Norwich to host historic gathering of sheriffs

Dr Melanie Pascale, Director of Charitable Operations at the Big C, Lord Mayor Kevin Maguire, Dr Chr

Dr Melanie Pascale, director of charitable operations at the Big C, Lord Mayor Kevin Maguire, Dr Chris Bushby, chief executive of the Big C, Caroline Jarrold, Sherrif of Norwich and David Moar, co-founder of the Bic C, at the site of the new Bic C Centre on Dereham Road, Norwich, in July 2021. - Credit: Danielle Booden

In this ever-changing world sheriffs still have a role in play and today there are just 14 of them serving the people of England.

The men and women wearing the robes do not represent a political party, come from all walks of life, and are proud to serve and represent their people.

For 12 months they meet, are inspired, encouraged and humbled by individuals and events. It gives them a rare chance to see what goes on behind the scenes in the community they serve.

THE LORD MAYOR OF NORWICH DEREK WOOD (RIGHT)AND THE LADY MAYORESS BRENDA WITH THE SHERIFF OF NORWICH

The Lord Mayor of Norwich, Derek Wood (right and the Lady Mayoress Brenda with the Sheriff of Norwich Bryan Gunn arriving at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, 21 December 2002. - Credit: © ARCHANT } NORFOLK 2002.

And to give them the support and recognition they deserve. Often people who rarely make the headlines. They just get on with it.

The civic office of sheriff is one of the most ancient in the country and it is, with the exception of the kingship, the only secular office which has survived from the Anglo-Saxon period.

The name comes from “scirgerefa” and the sheriff ruled the roost in days gone by, being the Crown’s deputy, the most important figure in each county.

In Saxon times the country was governed locally by the earls or “comites” from which came the word county.

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As the power of the earls weakened, the sheriffs took over  the control of the counties, Looking after the military and collecting money for the exchequer from his sheriffwick.

This is where it gets interesting.

The money was receipted by an exchequer tally consisting of a hazel stick, split in two parts. When a payment was made the stick was notched and then spilt down the centre.

The sheriff kept one part and the exchequer the other part.

The role of the sheriff continued to grow and in 1403 the King announced that the City of Norwich should be a county, separate from the County of Norfolk, known as the County and City of Norwich and that there would be one mayor and two sheriffs.

Slowly but surely over the centuries the role of sheriff diminished and from April of 1974 the Sheriff of Norwich was to be a “local officer of dignity.” And there is still a parlour at the wonderful Guildhall where he or she can welcome guests.

Events - FestivalsSnap and the Whifflers clearing the way for the festival celebrations in 1951, p

Snap the Dragon and the Whifflers clearing the way for festival celebrations in 1951, passing by the Guildhall, Norwich. - Credit: Archant Library

Today our sheriffs all have one thing in common…a love of Norwich and its people. And they are often accompanied on civic gatherings by the historic Whifflers and dear old Snap the Dragon.

A combination of history and fun.

Lord Mayor of Norwich Kevin Maguire, Carol Lunney, trustee of Norwich Open Christmas, and Caroline J

Lord Mayor of Norwich Kevin Maguire, Carol Lunney, trustee of Norwich Open Christmas, and Caroline Jarrold, Sherif of Norwich, at Norwich Open Christmas' charity event outside St Andrew's Hall in December 2021. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Next year Norwich will be hosting the annual Shrieval Weekend when sheriffs and former sheriffs from across the country head our way. It is also an opportunity to showcase the attractions, charms, delights and history of the Fine City.

A programme of fund-raising events is being put together and one of the organisers is former Sheriff and ex-Trafford Arms mine host Chris Higgins who would love to see as many people as possible at what will be a great night of music at Blackfriars Hall on Friday October 21.

The music at this fundraiser will be the fantastic and historic Cawston Brass Band featuring their brilliant tribute to Queen.

Tickets cost £10 and are available from www.thehallsnorwich.com/whatson or by calling the organiser on 07990 952912.

Sheriffs in the 21st century represent:

Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Canterbury

Chester

Gloucester

Lichfield

Lincoln

City of London

Newcastle upon Tyne

Nottingham (no jokes, please)

Norwich

Oxford

Poole

Southampton

York