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Background History

Droving started as soon as man began to own livestock.  Most of it disappeared with the coming of the railways.  But traces continued...

Although the last recorded long-distance drove of Welsh sheep was from Tregaron to Harrow in 1900 (see Bonser, op cit, p228), drovers were still needed to accompany beasts on the stressful rail journey, guide them to pasture at the journey's end, and take them from there to market.

The picture of Bill Phipps, taken in 1919, shows how little he is worried by the possibility of traffic - and the limestone chippings tell us he is on an 'A Road'. The journey from Stowe to [Cold] Ashby was about 34 miles and he did it in two days, sleeping in (often rat-infested) barns.  His widow says the police sometimes used to help him find a place for the night.

Picture #2 was taken in Kings Lynn, Norfolk.  Note the noose in the drover's hand, presumably to deal with any goose that misbehaved.   

One farmer told me that his grandfather kept a dairy in Greenford in the early 1900's - many Welshman became dairymen - and when his London herd were milked out, he used to walk them to Tewkesbury.  There he met his brother with a second herd, who had walked them from their Welsh pasture. The brothers would then swap herds.

Background History image 1
Bill Phipps, 1919
Background History image 3
Geese at Kings Lynn