The title of Sheriff, or “Shire Reeve”, evolved during the Anglo-Saxon period of English history; the Reeve was the representative of the King in a city, town or shire, responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing the law. By the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 the City of London had Sheriffs, usually two at a time; they were the most important city officials and collected London’s annual taxes on behalf of the Royal Exchequer, and they also had judicial duties in the City’s law courts.
Until 1130, the sheriffs were directly appointed by the King; however, London gained a degree of self-government during the 12th century, including the right to choose its own Sheriffs, a right which was affirmed in a charter by King Stephen in 1141.
Much has changed since then and now all Liverymen of the City of London have the opportunity to choose their Sheriffs, and they cast two votes at Common Hall on Midsummer’s Day each year. One candidate is nominated by the Court of Aldermen and for 2017-18 they nominated Alderman Timothy Hailes. The second candidate need not be an Alderman. The election will take place in late June at Common Hall, Guildhall, where the liverymen meet.
The Responsibilities of the Sheriffs
- attend and support the Lord Mayor, to officiate at the sessions at the Central Criminal Court
- liaise with the Livery
- advise the Livery on the activities of the Mayoralty and update the Livery on progress in key areas.
In practical terms this means supporting the Lord Mayor by
- attending City functions and joining national and international visits undertaken by the Lord Mayor on behalf of the City of London Corporation and the Business City
- officiating at the Central Criminal Court and, in particular, entertaining Her Majesty’s Judges and guests at lunch each day
- conducting meetings and speaking at functions whether in place of the Lord Mayor (in his/her absence) or in the Sheriff’s own right, and attending meetings of Common Hall.