The Sheriff: The Man and His Office
by Irene Gladwin
Published by M. McCartney Ltd, 1984
Synopsis: This account of the sheriffs of Britain, and their changing functions and duties, spans a thousand years from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day. It is the fruit of much research, and provides a fascinating social and political history, as well as giving glimpses of everyday life in England and portraits of scores of men, and a handful of women - some worthy, some staggeringly unworthy - who have held the position of sheriff.
The office originated with the Anglo-Saxon reeve, whose domain was agricultural administration and local justice. Soon, however, High Reeves were collecting Crown revenues, and by the time of Edward the Confessor the Sheriff had acquired wide financial, judicial, policing and military powers based on his status as direct representative of the throne in the shires. The rewards of office could be considerable.
With the Norman invasions the sheriffs' powers were greatly increased, and they reached their zenith under King John - a dramatic period when sheriffs were drawn decisively into the maelstrom of politics. We meet such figures as the financial genius Reginald of Cornhill, and the notorious Faukes de Breauté, a sheriff who became 'something more than the King of England'.
For centuries the sheriffs were the executors of most top-level decisions, popular or unpopular; if war was declared they had to provide soldiers, food and supplies; and the Exchequer's demands also fell heavily on them (the description of the accounting of a sheriff under Henry II is one of the highlights of the book). In addition they had their own courts and were responsible for the punishment of malefactors. Much of this was at their own expense - unless they could create a salary by extortion. Mrs Gladwin has a wealth of anecdotes, and many names on the fringe of one's memory are brought vividly to life: Sir John d'Abernon, Bushy and Bagot, Sir Richard Redmayne and Sir Francis Basset among them.
Gradually the sheriffs lost most of their power, and from Tudor times on many sought to avoid an office which involved such great expense. But the office retained several important features and is by no means defunct even now. The sections of the book covering the last four hundred years are a gold-mine of information, drama, customs and brief biographies.
The scope of the book is impressive: above all, it is immensely readable; it has all the sparkle and colour of a grand pageant.
- The Anglo-Saxon Reeve and the Origin of the Sheriff
- The Norman Sheriff
- The Shrievalty under Henry II and Richard I
- Angevin Absolutism
i. King John’s Henchmen
ii. Magna Carta and its Aftermath
- Rebellion and Reform in the Reign of Henry III
- Crime and Corruption in the Fourteenth Century
i. "These troublesome times"
ii. Sheriffs of the White Hart
- The Fifteenth Century
i. The Warrior Kings
ii. "Outrageous and excessive gifts and rewards"
- The Tudor Sheriff
- The Seventeenth Century
i. Trials and Tribulations under the Stuart Kings
ii. The Great Rebellion
- The Making of the Modern Sheriff
i. "This troublesome and expensive office"
ii. The Sheriff in the Twentieth Century
- The Sheriff in the New World
The High Sheriff
Published by The Times Publishing Co Ltd, 1961 [Out of print: try Amazon for a second hand copy]
Synopsis: This book describes the Office of High Sheriff and what is known about its origins and functions. The chapters on the traditions, customs, and ceremonies which have grown up around the Shrievalty are most informative to all those interested in that ancient Office.
- ORIGINS OF THE SHRIEVALTY
The word - great antiquity of the Office - Sheriff and Chancellor - historical notes.
- APPOINTMENT OF THE NEW HIGH SHERIFF
Nomination procedure - illness or death - disqualifications -- 'pricking' the Sheriffs - form of Warrant - the selection - ladies as High Sheriffs - the description 'High' Sheriff - variation of duties according to counties.
- SOME DUTIES OF THE HIGH SHERIFF
Peace and good order - a Sheriff's liability to be heavily fined -- the various duties and responsibilities - attendance at Assizes - Leave of Absence - necessity of attending a murder trial - footmen and trumpeters, customs regarding - Maiden Assizes - 'glove money' - Order of Precedence - Proclamation of the Accession - Returning Officer - fees and allowances - hospitality expected from the High Sheriff.
- GENERAL INFORMATION
Civil Matters: The County Courts - High Courts of Justice -- Court of Appeal - House of Lords - Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Criminal Matters: Magistrates' Courts - Quarter Sessions -- Assizes - Court of Criminal Appeal - House of Lords.
Miscellaneous: The three Assizes - authority to hold an Assize -- Commission Day - a Judge of Assize - The Judge 'in Commission' - regalia - proclamations - wigs - selection of Judges for Circuits - Commissioners of Assizes - the High Sheriff's Sword - the Bidding Prayer, an example of - the 'nosegay' - the Black Cap, origin and description - Inns of Court and governing bodies of -- 'silk' - jurymen - Javelin Men - Wands of Office - Queen Catherine Parr and the Shrievalty of Westmorland - Dagger Dinner; a Northumberland custom - Leave for Troops out of Barracks.
- ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE ASSIZES
- CEREMONIAL AT THE ASSIZES
- FORMS OF ADDRESS
The Shrievalty in Gloucestershire
by David Smith
Synopsis: a ten page booklet written by a former Gloucestershire County and Diocesan Archivist. It includes sections on: the Middle Ages, and From the Tudors to the Hanoverians.Published privately, Gloucester 1992 - copies available from Gloucestershire Archives.