Dick Whittington: poor boy made good; three times Lord Mayor of London; owner of a famous cat. That's the pantomime Dick. The historical Whittington came from a rich family, served four times as Lord Mayor and —as far as we know — lacked a pussy.
He was also one of the city's great philanthropists, pumping his fortune into hospitals, almshouses and libraries. All very worthy. Yet Dick's most intriguing legacy was a massive toilet.
Whittington's Longhouse, as it was known, opened in 1421, with money provided by the former Lord Mayor. It was an absolute monster. Different sources claim different capacities, but this colossal closet may have had seats for 128 people, split evenly between men and women. The building also included five or six almshouses on the upper floor. The stench must have been appalling, but then nowhere in medieval London was free of strong odours.
Where was it? To handle such feculent output, the Longhouse needed a reliable source of flushing water. It was therefore built beside both the River Thames and the River Walbrook, just to the west of the present day Cannon Street station. The precise site, Greenwich Street, has long been erased from the map, but is today most closely approximated by Bell Wharf Lane. Here, a branch of Runners Need 'the running specialists' can now be found, which seems somehow appropriate.
The Longhouse enjoyed a long life, succumbing to the Great Fire of 1666 after more than 200 years of turd progression. A smaller version was then built on the same site, with six seats for men and six for women. This structure lasted well into the 19th century.
The Square Mile could do with such a facility today. Perhaps Thames Water might consider recreating the Longhouse as an interactive showcase for its new supersewer.