour - I bred thirteen one year - and in filling the classes given for cream females. I was particularly lucky in breeding many creams of the gentler sex.

Three of Mrs. Hildyard's homebred cream queens.
Left: 'Miriam of the Durhams'
Centre: 'Josephine of the Durhams'
Right: 'Hazeline of the Durhams'

Photo: 'Our Cats' Magazine, 28th February, 19032
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

"The birth of the Orange and Tortoiseshell Society fired me with ambition to start breeding oranges. I was much fascinated with the colour, though I hate them being penned beside the creams at shows, as they completely take all colour out of the lighter animals and give them a washed-out appearance. I started by crossing my cream queen 'Josephine of the Durhams' with Mrs. Neate's famous 'The King's Own'. This proved a most satisfactory cross, the results being three rich coloured unmarked orange kittens, one male and two females. I sold one female to Miss Scratton , of Prittlewell Priory, and it has, I hear, grown into a very handsome cat; the other two I kept and they won all before them at Manchester Kitten Show, 1901, and were shown at Slough after, where the male was claimed. The remaining one, 'Mehitabel of the Durhams,' I kept, and she won me many prizes last winter, and being mated this year to 'Champion Romaldkirk Admiral' has presented me with a litter of two creams and an orange. Certainly creams and oranges cross well, and often I think produce a brighter and deeper tone of colour than is obtained from other shades. I have lately purchased an orange tom, and by crossing him with 'Hazeline', one of my cream queens, have got a splendid litter of seven pure oranges. This, I think, proves that the cream and orange cross is good, and that they breed very true."

"Reliability is what I claim from the cream and orange cross. I emphatically believe in mating creams to creams if you wish to get a good pale colour and few markings, and oranges and creams crossed have certainly produced good specimens of both colours for me. I speak from my own experience.

"I hope to do great things by trying a cross between my orange tom 'Benjamin' and 'Mehitabel'."

Among the recorded progeny of 'Benjamin' are:

  • 'TAWNEY' (tortie female born April, 1903) out of 'Statira'. Bred and owned by Mrs. E. Robinson. (OC:26/Dec/1903)8

  • 'MARIETTA of the Durhams' (red female born 26th July, 1903) out of 'Glory of the Durhams'. Bred and retained by Mrs. Hildyard. (OC:30/Jan/1904)9

  • 'MURPHY of the Durhams' (red male born 18th March, 1904) out of 'Glory of the Durhams'. Bred and retained by Mrs. Hildyard. (OC:03/Sept/1903)10

  • 'ORIENT CREENA' (red female, born 18th March, 1904) out of 'Glory of the Durhams'. Bred by Mrs. Hildyard and owned firstly by Mrs. Spofforth (MCCC:1905)16, then by Mrs. F.Crowther. (OC:14/Dec/1907)11.

  • 'DAHLIA of the Durhams' (red female born 21st March, 1904) out of 'Mehitabel of the Durhams'. Bred by Mrs. Hildyard and sold to Miss W.K. Whishaw. (OC:3/Sept/1904)12

  • 'NORAH CRUNA' (red female born 24th March, 1904) out of 'Glory of Prittlewell'. Bred by Mrs. Hildyard and sold to Miss B. Sargent. (OC:10/Dec/1904)13

  • 'PANSY of Dugalba' (tortie female born 27th May, 1904) out of 'Nancy of Dugalba'. Bred and owned by Mrs. A. Boodle. (OC:14/Jan/1905)14

  • 'PAUL of Prittlewell' (red male born 27th July, 1903) out of 'Glory of Prittlewell'. Bred by Mrs. Hildyard, owned by Miss D. Scratton. (OC:05/Dec/1903)15

  • 'PETER of Prittlewell' (red male born 27th July, 1903) out of 'Glory of Prittlewell'. Bred by Mrs. Hildyard, owned by Miss D. Scratton. (OC:05/Dec/1903)15

  • 'WICHAM MARIGOLD' (red female born 27th July, 1903) out of 'Glory of Prittlewell'. Bred by Mrs. Hildyard, owned by Mrs. Bevington-Smith. (MCCC:1903)16


'Benjamin of the Durhams'
Photo: Burgess, Market Lavington. Our Cats Magazine, 20th December, 19021
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

Mrs. D'arcy Hildyard, fondly shouldering her 'Benjamin of the Durhams'
Photo: Our Cats 28th February, 1903 2
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


Stud advertisement for 'Benjamin of the Durhams'
Our Cats 7th March, 19033
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

In Summary:

The story of 'Benjamin' clearly demonstrates, that even when we have something to work with that is less than desirable in some trait, (in this case, the lack of a known pedigree), we can with careful planning and selection, produce something of value for our own or someone else's breeding program.

Mrs. Hildyard gave her honest opinion based upon her actual experience, and was only too willing to share the secret of her success. This too is a reminder, that the experience of one, can be the learning curve of another, when valuable information is shared. And only by sharing our advances and how we came to achieve them, do we truly add to the pool of knowledge that will advance our particular breed or colour variety. Share your knowledge, your lines and your acquired wisdom with others, as only then, will you be truly fulfilling your role as 'a breeder'.


  1. Our Cats Magazine, 20th December, 1902
  2. Our Cats Magazine, 28th February, 1903
  3. Our Cats Magazine, 7th March, 1903
  4. The Book of The Cat, by Frances Simpson, 1903
  5. The Cat Club Register, Vols. 1-5
  6. The National Cat Club Stud-Book and Register, Vols. 1-5
  7. The U.S. Register and Studbook for Cats, 1906
  8. Our Cats 26th December, 1903
  9. Our Cats 30th January, 1904
  10. Our Cats 3rd September, 1903
  11. Our Cats 14th November, 1907
  12. Our Cats 3rd September, 1904
  13. Our Cats 10th December, 1904
  14. Our Cats 14th January, 1905
  15. Our Cats 5th December, 1903
  16. Catalog, Midlands Counties Cat Club, 1905
  17. Photos and Quotations as per credits noted

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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