About the National Association of City and Town Sheriffs of England and Wales
This page explains the origins of the Association and gives a brief overview of work and events to date.
More information about the history of the Office of Sheriff and insights into the individual town and cities that retain the Office is found under 'City and Town Shrievalties'
Origins of the Association
It is feasible that Sheriffs in neighbouring towns and cities have always had ways, means and desires (or otherwise) to communicate and build relationships. But no known formal network or Association linking the Sheriffs across England and Wales had been formed.
In the early 1980's the Sheriff of Lichfield, Kathryn Duncan-Brown,
during her office in 1983 invited other Sheriffs to join her in Lichfield
to celebrate their National Heritage Year being held in 1984.
The invitation was well received.
This, and several other formal and informal gatherings served to raise an awareness of the benefits of bringing people together that shared a common interest in the
office of Sheriff.
Sheriffs from around England and Wales gather in Poole for the Association's AGM in 2015
With no internet and social media at this time, sharing ideas and information about events was not as easy as it is now. During his year as Sheriff of Gloucester in 1984/5 Andrew Gravells (now Honorary Life President) pondered on the experiences of his fellow Sheriffs in office across the 15 towns and cities in England and Wales in which the Office of Sheriff existed. Aware that no formal existing network linking the Sheriffs across the nations was actually in place, Andrew wrote to each of them inviting them to a lunch and meeting. In his invitation Andrew suggested the Sheriffs could:
'meet together to discuss our roles and and problems and even try to ensure that the Office does not disappear altogether, as there are now only a few of us left'.
With a positive response from many of the Sheriffs an inaugural meeting was held on
30th April 1985 in the Council Chamber at Gloucester Guildhall. The meeting went well enough that a Constitution for the National Association of City and Town Sheriffs of England and
Wales was circulated by Andrew and unanimously adopted.
The 'Gloucester Gathering of Sheriffs' made the BBC National News and Andrew Gravells was unanimously elected as the Association's first Chair. He was succeeded at the end of his term by Lila Cooper of Norwich and at the same time unanimously appointed Honorary Life President.
The Sheriffs from 11 Shrievalties across England and Wales pose for the first official photograph
of the new Association in 1985.
Top row from left to right: Arthur Wilshire, Berwick-upon-Tweed; Malcolm Jones, Carmarthen; Thomas Jones, Chester; Randolph Meech, Poole;
Bottom row from left to right: Douglas Fenn, Canterbury; Nick Sedgwick, Lichfield; Frank Dennett, Nottingham; Andrew Gravells, Gloucester; Burt Standing, Oxford; Geoffrey Ranger, Southampton, Kenneth King, York.
Each year, to date (except for 2020 due to the devastating Covid-19 pandemic) the Association has brought together past and current Sheriffs to celebrate the office and to socialise over a weekend hosted in turn by each of the towns and cities who have the honour of a Shrievalty. Membership of the Association has grown steadily each year.
Each of the Shrievalty Cities and Towns have hosted the National Association's Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Conference weekend. The weekend supports the local economy through Members staying within the host Town or City and, very often, staying longer to enjoy local attractions.
During the Conference Weekends Members have the opportunity to meet formally at the AGM at which time the Constitution can be reviewed, Officers elected, news and events discussed, ideas aired and any other business raised.
Members also have plenty of opportunity to network and socialise and thus preserve, enhance and promote the ancient Office of Sheriff which they hold or have held in the past.
Honorary Life President
NACTSEW's AGM at Carmarthen, 2017.
And some words from Andrew Gravells regarding the Association's beginning:
During my year as Sheriff of Gloucester (1984-1985) I often attended civic events across the City with the Mayor. It was always a privilege to meet other Mayors and Council Chairs. This was of course in the pre Internet, Google and email era !
During my year as Sheriff I often wondered how the other Sheriffs were enjoying their year in office, and that it was a pity that there was no organisation which would bring us all together during our year. So I decided to write to them all, asking if they'd like to come to Gloucester so we could all meet at least once, and that, if there was enough interest, we could form something along the lines of a National Association. I was surprised how quickly and enthusiastically they all replied. In a nutshell, they all said
'Great idea Andrew. We'd love to come. Please let us know when!'
So, on April 30th 1985, almost all of the City and Town Sheriffs of England and Wales turned up at Gloucester Guildhall. We had told the local Gloucester newspaper, The Citizen, what we had planned. But they must have shared it more widely as we ended up with the BBC national News team and their cameramen; Australian TV and CNN. They all spun it along the lines of a posse of Sheriffs arriving in Gloucester to consider their futures. We made the national BBC TV News both at 6pm and 10pm (It must have been a slow news day!).
Once everyone had arrived and refreshed, we gave all of the Sheriffs a short coach tour of Gloucester and the surrounding Cotswolds, followed by Lunch on return to the Guildhall.
After lunch, we adjourned into a committee room, and I distributed a very brief agenda and a draft constitution for a possible NACTSEW. There followed a very quick discussion on whether or not the assembled Sheriffs wished to form something along the lines of a fromal Assocation and it was unanimous that we did. We then discussed the draft constitution I’d produced, and that found rapid and total support too.
So then I asked for nominations for the first Chair of NACTSEW and somebody said ' Well, that's easy isn’t it?'. Sometimes being a bit slow on the uptake I asked them what they meant and they replied that as I’d done all the work in arranging everything so far, I might as well carry on as chair! This got unanimous agreement.
So that's how we began way back in 1985, and I'm pleased that we're still going strong nearly forty years on from that!
Andrew Gravells MBE
Life President NACTSEW