Dick Whittington’s Cat – London, England - Atlas Obscura

London, England

Dick Whittington’s Cat

A monument to the thrice mayor of London who according to lore made his fortune by selling his rat-chasing cat. 

Born in the 135os, Richard Whittington was a poor boy who became a wealthy merchant and three-time Lord Mayor of London. According to legend, he made his fortune thanks to the extraordinary ratting abilities of his cat.

The rags to riches story of Dick Whittington and his cat is not just a fairy tale; it is part of the folklore of London. Today there is a stone monument to Whittington and his cat at the foot of Highgate Hill, where Dick sat down and heard the famous Bow Bells of East London ring out:

Turn Again Whittington!  Thrice Lord Mayor of London!

According to the story, a frustrated Whittington was about to give up on life in London and return home to Gloucestershire, when he thought he heard the bells promising that if he stayed he would one day become mayor of the city. His luck turned when he made a fortune in gold by selling his cat to a far off rat-infested country.

There is an old belief that if the encaged Whittington’s Stone is ever removed (from the original spot where Dick Whittington turned once more toward London), or if any harm should befall it, great change and disaster will fall upon the neighboring area.

Of course, this myth is probably based upon the fact that the stone is one of Highgate’s oldest landmarks (the granite cat is a more recent addition), and therefore, it would naturally be bad luck to remove it. If the present mania for redevelopment continues, this old assumption could well prove to be correct.

Know Before You Go

The monument is near the foot of Highgate Hill, near the Whittington Hospital.