Sheep had been herded by means of central London final weekend.
Sure, you probably did learn that proper.
On Sunday 25 September, greater than 1,000 Freemen (and girls) of the Metropolis of London exercised their historical proper to drive sheep toll-free throughout London Bridge into the center of the UK capital.
With the bridge main into the monetary centre of London closed, the sheep had been pushed backwards and forwards over the river Thames all through the day, trotting alongside towards the backdrop of a few of London’s most well-known landmarks, such because the Shard and Tower Bridge.
All seemingly unphased by the fixed stream of pink double-decker buses and visitors tearing previous.
Sunday marked the tenth anniversary of the occasion, although its origins stretch again a number of hundred years.
Becoming a member of in with this 12 months’s Sheep Drive was UK superstar Kate Humble, the Lord Mayor of London Vincent Keaveny, in addition to Sheriffs and Liverymen of the Metropolis of London, glad in some very vibrant robes.
Conserving custom alive
Like a lot of the UK’s traditions, the Sheep Drive dates again a really very long time – the twelfth century to be exact.
In medieval occasions, freemen had been allowed to take their sheep into the Metropolis and promote them at market with out having to pay a toll.
The explanation why they may drive their sheep throughout the bridge – then London’s solely river crossing and commerce route – tax-free isn’t clear.
One idea is that by not paying for the bridge the Freemen might promote their sheep cheaper than everybody else who needed to cough up. However that is only a idea.
Freemen themselves had been members of buying and selling guilds “freed” from feudal lords. From 1237, these tradesmen introduced their proper to freedom, successfully gaining particular privileges and a license to make cash as a dealer.
Carrying a sword in public was one among these, alongside a little bit of sheep herding.
Nonetheless, many of those guilds’ buying and selling monopolies had been abolished by the Victorians within the nineteenth century, turning them into extra ceremonial and charitable organisations.
Whereas freemen had been, because the title suggests, primarily males all through historical past, the Freedom of the Metropolis says they’ve a “lengthy custom of admitting girls” and signify a “very broad cross-section of the inhabitants”.
Regardless of its historical roots, the Metropolis of London is eager to maintain its traditions alive.
“The Metropolis is clearly an enormous monetary centre and we’ve a repute for being a bit grasping and never being good individuals, however truly the Metropolis is based on traditions and there’s an extremely wealthy historical past,” Rafe Clutton, grasp of the Guard of Younger Freedom, informed the Impartial in 2018.
This 12 months’s version of the occasion was organised by the Worshipful Firm of Woolmen for charitable causes, whereas highlighting the significance of wool as a fabric.
“As we speak’s very particular tenth anniversary Sheep Drive and Livery Honest is a superb alternative to share the information concerning the wonders of wool, a novel, pure fibre with potential makes use of seemingly as vast because the human creativeness,” says Peter Hullah, Grasp of the Worshipful Firm of Woolmen.
Proceeds from the occasion went to the Woolmen’s Charity and the Lord Mayor’s Attraction. It’s thought to have raised tens of 1000’s of kilos.
Prior to now, UK celebrities akin to Barbara Windsor and Alan Titchmarsh (each freemen), have escorted sheep throughout the historic bridge, serving to to lift cash and consciousness for agricultural points.
Individuals can apply to affix the Freeman of the Metropolis by being proposed by two current members, paying a payment or as a reward for public service.
Greater than 1,200 are created every year.
One thing tells us that the Sheep Drive will return subsequent September. Do not miss it.