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Sir Wolstan Dixie,
Lord Mayor of London,1585.
By kind permission of Christ’s Hospital,Horsham.

It was around this time that a trade in furs with Russia became a possibility and Wolstan eagerly accepted the challenge. He became one of the most successful pioneers of the business and was one of the founders of the Muscovy Company in 1555. His fellow directors included such notable adventurers as Hudson, Cabot and Baffin.

The Company’s Seal featured an heraldic representation of one of the the most important furs to their success, an Ounce, or snow leopard. The snow leopard has for many years been a powerful icon in the heraldry of eastern Europe.  Known as Aq-Bars or White Leopard it probably comes from one of the totems of the Barsil tribe. They were a nomadic tribe of the Bulgars, mentioned in a list of the steppe-people dating from the second half of the sixth century A. D. Aq-Bars is still used today as a badge by many organisations in eastern Europe.

Wolstan met with great success in the fur trade and soon became an Alderman and then a Sheriff  of the City of London. In 1585 he became Lord Mayor, and as is customary for a Lord Mayor of London he was knighted.

Now a wealthy merchant, Sir Wolstan took a lively interest in education. He paid towards the building of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and was President of Christ’s Hospital, The Blue Coat School. He had acquired as part of his wife’s dowry an estate in Leicestershire. He purchased the manor of Bosworth and planned to make this his home. It was around this time that he began to take an interest in its ancient school. In 1593 he built a school-house and a residence for its schoolmaster. Unfortunately, the following year, he became a victim of the plague which was raging in London at the time.

In his long and complicated will Sir Wolstan left many charitable institutions funds enabling them to carry on his promotion of education across the country. Among the benefactors was the school at Bosworth. A sum of £700 pounds was left in trust to the Skinners Company in order that they should purchase lands which would yield £30 a year “for the maintenance of fifty or sixty scholars and a schoolmaster”. However the Skinners Company failed to carry out his wishes and this led to his grand nephew and heir, Mr Wolstan Dixie, who had inherited the Bosworth estate, entering a complaint in the Court of Chancery.

The trust was transferred to Wolstan, and he was granted letters patent to proceed with the endowment of the school. This project it seems was as dear to him as it was to his great-uncle. The first governors of the School were nominated by Queen Elizabeth herself.

According to Debrett’s, Thomas Wotton in 1771 asserted that “the Dixies were an ancient family descended from Wolstan, Earl of Ellenden, who married a sister of Egbert, the first king of England”.

The earliest reference to the family we have managed to find is in Sir William Betham’s “The Baronetage of England, Volume 2”, published in 1802. “The first we find is in the Visitation of the Heralds. Wolstan Dixie - living about the reign of Edward III, who was seated at Catworth, in Huntingdonshire”. From these records we find that Thomas Dixie had four sons. The youngest, Wolstan, was born in 1524. An intelligent young man (Newman) he was apprenticed to Sir Christopher Draper of the Ironmongers Company, who came from Melton Mowbray and owned an estate in Leicestershire. Sir Christopher was to become Lord Mayor of London in 1566. Wolstan made sure of his success in life by marrying Sir Christopher’s daughter, Agnes, his co-heiress.

He became a citizen of the City of London and as a qualified master skinner was welcomed into The Worshipful Company of  Skinners as a Freeman. The Company of Skinners is one of the Great Twelve livery companies of the City of London.

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