London has some strange traditions. Take, for example, the fact that once a year a shepherd/shepherdess is allowed to drive a herd of sheep across a famous London bridge for no real practical reason whatsoever.
This year the so-called ‘sheep drive’ is happening for the ninth time, on Sunday September 26 on Southwark Bridge. Head down there on the big day and you might see a herd of woolly lads being hurried along like commuters. Nice, wholesome stuff.
The tradition is a celebration of the ancient right to drive sheep over London Bridge. Apparently, in medieval times, sheep farmers would drive their little lambs across London Bridge into the City of London to sell them at market. Those so-called freemen were such VIPs that they didn’t even have to pay the bridge toll that most people did to make it to the other side.
Nowadays, the trot across the Thames isn’t linked to any big market deals. That stopped when motorised vehicles arrived in the early twentieth century, and sheep could be driven about instead of being herded on foot. Instead, it’s a call back to the rights of those early freemen, a celebration of London’s history. Arranged by the fantastically titled Worshipful Company of Woolmen, it’s a way for them to fundraise for their work in promoting the UK wool industry. Find out more here. Baa.