Be Part of Something Historic
A great family day out in support of two fantastic causes. All proceeds from the annual Sheep Drive & Livery Fair are in aid of The Woolmen Charity and The Lord Mayor’s Appeal.
In 2022, our very special guest; farmer, best-selling author and one of the UK’s most-loved broadcasters, Kate Humble accompanied the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor, Vincent Keaveny, leading the Sheep Drive and visiting the Fair.
Participants and visitors joined us in supporting a thriving, modern City of London; much of which was built from the proceeds of the wool trade in many years gone by, and where wool, one of the most sustainable and versatile fibres in the world, is as relevant today to the very fabric of society as it has ever been – whether that be for personal or industrial use. The Sheep Drive and Livery Fair demonstrate the enduring link and dependency between City and nature, which remains as vital as ever to us all.
There are probably as many theories and legends about the right to drive sheep over London Bridge as there are livery companies. The original Guilds controlled standards of work and the suitability of tradesmen to be apprenticed to a master.
In medieval times, sheep farmers drove their sheep across London Bridge into the City of London to sell them at market. Freemen of the City were excused the bridge toll that had to be paid by other people crossing the bridge, in recognition of their status as local traders.
It is not clear when the last sheep were driven across London Bridge to market, but the widespread introduction of motorised vehicles in the early 20th century would have signalled the end of the practice, if it had not already ceased. The tradition of driving sheep across London Bridge has regained interest in recent years.
Upholding the tradition of Freemen’s rights, in 2013 the Worshipful Company of Woolmen arranged the first official Sheep Drive for Freemen of the City and their guests to ‘drive’ sheep across the bridge. The event has been so successful that it has continued ever since, with places selling out every year!
We are absolutely delighted with how this event has evolved over the years – bringing us to our 10th Anniversary celebration in 2022!
SHEEP DRIVE: Private Access, Pre-booked
Access to the Sheep Drive, which occupied the downstream walkway on London Bridge, was restricted to registered and pre-booked Freemen of the City of London and their guests, to enable the remainder of the bridge to be open to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Various wool related fairs and activities have taken place alongside the Sheep Drive over the years.
For 2022 the Livery Fair returned to The Monument to the Great Fire of London, one of London’s most outstanding landmarks and visitor attractions, close by to the Sheep Drive on London Bridge.
The Livery Fair is a unique opportunity to be a part of recreating historic community activities that took place on and around London’s bridges.
Whilst being an integral part of the day for supporters of the Sheep Drive, the Livery Fair also enables a number of the City of London liveries – ancient and modern, to showcase to the public what they do and the charitable work they support, with skilled tradespeople conducting interactive demonstrations of their fascinating and ever-evolving trades.
The Livery Fair also brings together a number of specialist stall holders, displaying and selling their wool-based products, textiles, arts and crafts, quality gifts and food & drink.
Other fun activities in 2022 included expert blade shearing displays and some wonderful rare breed sheep!
With many other City attractions close by this opened up endless opportunities for a wonderful day out for the whole family!
LIVERY FAIR: Public Access, Free-of Charge
With the required restricted access to the Sheep Drive, the Livery Fair at The Monument also offered visitors the opportunity to learn all about the Sheep Drive and the charitable causes it supports, ensuring that everyone could enjoy the atmosphere and spirit of this wonderful occasion.
The Woolmen Charity
The objectives of the The Woolmen Charity are:
To promote the wool industry and interest in wool, wool products, sheep farming, shearing, wool production and textiles and design; research into appropriate veterinary procedures and practices; education relevant to the wool industry; and to promote the City of London in general and the Livery movement in particular.
Innovation in Wool Awards
The Worshipful Company of Woolmen and The Company of Merchants of the Staple of England have initiated a prize in the UK for innovation in the use and application of wool. This is open to any individual who works with wool. The annual awards are supported by the Campaign for Wool.
For further details and applications please visit: www.innovationinwool.com
Other academic awards are made to students studying veterinary procedures and systems in support of sheep welfare; and the use of wool, textiles, fashion and design. Currently we support courses at Heriot Watt, Huddersfield, the Scottish Agricultural College and Harper Adams, with the list under regular review.
Shearing Medals and Prizes are awarded by the Master at the five major UK agricultural shows; the Royal Ulster Show, the Bath and West Show, the Great Yorkshire Show, the Royal Highland Show and the Royal Welsh Show.
Legacies and Donations
Please contact the Clerk if you would like to leave a legacy or donation to The Woolmen Charity.
Visit www.woolmen.com for more information about The Woolmen and The Woolmen Charity.
The Lord Mayor’s Appeal
Helping 1 million people thrive – The Lord Mayor’s Appeal aims to find solutions to London’s most pressing societal issues. Its multi-year strategy works on four key pillars to create a city that is:
Inclusive, Healthy, Skilled, Fair.
Visit the www.lordmayorsappeal.org to find out more.
How it all began
“I received a photograph from Judith Pleasance of Lord Mayor David Wootton pulling stuffed sheep on wheels over London Bridge to raise funds for charity. We felt that more should be made of this tradition and discussed an event with real sheep. Others had done it – the World Traders in 2008, and in 2009 the City organised an 800th anniversary of Old London Bridge with sheep and stalls.
I worked up a business plan for a charity fundraising event which was accepted by the Woolmen’s Court of Assistants. Liverymen Chris Thierry and Vincent Keaveny consulted the Department of the Built Environment at the City of London Corporation and planning began in earnest based on their discussions.
Our primary concern was animal health and welfare, closely followed by human health and safety. Nothing would be done that might compromise these aspects of the sheep drive.
Meetings took place the Animal Reception Centre (who handle veterinary matters for the City of London), the City of London Police, the Highways Agency (who own and manage the bridge), Transport for London (who are responsible for traffic over it) and the RSPCA.
The plan was written and accepted, veterinary surgeons were arranged, traffic barriers were ordered, security stewards briefed and portaloos booked.
And we needed some sheep. Fortunately, I knew David and Barbara Seamark from their support with sheep and sheep dogs for the Woolmen’s float in the Lord Mayor’s Show. Although they were a little taken aback initially, they soon warmed to the idea!
Over the years we have been admirably supported by the Guild of Young Freemen who have provided stewards since the second year, the Cadets, Woodlands Farm Trust and other volunteers.
In 2014 Aardman Animations launched Shaun the Sheep figures across the cities of London and Bristol, and they arranged for Shaun to appear at the sheep drive. This inspired the idea of an annual celebrity sheep driver, and we have had Dame Barbara Windsor, Nigel Mansell CBE, Dame Mary Berry, Alan Titchmarsh MBE, Michael Portillo and Amanda Owen, The Yorkshire Shepherdess.
I remember the tremendous pleasure I felt that first year as I saw all the happy faces of people of every age clasping their certificates and rushing off to tell their friends what a great time they had – and it is a pleasure I still feel every year.”
Bill Clark – Past Master of The Woolmen (2013)
The Seamarks, their Sheep and Dogs
David and Barbara Seamark have worked tirelessly over the years bringing their wonderful North of England Mule sheep and border collie dogs to this unique event every year, including more recently additional young sheep to take part in the Livery Fair expert blade-shearing demonstrations.
“The ewes that are used on the day will be going to the ram within a couple of weeks of this event so that they go into the main flock and lamb next spring, not to leave the farm again for display purposes.
These ewes will have been to a few shows during the summer as David does main arena displays with them and the dogs. The sheep will therefore be used to seeing the public and the noises that go with it and happy to be in London for a few hours.
The welfare of the sheep is very important and they are rested between runs, with food and water available; the vet and RSPCA are also represented on the day.”