There is a High Sheriff in every county in England and Wales, and their history and tradition goes back before the Norman Conquest. The modern-day High Sheriff has a very different role and function to that of his or her ancient ancestors, but none the less plays an important role in our 21st century society.
A High Sheriff is a ceremonial officer in the United Kingdom with origins dating back to medieval times. The role has evolved significantly over the centuries, and today, it is largely symbolic and civic in nature. High Sheriffs are appointed annually by the monarch’s representative in each county, known as the Lord Lieutenant. The selection is based on the nominee’s commitment to public service, integrity, and contributions to the local community.
The primary responsibilities of a High Sheriff include:
Supporting the Judiciary: Although High Sheriffs no longer have a direct role in law enforcement, they attend court ceremonies to show support for the judiciary. This symbolic presence helps maintain a connection between the legal system and the community.
Promoting Voluntary Sector: High Sheriffs actively promote and support voluntary and community organizations. They visit charities, community groups, and other institutions to learn about their work and offer encouragement.
Ceremonial Duties: High Sheriffs participate in various ceremonial events, such as the Royal Maundy Service and the annual Legal Service. These activities contribute to the historical and symbolic aspects of the role.
Encouraging Citizenship: High Sheriffs play a role in encouraging good citizenship, volunteerism, and community engagement. They may visit schools, prisons, and other institutions to inspire a sense of responsibility and civic duty.
Many High Sheriffs assist Community Foundations and local charities working with vulnerable and other people both in endorsing and helping to raise the profile of their valuable work.
Your local High Sheriff can be well placed to offer encouragement to those in their County who are engaged in supporting the voluntary sector and those most in need – this includes your Men’s Shed! Many High Sheriffs give their own personal awards to individuals, often unsung heroes within small voluntary groups, who have made an outstanding contribution in some way. As the Office is independent and non-political, High Sheriffs are able to bring together a wide range of people with the community they serve.
The name and contact details for your County High Sheriff can be found here.
Did you know? of the 63 clauses in the Magna Carta of 1215, no less than 27 relate to the role of the Sheriff…
by Robert Visintainer – Men’s Sheds Cymru Development Manager