Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Dick Whittington's Cat

In an unassuming, old-fashioned pub on Highgate Hill in Archway, North London, is the macabre, grisly sight of Dick Whittington's mummified cat in a glass (well, it was; the glass broke and it's now protected by, er, cling film) cabinet on the wall. Nearby is the Whittington hospital and on the pavement outside stands a statue of his famous cat. Highgate Hill is the spot where Whittington, about to leave London for good, hears the Bow Bells ringing and decides to stay in the city. It's then that his adventures begin; his cat is a great rat catcher, Dick becomes rich, marries and becomes thrice Mayor of London (just as the Bow Bells told him).

The folk tale Dick Whittington and His Cat, well-known to children from books and pantomimes, is partly based on fact. There was a Dick Whittington (c.1354-1423), who came to London and became Mayor of the city. However, he wasn't poor and he didn't have a cat.

So the cat in the pub probably wasn't Whittington's after all. It was unearthed some time ago when building work was taking place. Anyway, the Whittington & Cat is a fine, friendly Irish old man's pub with net curtains and smells to match. It looks like it hasn't changed since at least the 1970s. The building next to it has just been demolished and the pub is probably next in line, which is a great pity.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Giro the Nazi Dog

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