How is the High Sheriff chosen?

Every appointed High Sheriff is responsible for nominating a successor, usually four years in advance. A High Sheriff will usually consult with the Lord-Lieutenant, other dignitaries and the local nomination panel before making the final decision. At this stage, the nomination is passed to the Privy Council and is then read out by the Queen’s Remembrancer at an annual nomination ceremony in November held in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. This process must happen three times on three consecutive years before being submitted to the Queen for her approval at the ancient ‘Pricking Ceremony’.

What happens at the ‘Pricking Ceremony’?

This ancient custom sees the names of the High Sheriff nominees for the coming year presented to the Queen at a ceremony in the Privy Council. The Queen marks the names by pricking them through vellum with a bodkin (a blunt needle for threading ribbon through loops). This is in fact an early form of document security.

Historically, the role of High Sheriff could be ruinously expensive and unpopular and as a result was not always welcomed by the nominee. By using a bodkin the names were permanently marked and the list could not be altered. This practice is thought to have started during the reign of Henry VII (1485-1508).

What does Shrieval Mean?

Shrieval means “relating to a Sheriff” and the “Shrieval” year means the sheriff’s year in office. The sheriff, historically, was the Reeve of the Shire or Shire Reeve, and these words have become “Sheriff”.

Can a Justice of the Peace be a High Sheriff?

Yes – but he/she cannot sit in the Magistrates Court during his/her year of office. He/she may resume his/her duties as a JP after the Installation of the next High Sheriff.

What happens at the Installation?

The Installation marks the start of the High Sheriff’s year and is usually held between late March and mid-April following the ‘Pricking’ ceremony. The Installation is a short formal legal occasion during which the incoming High Sheriff makes a statutory 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.

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

Traditionally, a High Sheriff’s Legal Service will be held which is a church service to honour local judges and magistrates. Some counties, including Staffordshire, hold a service at the beginning of each of the three legal terms while others hold a single service at the start of the legal year in October or towards the end of the Shrieval year in March or April.

High Sheriffs often host a gathering for those actively involved in the community to recognise their efforts. The cost of such an occasion is entirely met by the current High Sheriff since all expenses relating to duties are met by the individual appointed to the post and not local taxpayers. With this in mind, what a High Sheriff decides to do during their year is very much up to the individual and can vary from year-to-year.

Does the High Sheriff present any awards?

As well as making awards to those who have been active in the apprehension of certain offenders, the High Sheriff may also present awards to the unsung heroes within small charity or voluntary groups who have delivered outstanding service to their cause, and to outstanding young citizens.

Does the High Sheriff receive any training?

High Sheriffs in Nomination are well supported and advised by the High Sheriffs’ Association. Each year the Association organises a national seminar and encourages a number of Regional Meetings. At these events High Sheriffs in Nomination are able to meet each other, exchange ideas and receive advice on the role.

What does a High Sheriff wear?

On formal and ceremonial occasions male High Sheriffs either wear Court Dress, a suit of black silk velvet trimmed with cut steel buttons based on the style of the mid-eighteenth century or, if they are retired members of the Armed Forces, they may wear military uniform if they attained the rank of Captain or above in the Army, or the equivalent in the other two services.

While there is no prescribed dress code for Lady High Sheriffs, they have generally adapted the style of the traditional Court Dress to suit their requirements and have added a hat adorned with white ostrich feathers. A Lady High Sheriff would normally wear a dark velvet with cut steel buttons and shoe buckles, lace jabot and cuffs. A Lady High Sheriff may not wear a sword although a cut steel sword may be carried before her in procession by her Cadet or other suitable person.

When not wearing Court Dress, a High Sheriff will wear a badge of Office on a ribbon.

What is the correct way to address the High Sheriff?

Written: Mrs Pippa Gee, High Sheriff of Staffordshire

Salutation: Dear High Sheriff

In a Speech: In the preamble the High Sheriff should be referred to as High Sheriff e.g. a speech might begin, “High Sheriff, Ladies and Gentlemen…”.

Conversation: On formal occasions High Sheriff or Mrs Gee

What is the High Sheriff’s precedence in the county?

The High Sheriff in any county is by right second 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, i.e. 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, while the High Sheriff is responsible for law and order.

Who are the previous High Sheriffs of Staffordshire?

An extensive list can be found in the Staffordshire Archives. Staffordshire’s High Sheriffs since 2000 are:

2018 Mrs Philippa Gee DL

2017 Humphrey Scott-Moncrieff DL

2016 Colonel David Leigh TD DL

2015 Johnny Leavesley

2014 Mrs Ann Fisher DL

2013 Miss Susan Inge-Innes-Lillingston DL

2012 Mrs Sarah Elsom DL

2011 Simon Clarke DL

2010 Ian Dudson CBE DL

2009 Richard Haszard

2008 Mrs Catherine Evans

2007 Graham Stow CBE DL

2006 Mrs Angela Tams

2005 The Lord Stafford, Francis Fitzherbert

2004 Mrs Dorothy Sheila Carver

2003 Sir Stanley Clarke DL

2002 Michael Hurdle

2001 The Countess of Shrewsbury and Talbot

2000 David Eliot

Who are the High Sheriffs in Nomination?

2019 Ashley Brough

2020 Commander Charles Bagot Jewitt DL

2021 James Friend DL