Spring is upon us. As the grass in the Tower moat begins to perk post – Poppies and in the countryside lambs are rushing towards adolescence, this year London too has its very own personalised Spring flock.
Shaun in the City features 50 bespoke statues of Aardman’s cheeky lamb scattered about the metropolis gathering funds for Wallace and Gromit’s children’s charity and two have come to rest on Tower Hill.
At first sight there might seem little to link sheep to the Tower but as so often delve a little deeper and out pops a historical precedent. The oldest connection lies with the Constable of the Tower and his right to claim any cattle passing the Tower by means of the Thames as his own. Unlikely as he is to exercise this privilege one of the privileges of a Freeman of the City of London today remains the right to drive sheep across London Bridge.
Moving forward to the 19th century in 1845 the Tower moat was finally drained on the orders of the Constable – at the time the Duke of Wellington – as it had become more a stagnant cesspit than defensive barrier and the resulting ditch was turfed.
John Warrender’s oil painting from about 1870 views the Tower from the gardens NW of the site. 11 sheep graze or loll about the moat while a 12th stands, feet squarely planted as if on guard, under Legges Mount. Further down the moat adjacent to the Beauchamp Tower a disproportionally large horse rests from bringing in stone to repair the outer wall.
Odd as it might seem, our ovine friends on Tower Hill are not the first.
Come July a further 70 Shauns will colonise Bristol until October when the whole flock is due to be auctioned to raise funds to support children in hospital.