The Sheriff of Norwich
2023-2024 Dr Jan Sheldon
The Office of Sheriff is one of the oldest appointments to have survived into modern local government. In Norwich, the Office dates from a Charter of HenryIV granted in 1404.
The Charter made Norwich into 'The County of the City of Norwich' giving the people the right to govern independently from the county of Norfolk which meant the need for its own Sheriffs. There were two Sheriffs within Norwich up until The Corporations Act of 1835 in which local government was completely overhauled.
The Sheriffs were responsible for keeping the prison and exercising judicial powers including the overseeing of sentencing and executions. They held a County Court in Norwich at least every month and often as much as twice a week, depending on demand. These Courts were for hearing actions for debt and trespass amongst other misdemeanours and became known as the Sheriff's Court.
Over the centuries the powers of the Office dwindled to little more than being responsible for summoning jurors and executing writs. Under the more recent government reforms of 1974 the duties of the Sheriff of Norwich became purely ceremonial.
The Local Government Act of 1974 (the causative process for the reforms executed in 1974) provided that only the counties created by the Act would be allowed to appoint Sheriffs to carry out the surviving official duties of the post. Norwich, as a City, lost its county status and became once again under the authority of the County Sheriff - the High Sheriff of Norfolk. The duties of acting as a Returning Officer for Parliamentary elections were passed to the Lord Mayor of Norwich which remains under their jurisdiction to this day.
Norwich's City Council decided in 1973 that it should apply for a new Charter which would give it the status of 'Borough'. This would allow the City to retain some of its traditional privileges including the right to continue to appoint a Sheriff as a 'local officer of dignity'. Although the Office would only be of civic and ceremonial significance the City was gratified to be granted the Charter in 1974.
Customs and Traditions
The 'Big Event' of the City of Norwich's calendar is the Lord Mayor's Procession. The procession marches, ambles, and dances through the main streets of the city in July led by the Town Crier and the 'Sergeants-at-Mace'.
The Sheriff accompanies the Lord Mayor in the procession and joins in with the rest of the weekend celebrations.
Beryl Blower Sheriff of Norwich 2015-2016 wears the original Sheriff's chains used for formal occasions.
The original Sheriff's chains (left) were given in 1757 by Matthew Goss, a wealthy dyer and Freeman. The beautiful and more elaborate chains have been worn by the Sheriff for formal and important events.
However, because of their historical importance and as they not practical for everyday wear, new chains have been made to be worn on a daily basis at civic functions (right).
Crafted by local goldsmith Sonkai – a family business in the centre of the city – the new chains, made of gold-plated sterling silver, tell a story of Norwich through motifs depicting significant aspects of history – past and recent.
The design process in itself was very unique, and involved fact-finding trips around Norwich from the Castle to the Council, taking in the history, symbolism and architecture and embellished with stories and facts from people along the way.
The new chains have the flexibility of adding new motifs. They can be worn with robes, day dress or eveningwear by any gender, in three different ways, whereas the old chains were designed for male Lord Mayors wearing the robes of office. The crests of the Sheriff and Lord Mayor have been retained within the new design.
The new chains were funded by the Freemen of Norwich and presented to the City in 2016.
The Sheriff of Norwich, 2016-2017 Richard Marks accepts the new Chains of Office from the goldsmiths, Sankai alongside the Lord Mayor
David Walker, Sheriff of Norwich 2017 wears the new chains.
Into the 21st Century
Sheriff of Norwich 2019-2021
Dr Marian Prinsley celebrates International Women's Day with local branch of
Soroptimist International (above) and supports a local restaurant's contribution to helping the elderly at Christmas
The Sheriff of Norwich's role is largely ceremonial and each Sheriff will make their own mark upon it. Today the Sheriff of Norwich upholds a civic presence and function by:
Attending events to which the Civic Party is invited
Undertaking specific functions as invited.
Deputising at certain functions for the Lord Mayor in their absence.
Giving general support to the Lord Mayor as required.
Promoting the history, role and function of the Office of Sheriff
Supporting, promoting and celebrating local community groups, charities and initiatives
Caroline Jarrold, Sheriff of Norwich 2021 helps promotes a local 'Politico-Panto' with the character playing the Sheriff of Norwich
Beryl Blower, Sheriff of Norwich 2015-2016 slept 'under the stars' on a cold February night to raise funds and awareness of 'rough sleepers' in Norwich along with the Lord Mayor. They were the first to sign up for the Christian charity's fundraiser.
Sheriffs of Norwich
Richard Marks, Sheriff of Norwich 2016-2017
1984 Lila Cooper
1985 Geoffrey Goreham
1986 Arthur Clare
1987 Leonard Stevenson
1988 Rev Jack Burton
1989 Jill Miller
1990 Brian Watkins
1991 Jill Miller
1992 Brenda Ferris-Rampley
1993 Phillip Read
1994 William Carpenter
1995 Douglas Underwood
1996 Ralph Gayton
1997 Audrey Brown
1998 Jennifer Lay
1999 Peter Jarrold
2000 Roger Sandall
2001 Sheila Kefford
2002 Bryan Gunn
2003 Moya Wilson
2004 Paul King OBE
2005 Brenda Arthur
2006 John Drake
2007 Nick Williams
2008 Roy Waller
2009 Tim O’Riordan
2010 Derek James
2011 Chris Higgins
2012 John Jennings
2013 Graham Creelman
2014 William Armstrong
2015 Beryl Blower
2016 Richard Marks
2017 David Walker
2018 Ros Brown
2019 Marian Prinsley
2020 Marian Prinsley
2021 Caroline Jarrold
2022 Caroline Jarrold
2023 Dr Jan Sheldon
Ros Brown, Sheriff of Norwich 2018-2019