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(With acknowledgements to Poole (BCP) Council)




The office of Sheriff in Poole was created on 23 June 1568 by the Great Charter of Queen Elizabeth I, which made Poole a County Corporate, in deed and name, distinct and separate from the County of Dorset.  Poole was the only town given this honour by the Queen.  The Charter authorised the town to choose its own Mayor, Sheriff, Justices of the Peace, Recorder and Coroner, thus ending almost all control by the 'Lord of the Manor'.  Poole's first Sheriff was Christopher Rose and the original document, signed and sealed by Elizabeth I still remains in Poole's museum.  


The Sheriff of Poole's responsibilities included presiding over a monthly judicial court, to receive all Royal written commands concerning the Town, to receive all Crown debts and account for them to the Exchequer, keep the Town Gaol and be responsible for all prisoners, oversee executions, receive all Royal Proclamations, summon jurors for the Court of Quarter sessions and act as 'Returning Officer' for Parliamentary elections.  


During the Civil War Poole was publicly proclaimed Parliamentarian supporting the 'rebels' against the monarchy.  This would have put the Sheriff of Poole, as the King's representative, in a difficult position.  The Parliamentarian's success, however, was short lived and some time after Charles II was restored to the throne he made a 'cordial' visit to Poole, clearly not holding a grudge!  


Following the civil war and well into the 19th century Poole flourished with wealth pouring in from the cod trade through fishing the rich coastal waters off Newfoundland.  But with powers becoming more centralised within Parliament and the subsequent lessening of the Monarch's power, the extent, influence and authority of the Sheriff's role also declined.  

During the 18th Century the role of Sheriff was legally compulsory.  This meant that anyone elected to service who then declined the position could be fined.  However, being Sheriff often incurred large costs in order to carry out Shrieval duties and the fine may have easily been a cheaper option!  

Poole was one of only 19 towns, now just 15, that had the right to elect a Sheriff but the role became purely honorary as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, which reorganised Local Government from 1974 onwards.  Poole, at this time, asked if it could keep its “Borough” status and retain its historic titles and privileges within the district of Poole.  This was acknowledged and the “Charter of Queen Elizabeth II” was granted to Poole on 1 April 1974, which included, amongst other things, the right for Poole to maintain the honorary title of Sheriff.

It is believed that Poole is unique in that the two charters of Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II gave Poole the right to have a Sheriff.   



The Sheriff of Poole 2024-2025

Councillor Mark Howell

poole sheriff chain_edited.jpg

The Sheriff's Chain

The chain of office dates from the 1880s and has been gradually built up to its present length of 37 links with a large coat of arms pendant as the centrepiece.  

Customs and Traditions

At the Annual Council meeting each year, the Sheriff is presented with a key, symbolically representing the past duty as Keeper of the Town Gaol, and also given a staff or wand surmounted with a crown, signifying the former connection with the Monarch.

The Sheriff attends the ceremony of the 'Beating of the Sea Bounds'.  This ancient ceremony dates back to at least 1364 and is held every few years and re-enacts the passing on through ritual and ceremony the physical boundaries that mark the Port of Poole.  

Before maps were made and before people could read, the markers for the boundaries were passed on to the next generation by physically showing them to a girl and a boy from Poole Town. 

To make sure they would not forget where the boundaries lay, the children would be taken ashore at each point and the girl's finger ceremoniously pricked with a bodkin and the boy's hand whipped with a leather strap. 


More recently this ceremony is passed on theatrically but as close to the real historic event as possible.  The Mayor and Sheriff of Poole board the boat accompanied by members of the public who wish to participate and the jurors who are sworn in for the trial .  Each boundary is marked in the same way as before.   The event includes a 'skirmish' with the people of the rival port, Wareham, pirates and a trial of the pirates at the end who (before health and safety halted it, were made to walk the plank).    


Into the 21st Century

Into the 21st Century


The Sheriff of Poole (in blue) precedes the Mayor (in red) in procession to protect against 'attack'

Poole's Office of Sheriff and its role has changed over the years in keeping with political and social shifts.  Today the role is purely ceremonial and forms the first of three one-year terms in Civic Office - Sheriff, Mayor then Deputy Mayor. 


Although the role of Sheriff acts as a support to the Mayor  when carrying out their civic duties and responsibilities, the Sheriff is still bound to protect the Mayor.  This means always preceding the Mayor in procession and sitting in the front seat of the Mayoral car and always carrying the Staff of Office ready to fend off any would-be attackers.     


The Sheriff does not attend any engagements/functions alone, unless for the sole purpose of talking about the office of Sheriff.  But the historic importance of the office continues.


Sheriff of Poole, Lindsay Wilson, 2016-2017 helps entertain the children from Chernoble during their annual visit with the Mayor, Xena Dion.

Sheriffs of Poole

Cllr Chris Bulteel, Sheriff of
Poole 2009-2010

Year       Sheriff

1984       Randolph Meech

1985       Gerald Bailey

1986       Edward Webster

1987       Kevin Chaffey

1988       Mary Ballam

1989       Ann Stribley

1990       Doreen Burgo

1991        Thomas Churchill

1992        Bruce Grant-Braham

1993        Fred Winwood

1994        Bernard Ewart

1995        Edward Hogg

1996        Annette Brooke

1997        John Curtis

1998        Frederick Wretham

1999        Joyce Jones

2000       Ronald Parker

2001        Graham Mason

2002        Ray Smith

2003        Les Burden

2004        Lou Knight

Year         Sheriff

2005         Judy Butt

2006         Jeff Allen

2007         Joyce Lavender

2008        Charles Meachin

2009        Chris Bulteel

2010         Graham Wilson

2011          Carol Evans

2012          Philip Eades

2013          Peter Adams

2014          Jo Clements

2015          Xena Dion

2016          Lindsay Wilson

2017           Sean Gabrielle

2018          Elaine Atkinson

2019          Julie Bagwell

2020         Julie Bagwell

2021          Tony Trent

2022          Mike Brooke

2023          Pete Miles

2024          Mark Howell


Councillor Xena Dion, 
Sheriff of Poole 2016 - 2017

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