City Freeman exercises sheep and his rights

A FREEMAN of the City of London drove sheep across Tower Bridge into central London yesterday, exercising a "right from 1189" to cross the Thames toll-free to livestock markets.

Jef Smith herded Clover and Little Man across the River Thames, despite opposition from the City Corporation and police. City of London officers had threatened to ban Mr Smith's eccentric drive, saying it posed a traffic hazard. But yesterday they relented and stationed a solitary officer to oversee the 60-year-old former social services director, in rustic attire and carrying a rake, and his two sheep ambling across the bridge, built in 1894.

Tourists could have been forgiven in thinking they were witnessing a London heritage trail re-enactment but Mr Smith was driving the sheep to make the point that older people must continue to exercise their rights.

A Corporation spokeswoman said: "A modern Freeman of the City of London does not have the right to drive sheep across the bridge. There is a similar legend about grazing sheep on Tower Hill, which is also without real evidence or authority."

Mr Smith, a Freeman since 1975, said: "I want to draw attention to rights which have been eroded. Anyway, it's a nice day out for the sheep and I think they've enjoyed it."

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