London Bridge sheep drive led by Alan Titchmarsh in centuries-old tradition

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Alan Titchmarsh joins Freemen and Women of the City of London as they take up their historic entitlement to drive their sheep over London Bridge (Victoria Jones/PA)

Alan Titchmarsh drove a flock of sheep across London Bridge as part of a centuries-old tradition.

The TV gardener was joined by more than 600 Freemen of the City of London as they exercised their right to herd the animals into the ancient heart of the capital.

Titchmarsh said: “It is important because cities can be an inward place. This reminds them of the importance of farming and all it produces.”

He added: “I don’t think I’ve done anything odder than this on a Sunday morning. This takes the biscuit.”

Sheep on bridge
Freemen and Women of the City of London take up their historic entitlement to drive their sheep over London Bridge (Victoria Jones/PA)

Freemen were historically allowed to bring livestock and tools into the City without paying tax.

The sheep drive tradition dates back to the 12th century. People can become a Freeman by paying a fee or as a reward for public service.

This is the first time Titchmarsh has taken part in the ceremony since becoming a Freeman. In previous years Dame Barbara Windsor and Mary Berry have led the drive.

Rafe Clutton, master of the Guard of Young Freemen, said: “The City is obviously a huge financial centre and we have a reputation for being a bit greedy and not being nice people, but actually the City is founded on traditions and there’s an incredibly rich history.”

It raised a lot of money for charity, he added, and is meant to be “a bit of fun”.

Sheep on London Bridge
A sheep is helped on its way across London Bridge (Victoria Jones/PA)

Tens of thousands of pounds are expected to be raised for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal charity.

Charles Bowman, Lord Mayor of the City of London, said: “It is wonderful to be able to take part in this event to raise money for such fantastic causes.”

A flock of 30 sheep from Bedfordshire were brought into central London for the day, which also aimed raise awareness of agricultural issues.

Bill Clark, past master of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, said: “Wool may have been replaced by stocks and shares, but London is still the world’s centre of commerce.”

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