Dick Whittington, made famous through the children's story and a pantomime, was very much a real person. Born in the village of Pauntley, Gloucestershire in 1350 he decided to travel to London to make his fortune as he heard that 'the streets were paved with gold'
Turn again, Whittington, thou worthy citizen
Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London
Make your fortune, find a good wife
You will know happiness all through your life.
He became a mercer (cloth dealer) and became very successful by importing exotic fabrics. He was soon a rich man and was soon lending money to King Richard II. As a reward the king made him the Lord Mayor of London for two consecutive years. When King Richard was deposed Dick Whittington left London but legend has it that on hearing the sound of the bells of Bow Church calling him back he decided to return.
His success continued and he became Lord mayor again in 1406 and then for a final term in 1419. During his lifetime he used much of his fortune to finance projects to help the poor such as basic drainage and sanitation in the slum areas. On his death he left the equivalent of £5,000,000 that repaired St Bart's hospital and built almshouses for the poor, so it is no wonder his legend has lived on.
This is the church of St Michael Paternoster in the City of London. The original was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and it is here that they believe Whittington lived and was buried.
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