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(With acknowledgments to Southampton City Council)




The Sheriff of Southampton 2024-2025 Councillor James Baillie


Southampton superseded the Saxon Hamtun and was a royal borough before 1086.  It is believed that Henry II granted the town its charter in the 12th century, most probably in acknowledgment of the town's importance as a south coast port, but the borough was not incorporated until the 1400's.  In 1447, Henry VI made Southampton a county through King's Charter. This status granted the people of Southampton the authority and right to choose a sheriff.  The first appointed sheriff was Henry Bruyn. 

Traditionally, up until the Municipal Charter of 1835 the sheriff was chosen from the Mayor and Burgesses of the City - normally a person of rank from within that circle. 

The Sheriff of Southampton had very much the same level of power and authority as the County sheriff but was not considered equal in status as the county was much larger in size and population.  The Sheriff's duties included attendance at the town and county assizes, and the quarter sessions, for each of which he summoned the juries. He held a county court when necessary and executed writs from the superior court.


The custom of Beating the Bounds was revived in 1957 after a gap of over 100 years. Originally, the Mayor and Sheriff, accompanied by other civic dignitaries, toured the bounds of the borough of Southampton on horseback to check it was intact.

More recently, this responsibility has been undertaken by the Sheriff of Southampton and Service Director, Legal and Governance; however, it is now undertaken by car rather than on horseback. Although the route for the ceremony is chosen by the Sheriff and may alter slightly from year to year, some of the historic, ancient boundaries are still visited.


In recent years, Sheriffs have encouraged participation by local school children. At various pre-chosen boundary stones, the children assemble and, together with the Sheriff, beat back some of the undergrowth to make the

boundary clear.


After the boundary has been toured and checked to be intact, the Sheriff returns to the Civic Centre to oversee the procedures of the 

Court Leet.


Customs and Traditions

Since the roles and responsibilities of Sheriff became more ceremonial the individual sheriffs in Southampton have an influence on what and how old customs and traditions are kept alive and to what extent local people are invited to get involved.  


Sheriff of Southampton, 2021, Jaqui Rayment with Mayor Alex Houghton at Remembrance Service


Southampton's Court Leet ceremony takes place annually on the first Tuesday after Michaelmas following the Beating of the Bounds.  


Originally held on a mound called 'Cutthorn' it moved to the Bargate in the 1600's and then to the Audit House.  It is now held in the City's Civic Centre.  The Sheriff of Southampton has overall responsibility and authority over the Court and how it is run. 


The Court Leet is opened formally by the Town Crier and the jurors, between 12 and 16 in number are sworn in.  Jurors include the Sheriff, as Foreman, past councillors including past mayors and sheriffs, honorary aldermen and other community representatives.   


Representations from the public are received by written 'Presentments' following notice of the Court Leet in local newspapers and other forums.   


After hearing the representation the Jury votes on whether it should be accepted, mainly based on its relevance to local concern.  When a representation is accepted it is then brought into the City Council's system to be fully considered.    


The Sheriff's Chain


Into the 21st Century

Cllr Alex Houghton, Sheriff of Southampton, 2020-2021, supports the installation of a commemorative bench

The Sheriff of Southampton's role is largely ceremonial and each Sheriff will make their own mark upon it.  Today the Sheriff 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 and initiatives

Peter Baillie, Sheriff of Southampton, 2018-2019 promotes the launch of a new charity

Sheriffs of Southampton


Sheriff of Southampton 1998-1999 and 2011-2012 Cllr Derek Burke

Year         Sheriff

1984         Geoffrey Malcolm Ranger

1985         Jack V Candy

1986         Ivy White

1987         Maria Bear

1988        Norman Best

1989        Mary Key

1990        Joan Baker

1991         Pat Bear

1992        Kenneth Street

1993        Eddie Read

1994        Margaret Singerman

1995        Dorian Attwood

1996        Kenneth Street

1997        Michael Andrews

1998        Derek Burke

1999        Peter Wakeford

2000       Christine Kelly

2001        Norah Goss

2002        Parvin Damani

2003        Harry Mitchell

2004        Edwina Cook

Year        Sheriff

2005       John Slade

2006       Stephen Barnes-Andrews

2007       Brian Parnell

2008       Elizabeth Mizon

2009       Carol Cunio

2010       Terrence Matthews

2011        Derek Burke

2012        Ivan White

2013        Susan Blatchford

2014        Linda Norris

2015        Cathy McEwing

2016        Les Harris

2017         Stephen Barnes-Andrews

2018        Peter Baillie

2019        Susan Blatchford

2020       Alex Houghton

2021        Jacqui Rayment 

2022       Valerie Laurent

2023       Dave Shields

2024       James Baillie

Sheriff of Southampton 2018-2019 Cllr Peter Baillie

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