Crawley man takes part in ancient Sheep Drive tradition as part of historic ceremony in London

A Crawley resident and Freeman of the City of London took part in the historic tradition of the Sheep Drive across London Bridge at the weekend.

Maidenbower resident Michael Bale was given the Freedom of the City of London in 1998 whilst living in London and being part of the MOD, after being proposed by General Sir John Akehurst KCB CBE (deputy supreme allied commander). Mr Bale attended his Freedom ceremony at the Guild Hall with family and guests present.

And on Saturday he took part in the Sheep Drive. Mr Bale told us: “As well as the benefit of being able to join a livery company and the honour of being a Freeman of the City, there are ancient rights, such as; the right to drive sheep over a London Bridge, to carry a naked sword in public, and that if the City of London Police finds a freeman drunk and incapable, they will ensure they got home safely rather than throw them in jail.

"The medieval term 'freeman' meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord but enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. Town dwellers who were protected by the charter of their town or city were often free – hence the term 'freedom' of the City.

“The sheep drive origins were as as a freeman of the city of London, you were able to take livestock across London Bridge (then the only bridge) to market without paying the toll and then sell them at a more favourable price.

“The worshipful company of wool makers has organised this even both to raise money for charity and to uphold the ancient tradition and Freemans rights.”

Mr Bale added: “It is an honour to be both a freeman of the city and also part of this historic event.”

Being given the freedom of the city of London is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today, is believed to have been first presented in 1237.