Coachlines - October 2021

27.10.21 Assistant Eric Wallbank

Coachmakers walk and drive through the City

Coachmakers, in the company of the Master, Senior Warden and Renter Warden enjoyed an insightful guided walk around many of the City Livery Companies with numerous anecdotes about the history of the Livery movement and several of the companies visited, in the company of London Blue Guide Simon Whitehouse, who some will remember for his virtual London pub tour last year. The group also visited the site of the Coachmakers’ Hall, sadly destroyed in WW2.

After an informal lunch at the historic George Inn, Southwark – a National Trust pub, the only remaining coaching inn left in London, the Master and a number of other members of the Livery then enjoyed the historic driving of sheep across Southwark Bridge. On route the Master meet up with the Lord Mayor of London, The Right Honourable William Russell and Amanda Owen, who is known as ‘The Yorkshire Shepherdess’, for a great photo opportunity. Amanda is famed for her Channel 5 programme Our Yorkshire Farm, which also features her nine children!

The Master is an experienced hand at driving sheep across Southwark Bridge, having taken part in the last drive in 2019. With a little help from fellow Coachmakers she gave another successful demonstration of how it should be done, arriving at the other side of the bridge with her flock intact!

The event raises money for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal. For those taking part it is great fun and the chance to enjoying a slice of history and heritage. The background to the activity is grounded in trade, the Clerk to the Chamberlain’s Court, City of London gives a good overview of the history of sheep and their association with London Bridge.

“It was not so much that you could take sheep over the bridge but that you did not pay the toll. You would be taking the sheep to the Wool Exchange or Smithfield Meat Market for sale and not paying the toll would considerably enhance your profit margin. You could take cattle, pigs, hens, ducks, geese – indeed any livestock over the bridge and not pay the tariff but in the medieval period the sheep was queen of the beasts because the wool and cloth trade was the bedrock of the English economy. It is said that as more sheep went over the bridge than any other animals put together that the bridge was built and maintained on the back of the sheep.”