Many pantomimes are based on books or fairy tales from hundreds of years ago which were originally told to children, who then went on tell their own children the same stories. Eventually these stories were written down so that they could continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.
The story of Dick Whittington however is rather different because Richard Whittington was a real life person! He was born around 1350 and he was the third son of Sir William Whittington of Pautney, which was a small village in Gloucestershire in England.
Richard's father unfortunatly fell foul of the law before he died and it was with great difficulty that Richard's elder brother managed to inherit anything at all, the family were far from grand. Richard therefore was left with nothing and would have to fend for himself with no help or support from his remaining family. Whilst doing odd jobs to earn money around the village he would often hear people talking and hear tales of life in London, somewhere that seemed so far away. With an image of a town paved with gold, Richard decided to head to the capital city in search of a brighter future,
Upon arrival in London he was taken in by distant relatives from his mother's side of the family, Sir Ivo Fitzwarren, a textile baron and merchant adventurer who often traded overseas. Rumour has it that Richard became almost instantly downhearted about life in London fearing it was not going to work out for him there he prepared to leave and head back to his home but it is claimed that as he was leaving he heard the sound of the bells of bow ringing out and he took this as a sign that he should stay, he felt the bells were calling him back to stay in London.
Now determined to make a new life for himself in London Richard would buy himself a companion in the form of a cat, the idea being that it would keep down the problem with mice and rats in his tiny attic room. When Ivo Fitzwarren offered Richard the chance to make some money by selling some of his possessions overseas Richard only really had one thing of any value, his cat! The cat was sold abroad and that cat did such a good job of killing rats that he earned his master a great deal of money as a reward. It is certainly true that by the age of 30 Richard Whittington has made his name in the market of silks and other expensive materials but he would always use his wealth for the good of others which is why in 1393 he was elected as both Alderman and Sheriff and then in 1397 he bacame Lord Mayor of London.
By this time love had blossomed and he had married Alice Fitzwarren and he spent his time and money to improve life in London for everyone. In 1406 and then again in 1419 Rcihard was re-elected as the chosen Mayor of London,. Richard Whittingon passed away in 1423 and he was sadly missed by all who knew him. The pantomime tale we know of Dick Whittington picks his journey up as he prepares to head for London to see if the streets of London really were paved with gold. This is one faity tale with a large pinch of truth.
Dick Whittington Pantomime Characters
Dick Whittington - Our hero
Sarah The Cook - The Dame of the piece. This is the cook who works for the Alderman and takes care of Dick Whittington
Idle Jack - The silly son of Sarah The Cook and friend to Dick
King Rat - Enemy of Dick, he plans to rule London with his evil plague of rats
Alderman Fitzwarren - Takes Dick on as an employee and helps him shape his future
Alice Fitzwarren - Love interest and future wife of Dick
Fairy Bowbells - The spirit of good, a narrator to keep the story flowing and protect our hero and keep King Rat at bay
Tommy the Cat - Dick's trusty sidekick and companion