PortCities London
UK Bristol Hartlepool Liverpool London Southampton
You are here:  PortCities London home > About maritime London > Early port
Text Only About this Site Feedback
Explore this site
About maritime London
Early port
Tudor and Stuart port
18th-century port
19th-century port
20th-century port
People and places
Port communities
Crime and punishment
Leisure, health and housing
Thames art, literature and architecture
The working Thames
London's docks and shipping
Trades, industries and institutions
Port of science and discovery
Historical events
Ceremony and catastrophe
London in war and conflict
Fun and games
Things to do
Timeline games
Matching games
Send an e-card
Richard (Dick) Whittington (c.1350-1423)

Send this story to a friend Send this story to a friend
Printer-friendly version Printer-friendly version
View this story in pictures View this story in pictures
Medieval mercer and Mayor of London
Known for

Richard Whitington.
View full size imageRichard Whittington. © NMM

The pantomime story of Dick Whittington, the poor boy who came to London with his cat.

At first unsuccessful, Dick set out to leave London, but returned after he heard the bells of the City calling him back. In the end, Whittington becomes rich thanks to his cat.

The story first appeared nearly 200 years after Whittington’s death.

Other characters were added, and Dick Whittington became a favourite pantomime in the 19th century.

Port connection

The real Richard Whittington was apprenticed to the Mercers’ Company in the City of London. He became a successful trader, dealing in valuable imports such as silks and velvets. All his goods would have entered London through the river quays.

Whittington was three times Master of the Mercers’ Company and four times Mayor of London.

Interesting facts

Richard Whittington’s fortune was used for many charitable purposes, including almshouses (housing for poor people), a library, and also public works such as improvement to the water supply and a public lavatory. The Whittington Charity still exists, and provides housing and financial help.

Richard II and his successor Henry IV were important customers for Whittington. He supplied silks for the wedding dresses of the daughters of Henry IV.

The legend of Dick is commemorated by the Whittington Stone on Highgate Hill, from where Dick is supposed to have heard the City’s bells. In 1964, a figure of a cat was added to the stone.

Life story
c.1350 Born in Gloucestershire, the younger son of William Whittington, lord of the Manor of Pauntley in Gloucestershire.
1358 His father died and his oldest brother inherited the estate.
c.1363 Sent to London to be apprenticed to the Mercers' Company.
1389 Whittington sold two cloths of gold to Richard II for £11.
1393 Became a City alderman, or magistrate.
1397 Became Mayor of London.
1398 Mayor of London for the second time.
1406 Mayor of London for the third time.
1419 Mayor of London for the fourth time.
1423 Died leaving no heirs. In his will he asked for his great wealth to be used for the benefit of the city.

Find out more
StoriesThe early port
London grows from a Roman settlement to a bustling medieval port
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory Greenwich New Opportunities Fund National Grid for Learning  
Legal & Copyright Partner sites: Bristol Hartlepool Liverpool Southampton About this Site Feedback Text Only