The ‘Seaside Sheep Show’ (2006) was instigated to exercise a tradition for grazing livestock on common land.
Artist Charlie Murphy was invited by Aspex Gallery to research and round-up some sheepish art activities, prize competitions, stalls and performances in celebration of this right – and related its pastoral pleasures.
Her research uncovered some extraordinarily texts and illustrations from the history and practices of breeding, shepherding and related wool and meat industries and this material provided the starting point from which the event has been conceived.
Readings from some key texts will accompany the day’s activities and provide an insight into the rich language, terminologies and literary legacies of sheep farming over the last three hundred years.
Assisted by staff at Portsmouth City Museum, Charlie’s research reveals that this grazing right is actualy something of an urban myth.
The Common, as it is known, is apparently misnamed- having never been common land; having previously been known as Froddington Heath, part of the ancient manor of Froddington granted to William de Warrene by William the Conqueror. The present name dates from the completion of the fort by Henry VIII. The land was of poor quality and its main value was as a military defence
Before it passed into the hands of the Corporation of Portsmouth in 1923, Southsea Common belonged to the Crown and was granted to the Leeke family. It was sold to the Government in 1785
Thanks to Tom Graham and the Aspex Gallery team for all their help and documentation and to all the participants who made it an amazingly sheepish day.