Frequently Asked Questions about The High Sheriff

What does the High Sheriff do?

The Office of High Sheriff is an independent, non-political Royal appointment, and each county in England and Wales has a High Sheriff.  The origins of the Office date back over 1000 years, to Saxon times, when the ‘Shire Reeve’ was responsible to the monarch for the maintenance of law and order within the shire, or county, and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown. Today, there are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales each year. Each High Sheriff serves for a one-year term, usually commencing in April.  The monarch appointed the first High Sheriff of Rutland in 1129 – William de Albeni, the Breton. The duties of this once-powerful role have evolved over time, and almost all the original enforcement and financial powers of the Office have been transferred to the various government departments and professional law enforcement agencies. Curiously, one of the few remaining statutory duties of the High Sheriff is to act as Returning Officer in a Parliamentary election!

However, although now largely ceremonial, supporting the Crown and the judiciary remain central elements of the role today. The High Sheriff will usually attend at Royal visits to the County, and will also attend to the welfare of visiting High Court Judges, and occasionally sit with them at Court in an observatory role. In more modern times, a key role of High Sheriffs is to actively lend support and encouragement to crime prevention agencies, the emergency services and to the voluntary sector. In recent years High Sheriffs in many parts of England and Wales have been particularly active in encouraging crime reduction initiatives, especially amongst young people. Many High Sheriffs also 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. 

What happens at the ‘Declaration’ of a new High Sheriff?

The Declaration marks the start of the High Sheriff’s year and is usually held between late March and mid-April. The Declaration Ceremony is a short formal legal occasion at which the incoming High Sheriff makes a Declaration of Office before a Judge or Justice of the Peace. The occasion is usually attended by the Lord Lieutenant, the outgoing High Sheriff, the Under Sheriff, the Chaplain, and other guests. In Rutland the Declaration Ceremony usually takes place at Oakham Castle following its superb refurbishment.

How is the High Sheriff funded?

The office of the High Sheriff is entirely funded by the current High Sheriff who receives no help with expenses.

What are the main events during the High Sheriff’s year?

The High Sheriff will decide on the events he intends to support during his year of office and inevitably will vary from year to year.

What does a High Sheriff wear?

The High Sheriff wears Court Dress, a suit of black silk velvet trimmed with cut steel buttons based on the style of the mid-eighteenth century, which will usually be worn on formal occasions, and on visits being made where requested.

Lady High Sheriffs have generally adapted the style of the traditional Court Dress to suit their requirements and have added a hat adorned with ostrich feathers.

What is the High Sheriff’s status in the County?

The High Sheriff is by right second in the county only to the Lord Lieutenant (or deputy acting as Lord Lieutenant) but, as a matter of courtesy, gives precedence to Mayors at their own civic functions, ie where the Mayor is clearly acting as host. When in attendance upon High Court Judges at the Crown Court, the High Sheriff has precedence.

The Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff are both appointed by, and are representatives of, the Sovereign in the County.  The Lord Lieutenant is responsible for civil and other matters, whilst the High Sheriff is responsible for law and order, i.e. for keeping the Queen’s Peace.

Who are the recent High Sheriffs of Rutland?

Rutland High Sheriffs since 2010 are:

  • 2016 Dr Sarah Furness;
  • 2015 Andrew Brown Esq;
  • 2014 Air Commodore Miles Williamson-Noble;
  • 2013 Mrs Trish Ruddle;
  • 2012 Bart Hellyer Esq;
  • 2011 Peter Lawson, Esq;
  • 2010 Mrs Sarah Forsyth

How do I contact the High Sheriff or Under Sheriff?

You can find all necessary contact details on our contact page

How can I invite the High Sheriff to my event?

The High Sheriff’s year in Office is very busy and normally, the High Sheriff will very quickly have a full diary with a large number of events to attend, so an early invitation is vital. If you represent a voluntary, charity or community organisation in Rutland, and you think the High Sheriff may be interested in attending or supporting your event, please get in touch with us. Tell us about your organisation, the nature and date of the event you are organising, and how you think it is relevant to the High Sheriff’s responsibilities. We will endeavour to respond quickly, and may ask you for further details before a decision is made, but please don’t be too disappointed if the High Sheriff is already committed on the date.