Sunday 12 July 2009

Exercising my ancient right

Yesterday I took advantage of my ancient "right" as a Freeman of the City of London to drive my sheep over London Bridge.

By virtue of patrimony (both my parents are Freemen) I became a Freeman ten years ago. The Freedom of the City goes back many (many) centuries and used to be associated with membership of the Livery companies although since the Nineteenth Century this has not been a prerequisite.

The right of a Freeman to drive sheep over London Bridge is undocumented and possibly arises from misinterpretation of the Freeman's freedom from bridge tolls when bringing animals into the city for sale.

However it comes around it was a big fete yesterday as London Bridge (not in this incarnation!) celebrated its 800th birthday. In support of the Lord Mayor's Charity Freemen could apply to joing the sheep drive. Unlike last September when the sheep were confined to the pavement the whole bridge was closed for the event... the only fly in the ointment was the weather!

At the appointed time I registered myself at Fishmonger's Hall and waited for my turn. We were divided into Sections (two lamposts over the bridge for each section!) and marshalled to our places to await the sheep. At this point the rain arrived! My sheep and I got rather wet as it poured down stopping soon after I handed my sheep over. Typical! Luckily the sheep were all nicely shorn so there was no wet sheep smell!

Above - sheep waiting for the off, sheep dog keeping an eye on proceedings.

The Pikemen and Musketeers adding to the pageantry.

Some of the sheep drivers before the rain started.