A 1000-year-old ceremonial position, the oldest in the UK, has officially started for the first time ‘virtually’ due to Covid-19. Commander Charles Bagot Jewitt Royal Navy formally gave his declaration via a weblink as the new High Sheriff of Staffordshire.
The High Sheriff is the Queen’s representative in the County for all matters relating to the Judiciary and the maintenance of law and order. Much of the High Sheriff’s year is therefore spent supporting and encouraging the voluntary and statutory organisations who work in this area plus the Crown and Magistrates’ Courts, the Police, Prison and Probation Services.
Charlie, of Blithfield, near Rugeley, (54) enjoyed a 22-year career in the Royal Navy before appointments including Chief Executive of the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas and most recently Area Officer for youth charity the Marine Society and Sea Cadets.
Charlie said: “I have the oldest job in the UK, but Covid-19 won’t stop a 1000-year-old position. The position of High Sheriff has evolved and survived and in early 2020 it starts in the virtual world. The current lockdown means much of my work will have to be carried out remotely over the internet.
“I will support the amazing emergency services, armed forces, legal services and voluntary groups but to start off in just in a slightly different way. We must try to take positives out of all challenges and I hope the work I do this year will connect with new people and groups; especially the youth and voluntary sector which I am keen to support during my appointment.”
During the year Charlie will focus on crime prevention among the young. Provided the lockdown is lifted, between 1-8 August, he plans to cycle around Staffordshire with a modern day ‘posse’ to highlight the High Sheriff’s role and visit Staffordshire tourist sites to help promote the County – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/charles-bagot-jewitt1. He will also to raise money for the Community Foundation for Staffordshire (https://staffsfoundation.org.uk) which assists in sponsoring Staffordshire High Sheriff’s awards each March. And to his first role is to support the Foundation’s Covid-19 Appeal which has raised over £100,000 in less than a week to help voluntary groups affected by the virus.
Charlie has created a video to promote the Community Foundation’s Appeal: https://rb.gy/l0qjx8
The Office of High Sheriff is the oldest continuous secular office under the Crown and can be traced back more than 1,000 years to the reign of the Saxon King ‘Ethelred the Unready’ (978-1016). High Sheriffs were originally appointed to act as the sovereign’s representative in their county, and they wielded great power sitting in judgement at trials and were responsible for general law and order.
They could raise the ‘hue and cry’ in pursuit of criminals and keep the King’s Peace by mobilising the ‘posse’, the full military might of the county.
The Office of High Sheriff is apolitical and as such the High Sheriff is in a unique position to be able to bring people together within the county and to support the enormous contribution made by the emergency services, the armed forces, local authorities, church and faith groups and the voluntary community. High Sheriffs are volunteers and meet all the costs of their year in Office.