Campaign to save Catholic character of pub next to Westminster Cathedral has been signed by Ann Widdecombe as well as many priests and religious

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has backed a petition to save The Cardinal pub after it was confirmed that it would revert to its former name, The Windsor Castle.

The archbishop urged an audience of civil servants, parliamentarians, academics and Church officials at a conference on social responsibility today to sign the petition.

Launched only on Monday, the petition has over 130 signatories, including many priests and religious and the former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe.

Other figures who appear to have signed the petition are Fr Christopher Jamison, Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster, John Wilkins, former editor of The Tablet, and one “Peter Smith”, who could be Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark.

The Samuel Smith’s pub, a popular meeting place for parishioners of Westminster Cathedral, has been closed for renovations since late last year. The petition says the name The Cardinal is an “important heritage of this part of London”.

Miss Widdecombe said: “If this had come a day earlier I would have dismissed it as an April fool, so outrageous is the idea. This pub is right at the heart of Westminster Cathedral’s environs and Windsor Castle is many miles away. Is this the latest attack from secularism or just ignorance?”

Michael Elmer, head of the Christian People’s Alliance, told Independent Catholic News: “The Cardinal has been part of the social life of Westminster Cathedral for decades. I believe it was named after Cardinal Manning, who showed such great support for the Dockers Strike in 1889. He lived nearby.”

Before its refurbishment the pub had a display of paintings of cardinals, past and present. Mr Elmer said: “It would be interesting to know whether these will be still be in the refurbished pub – and if not – whether it would be possible for the Church to acquire them.”

A spokeswoman for Harries Hagan Solicitors, representing the pub’s owners, said she would be making enquiries.