A Cornish butcher and farmer exercised his ancient right to drive sheep across the River Thames in London at this year’s Sheep Drive event.
James Kittow, from Kilhallon near Par, was one of 1,000 Freeman of the City of London who took part in The Sheep Drive and Livery Fair last weekend, which raises funds to support the work of The Woolmen Charity and The Lord Mayor’s Appeal.
As a member of The Worshipful Company of Butchers, one of the oldest of the 110 City of London Livery Companies and dates back to 975 AD, Kittow was eligible to participate in this unique event.
In the 12th century, farmers drove their sheep across the original London Bridge, the only way to cross the River Thames at the time, 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.
The ancient tradition was revived in 2013, more than 800 years after it first began and has become a popular fundraiser based on the capital’s Southwark Bridge.
Kittow said: “What an absolute privilege and honour it was to be able to drive sheep over the Thames. My son, daughter and I joined the Master of The Worshipful Company of Butchers as Freemen of The City to exercise the ancient right to drive sheep to market across the Thames toll free, a tradition that was set many centuries ago.
“It was a cracking day, being in my 50th year, I have wanted to do special things so as well as being invited to be a Steward at this year’s Royal Cornwall Show, this was the perfect opportunity to do something else memorable with my family.”