This Sunday saw the annual Worshipful Company of Woolmen Sheep Drive, when Freemen of the City of London honour the tradition and exercise their right to drive sheep across London Bridge, which was the only route in to the city for trading in medieval times. The tradition dates back the 12th century, when traders were allowed to enter the city without having to pay a toll – hence the term ‘Freemen’, with everyone else under the feudal system.
However, this year it wasn’t just the 600 Freemen, and the sheep, getting their exercise as Alex and myself joined in to support the Freemen in driving a very well behaved Bedfordshire flock, from the Southern side of London Bridge, in to The City.
Centuries ago this was the way that livestock used to arrive in to London ready to be traded and sold. One of the most infamous Woolmen perhaps was William Shakespeare’s father, who traded in wool, however without a licence. John Shakespeare was duly documented in court records as a ‘brogger’, an unlicensed and therefore illegal wool dealer.
It was a really fun event, and we are both very proud of our certificate we received on completion of the event, signed by Alderman Peter LR Hewitt, Master, The Worshipful Company of Woolmen, and Alderman Jeffery R de C Evans, Shipwright, 4th Baron Mountevans and 688th Lord Mayor of London. We are sure our own sheepish mascot, Wooly, would also have been very proud of us, and the £40,000+ the Sheep Drive raised for Diabetes and Sea Cadet charities.
Not something you see every day, and certainly something to surprise locals and tourists in London, with The Sun commenting as such ‘SHEEP SHOCK Locals stunned as Woolmen casually stage a sheep drive across London Bridge’.
A big thank you to Louise and Harper, the Young Freemen who looked after us on the day and taught us the ways of sheep driving.