On 28th September a goodly number of Phoenix Masters attended the Admission of the Sheriffs at Guildhall. Afterwards the new Sheriffs Alderman Vincent Keaveny and The Hon Elizabeth Green invited them to the Sheriffs’ Breakfast in the Old Library.
For those familiar with the Silent Ceremony, where the only words spoken are a brief declaration by the incoming Lord Mayor, the Admission of the Sheriffs is in complete contrast. The Sheriffs Elect jointly make a long declaration swearing their allegiance to the Crown and their willingness to take care of Her Majesty’s Judges. The office of Sheriff is, of course, one of the most ancient in the nation and predates the office of Lord Mayor
The role of Sheriff, or Shire Reeve, is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon laws of the 7th Century. The reeve was the representative of the king in a shire, city or town, responsible for enforcing the law and collecting taxes. By the time of the Norman Conquest, the City of London had two sheriffs who were the senior city officials and collected London’s taxes on behalf of the royal exchequer. They also held judicial duties in the City’s law courts.
The Sheriffs were directly appointed by the king until 1132 when Henry I granted the City of London a charter including the right to choose its own sheriff. They also gained jurisdiction over the neighbouring county of Middlesex.
In 1189, an annually elected mayor was introduced as chief magistrate for the City of London. In Magna Carta, King John reaffirmed this privilege which is one of only two clauses from that great charter still extant. By this, the sheriffs became subordinate to the mayor, but the mayor, later Lord Mayor generally served as Sheriff before becoming mayor. In 1385 the Common Council determined that every future Lord Mayor should “have previously been Sheriff so that he may be tried as to his governance and bounty before he attains to the Estate of Mayoralty”. This ruling still applies today.
Between 1320 and 1347, the mayor acquired the right to elect one of the sheriffs, however in 1878, this became a right of the City Livery Companies.
In 1889 the jurisdiction of the sheriffs was restricted to the City. The Local Government Act 1888 created a new office of High Sheriff of Middlesex appointed in the same way as other English counties.
Today, the Sheriffs support the Lord Mayor in their civic duties, undertaking an ambassadorial role on behalf of the City of London Corporation by promoting London as the world’s leading international finance and business centre. The Sheriffs are required to preside over every session of the Central Criminal Court throughout their year in office. They also support Her Majesty’s Judges and guests, promoting the importance of the English rule of law to businesses, schools, diplomats, charities, and the City Livery.
At the breakfast, the toast to the retiring sheriffs was proposed by His Honour Judge Nicholas Hilliard, QC, The Recorder of London and to the new Sheriffs by Paul Drechsler, Hon CBE to which the Sheriffs replied.
On 17th October the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress rode round the City of London on horseback to raise funds for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal. They were escorted by a mounted contingent from the Honourable Artillery Company Light Cavalry and the City of London Police. At the personal invitation of the Lord Mayor, they were also escorted by a group representing the Phoenix Masters, though we were riding Shanks’s pony!
The plan was to visit several Livery Halls and other important sights with photo opportunities at each stop and the chance to raise funds for the three nominated charities of the continuum: Place2Be, OnSide Youth Zones and the Samaritans.
After an amusing blessing from the Lord Mayor’s Chaplain, we set off from Guildhall Yard visiting Mercers’ Hall, Goldsmiths’ Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral, Haberdashers’ Hall where we were met by a large contingent of the Carmen who were holding their Installation there; Ironmongers’ Hall where we were faced by the difficult choice of port or sherry, while the horses demolished giant carrots; Chartered Accountants’ Hall; Drapers’ Hall where champagne was served; Leadenhall building (aka The Cheesegrater) which proved particularly profitable for those of us who were shaking buckets; Mansion House and finally the Lord Mayor’s Company, Grocers’ Hall where port was on offer.
Thanks to Sheriff Liz Green, Isobel Pollock-Hulf, Erica Stary and Peter Thompson for demonstrating that Autumnal rain cannot put out the fire of the Phoenix Masters. Thanks also to George Bastin who tried to join us but could not overcome the challenges of the Great Western Railway. Your colleagues at Ironmongers’ Hall missed you but took care of us with a velvet glove over their iron fist.
Past Master Marketor