I have just finished this book and found the history of this wonderful city fascinating. It covers the Romans, the Saxons, and a great many more would-be conquerors!
I found the book so interesting because I could jump from one era to another; I thought the story of St. Paul's Cathedral from its inception in AD610 by the first Bishop of London, Mellitus, who built a small church on a hill inside the city wall; unfortunately, nobody knows how it was built. Was it wood or stone? How often was it altered or repaired? But we do know that it stood until 1287 when Bishop Maurice build a much more impressive building more becoming of a Cathedral and still named after St Paul the Apostle from the time it was built by Mellitus.
Then you can browse and find great tales of the first Saxon settlement and compare this to Saxon settlement number two. The people seemed to be happier under the Anglo-Saxons the second time around.
There are tales of terrible hardships: there was starvation, leprosy, fires galore (due to the material used for houses, huts, shops etc) and numerous crop failures which caused many people to die of famine. They did get some help from overseas.
The legend of Richard (Dick) Whittington is a long established tale of a fourteen-year-old boy from the country, travelling to London to 'make his fortune'. He didn't have much luck, so decided whilst lying on the top of Highgate that he would return to the country. He then heard the bells of Bow Church which, as the legend goes, said to him 'Return again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London' - this over miles of fields. Actually, the 'Bells' were, in fact wrong because there was no 'Lord' Mayor, The Lord came later. Bow Bells were, in fact, rung for the close of shops at Chepe. If the Ringer was late, the Prentices would chant, 'Clarke of the Bow Bell with thy yellow lockes: in thy late ringing: thy head shall have knockes.' To which the Clerk would reply 'Children of Chepe, hold you all stille, for you shall have Bow Bell ring at your will'.
Well, in fact Richard was from a very good family. His father was Sir William Whittington, a knight. He, Sir William, had a very large estate in Herefordshire called Solers Hope, and another called Pauntley in Gloucestershire. There were three sons, one died childless and another we believe fought at Agincourt.
Richard Whittington was, indeed, just fourteen years old when he was sent to London to meet up with 'connections' his family had in the city. Quite a few well- heeled country folk travelled to join 'connections' which were relatively successful merchants in the town.
We believe Richard was probably working for his Master John in one of his shops or maybe stalls at Chepe (the Medieval name for Cheapside). He carried on working in trade, and unfortunately, not much is heard about 'Dick' until around 1378, when he would have been about 21 yrs old, and was in the lowest and poorest class in the wholesale mercers. In the ensuing years, he did become rich and famous.
There are interesting stories about his Cat, but in reality, there are no facts, but the Book suggests three tales; there was a suggestion that 'Cat' was, in fact a ship - perhaps a Collier, but nobody knows for sure. But if you read this book, you can make up your own fable.
As I have said, this book has a myriad of facts (notwithstanding Whittington's Cat) that I found so intriguing; the sort of book one can pick up and dip into at any time.