Dick Whittington
[ Issue 30 ]

Dick Whittington is a particular interest of Emily Bronto

Permit Bikwil to acquaint you with the fascination of Dsck Whittington

Dick Whittington

Fizzgig starts with pantomimes and cats, but quickly moves to a fascinating series of bequests.

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From the Back Verandah ó Fizzgig


Like many people of my vintage, I was a child at a pantomime when I first learnt of Dick Whittington and his famous cat. Well, itís precisely on stage and in childrenís books where the cat business belongs, since it was no more than a piece of folklore that sprang up about 200 years after his death. To an adult, the story of his philanthropic deeds is far more fascinating than the legend of his cat.

Richard Whittington (c1358- 1423) was the youngest son of the wealthy Sir William Whittington of Pauntley in Gloucestershire. Richard became even more prosperous when he set up as a mercer. In fact he became the richest merchant of his time. He even traded with and lent money to Henry IV and V, a mediaeval practice (whereby the City of London made loans to an insolvent King) that lasted until 1694, when the Bank of England was established.

Whittington was a generous benefactor in his lifetime (for example, he built a library at Greyfriars, established a ward at St. Thomasí Hospital for unmarried mothers and rebuilt the Church of St. Michael Paternoster Royal), and an even more munificent one in his will.

Here are some of the diverse purposes for which his vast fortune was bequeathed:

the building of a library at Guildhall,
the rebuilding of the squalid Newgate Gaol,
the foundation of an almshouse and college at East Grinstead,
the construction of a College of Priests.

His most extraordinary bequest to London was a public lavatory near the mouth of the Walbrook River at Dowgate. It had a row of 64 seats for men and a similar one for women.

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