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Did the real Dick Whittington travel through Twickenham?

Did you know that Dick Whittington was a real person? Did you know that he was the son of an MP? And that when he made his famous journey from Gloucestershire to London, he may have come through Twickenham?

This Christmas, we are back at the Exchange, Twickenham with our very special version of Dick Whittington. We bring to life the traditional legend for our early years' audience and their families with all the usual mayhem and magic. However, we've also included in our tale the findings from our Lottery Heritage Fund project to investigate the route that the real Dick Whittington might have taken (through the medium of song obviously!)

The project came, as so many do, out of a somewhat flippant conversation with a colleague who joked that he was convinced Dick Whittington probably came to London via his house on the A3. I went home and googled it, intending to prove him wrong. Instead, I found a tiny map on an archived web page for BBC Gloucester. The line tracing the route Dick took looked to be following the curves of the river Thames. Some further desk research revealed that there might be a local aspect to the story, and as a theatre company who work in both Kington and Twickenham, we wanted to find out if there was a piece of history we’d been missing out on!

We secured a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and conducted extensive research into medieval transport at The Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University and other institutions. There, we discovered that when Dick had been making his journey (around 1365 AD), Medieval roads were essentially well-trodden tracks that travellers would follow. However, early maps and records indicate that the number of these tracks was limited, and there was generally one established route from one place to another that all travellers took. It is, therefore, likely that Dick Whittington took the established route from Gloucester to London; to walk to Maidenhead and then continue via boat, breaking the journey overnight in Kingston.

Twickenham was a series of manor houses at the time of his journey. Whilst no doubt a wonderful place to stay, it would have been by invitation only. However, Kingston was a thriving river port with links to the Portsmouth Road (better known know as the A3) and inns lining the market square, offering travellers a place to rest for the night.

We will never be able to say for certain which route Dick took as he left behind no personal records or they were destroyed in the great fire of London. The evidence we uncovered strongly suggests that Dick would have sailed through Twickenham and stayed in Kingston. However, perhaps the most compelling reason for bringing a new twist to this classic is that the story is dying out. Parents are no longer routinely passing it down to their children as has been done for the past 800 years. Our folklore is as much a part of our history as our palaces and landscapes, so it is great to be able to preserve a part of our heritage and add to it as storytellers of old would have done.

So here at Story Storks, we're on it! We're using our 11 years experience of performing for early years kids to create an interactive show that blends history and legend perfectly. We've even added a little of Twickenham’s local history, as well as a flying cat and cat on wheels!

Thanks to our lovely friends at the Heritage Lottery Fund we were able to create a resource for people of all ages to enjoy. Whether you're a history buff or are looking for a bit of colouring, head over to the website below to find out more.

And if you'd like to see us telling the story, then head over to The Exchange's website via the button below for info and to buy tickets. The show is running from the 17th to the 22nd of December. We'd love to see you there!


STORY STORKS is a not-for-profit early years theatre company on a mission to help and inspire every child to become a reader. We do this by using our interactive storytelling model to develop early years literacy skills, but more importantly by helping them to fall in love with stories. Because a child who loves stories is a child who wants to read them for themselves, and there is significant evidence proving kids who read for pleasure get better exam results. Whole grades better!

For more, check out our website


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