The Sheriff of Haverfordwest
2023-2024 Cllr Arthur Brooker
The office of Sheriff along with Mayor and two bailiffs was decreed to the town by Edward, Prince of Wales on 30th April 1479 also bestowing upon it status of ‘county’. This important status was confirmed by the Act of Union of England and Wales in 1543 granting the ‘county’ the right and authority to hold its own assize. In 1545 Haverfordwest was granted the right to have its own ‘Custos Rotulorum’ (master of rolls and a representative as Member of Parliament). In 1761 the town was also given the office of Lord Lieutenant – the monarch’s direct representative. Like most of the shrievalty towns and cities these privileges have diminished then disappeared.
Sheriff of Haverfordwest, Cllr Gillian Howell accompanies Mayor and PCC Chair for the St David's Parade, 2018.
True to its origins the Sheriff largely ensured the law was upheld at local level and justice served when needed. Overseeing the whole justice system from arrest, to the courts and to sentencing, including overseeing executions. In later years after the formation of Parliament the Sheriff was instrumental in conducting Parliamentary elections within the Borough.
The Sheriff was elected at the first Hundred Court held after the Feast of St Michael, either from the 24 common council-men or from the burgesses at large. He was as often chosen from the one body as from the other.
The Sheriff waited upon the Judge of Assize and when no crime had been committed in the borough, he presented the Judge with a pair of white gloves, a ceremony last performed in 1995.
The Sheriff's Chain
The Sheriff wears a silver-linked chain inscribed with the names of those who have held office from the middle of the last century onwards. From the chain hangs a badge showing the reverse of the Town Seal. There is a representation of a fortified gatehouse with side towers. On the central tower is a trumpeter flanked by flying banners and on the base a slain wyvern. On one side is a lion and on the other an eagle. The badge is suitably inscribed and bears the town’s motto. The badge and chain were presented by former Sheriffs in 1953 to commemorate the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen.
Customs and Traditions
The Sheriff received £10 to provide a breakfast on Whit Monday for important citizens of the Town and would see that donkeys and ponies were at hand for them to ride later in the day to Portfield for special races and sports.
At Cuckoo Lane novices went through an initiation ceremony at the Bumping Stone, where a fee was demanded. They later rode back through the streets of the town to a special dinner provided by the Mayor. He also received a quota of 200 apples from each shipload of apples arriving at the quay-usually from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.
A well documented story dating back from 1741 regarding the capacity of the sheriff’s powers involves a woman called Dorothy Rees from Prendergast who was caught stealing a flannel petticoat worth sixpence. The Sheriff had to arrange her transportation to America for seven years, but before this, she was stripped to the waist and marched through the streets from the goal near St Thomas Green to her home in Prendergast. This punishment was overseen by the Sheriff.
Beating of the Bounds
An annual event in Haverfordwest in which the Sheriff and Mayor take part is the Beating of the Bounds ceremony, an ancient tradition to
retain the town’s title as a port. The port of Haverfordwest was once an important trading
point on the Western Cleddau river, especially in
the town’s medieval period.
Today, to retain the title and claim to be a port,
the mayor of Haverfordwest, who is also the
admiral of the port, must inspect the outer
boundary marker of the town each year.
These bounds are marked by a large outcropping
of rock on a section of the Western Cleddau
south of the town which has been painted white. Assisted by the Sheriff of Haverfordwest, the
Mayor invites members of the public to take part
in the event by accompanying them to ride out
on a flotilla of boats to the boundaries. Before
maps were drawn up and widely used, the
marking of the boundaries traditionally involved swatting the important boundary landmarks with branches to maintain a shared mental map of
them to be handed down to the next generation.
The Beating of the Bounds Ceremony
Into the 21st Century
Councillor Chris Thomas, Sheriff of Haverfordwest,
2015 to 2016; 2018 to 2019 and 2019 to 2020.
Haverfordwest's Office of Sheriff and its role has changed over the years in keeping with political and social shifts. Many of the Sheriff’s traditional roles have developed into ceremonial ones such as accompanying the mayor on formal occasions, but the historic importance of the office continues.
The Shrievalty of Haverfordwest is widely celebrated locally as one of fifteen across England and Wales and, along with Camarthen, one of only two that remains in Wales.
The Shrievalty Association of Haverfordwest was formed in 1996 of present and past sheriffs. A Sheriffs’ Service is held at St Mary’s Church in April each year and this is followed by a Sheriffs breakfast.
Haverfordwest hosted the annual general meeting for the The National Association of City and Town Sheriffs of England and Wales in 1995 and again in 2007.
Sheriffs of Haverford West
Cllr Gillian Howell, Sheriff of Haverfordwest 2017-2018 with consort
1984 TP Lewis
1985 C M Cole
1986 D E Pritchard
1987 P A Stock
1988 B A Morgan
1989 D L James
1990 D R Twigg
1991 J Nicholas
1992 C M Cole
1993 B Thomas-Cleaver
1994 C W D Davies
1995 S M Davies
1996 W M B Griffiths
1997 S M James
1998 M Campbell
1999 J Wannacott
2000 B A Shone
2001 D J Westrup
2002 B Thomas
2003 Rev C L Gillam
2004 W R Thomas
2005 Mrs B A Morgan
2006 D L James
2007 D R Twigg
2008 A Buckfield
2009 W R Thomas
2010 C W Davies
2011 S M Llewellyn
2012 C Blakemore
2013 B A Morgan
2014 E Repton
2015 Chris Thomas
2016 Sue Murray
2017 Gillian Howell
2018 Chris Thomas
2019 Chris Thomas
2020 Richard Blacklaw-Jones
2021 Richard Blacklaw-Jones
2022 Helen Lewis