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Sir Thomas White was actually not a citizen of Leicester for very long. He was born in Reading in 1492. He was a wealthy tailor who believed strongly in education. He founded St Johns College in Oxford, and then went on to become Lord Mayor of London in 1546.

He founded the Thomas White charity, which originated just after his death. He had bequeathed his fortune to buy land. The profits made from renting this land were to be given to young men in Leicester, Coventry, Nottingham, Warwick and Northampton. Each year, a small number of young men, originally 4 were given a sum of money to set themselves up in business or provide education. They had nine years to pay back this money, and no interest was charged.

The charity rotated annually between the cities. The first recorded loans in Leicester were in 1610. At that time, 40 pounds was split evenly between 4 young men.

The charity continues today, but the income now allows each city to lend over 300 000 per annum. The loans are still interest free, and are either 10 000 for setting up a business, or 2 000 to aid in education.

There is a statue of Thomas White on the Clocktower in Leicester. There are various other memorials to him in London, Coventry, Oxford, Nottingham, Warwick and Northampton.