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York

(With acknowledgements to York City Council)

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Introducing...

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The Sheriff of York 2022-2023

Suzie Mercer

History

By the Charter of Richard II drawn up on 18th May 1396 the three bailiffs who had been chosen by their predecessors in office were replaced by two sheriffs elected by the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors.  The election was held on 21st September and the year of Office started at Michaelmas.  The Sheriff's duties are summarised in the Bailiff's Oath of 1353.  They were responsible for the payment of the City's fee farm rent to the King and had to enforce the assizes of bread and ale and other market regulations; empanel jurors, do justice to rich and poor and collect the issues of the City Courts. 

As the ranks of the Aldermen were filled by past Sheriffs, the Shrievalty was a step towards the Mayoralty.  Each Sheriff of York had his own Sergeant-at-Mace responsible for making summonses and arrests, and also a Clerk.  According to the decree of 1419 the Sheriffs were to be preceded through the City by a Sergeant and have an 'honest servant' at their back.  This rule, amongst other demands, made holding the Office of Sheriff very expensive.  In addition the Sheriff had to provide an Annual Feast for the dignitaries of the City and a further dinner following the annual 'riding' during which they proclaimed the byelaws of the City at various places. 

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The civic party 2021 with Cllr Ashley
Mason elected as Sheriff of York

As the ranks of the Aldermen were filled by past Sheriffs, the Shrievalty was a step towards the Mayoralty.  Each Sheriff of York had his own Sergeant-at-Mace responsible for making summonses and arrests, and also a Clerk.  According to the decree of 1419 the Sheriffs were to be preceded through the City by a Sergeant and have an 'honest servant' at their back.  This rule, amongst other demands, made holding the Office of Sheriff very expensive.  In addition the Sheriff had to provide an Annual Feast for the dignitaries of the City and a further dinner following the annual 'riding' during which they proclaimed the byelaws of the City at various places. 

In 1762 it was noted that, for their post election feast, the Sheriffs were expected to provide eleven gallons of red and white wine; six shillings worth of bread; two tablecloths; six napkins; sugar; cups; glasses and two tea-kettles.  The Sheriffs normally wore black gowns but at their election were expected to have scarlet ones for election day and other formal occasions such as the Assizes and Quarter sessions.  The fine for refusing to serve as Sheriff was considerable - £100 in the early nineteenth century.  Fines from non-residents elected to Office but unable or unwilling to serve made substantial contributions to the City's revenues.  

The Sheriff hed a Court of pleas most Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays which gradually became less and then only weekly and mainly for pleas of debt and trespass.  The Sheriff had his own prison - the Sheriff's Kidcote on Ouse Bridge for felons and misdemeanants.  

 

There were two Sheriffs up until the Municipal Reform act of 1835 which reduced the number to one.  Their responsibilities diminished considerably as the Court over which they had presided was discontinued.  The role then rapidly became more ceremonial. 

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The Sheriff's Chain

The sheriff's gold chain and badge were given by Alderman Thomas Walker in 1893.  The sheriff's and under-sheriff's staffs were given by Reginald Teasdale, under-sheriff, in 1921, and the sheriff's lady's chain by J. H. Turner in 1919

Customs and Traditions

 Sheriff's Riding

 

Each year on winter solstice (December 21st) the traditional 'Sheriff's Riding' takes place after sunset.  It is now a blend of two ancient traditions: the 'Sheriff's Ride' and 'Yulegirthol'. 

 

The 'Sheriff's Ride' originally took place in November and is referenced in records as far back as 1419 but is believed to be much older.  The event is a ceremonial ride around the City proclaiming the  by-laws of York at various places.

The lavish procession is still headed by the York Waits dressed in scarlet livery playing loud and jubilant music.  

 

 The custom now incorporates the 'Yulegirthol' ceremony which traditionally marked the start of 'Yule' on 21st December (winter solstice and St Thomas's Day)  

The city's Sheriffs (now one) would welcome the arrival of the High Feast of Yule by reading the 'Yoole-girthol', a benevolent proclamation that "all manner of whores, thieves, dice-players and other unthrifty folk" were welcome in the city during the Twelve Days (of Yule).

 In recent times the event commences with the Sheriff's proclamation at Micklegate Bar.  Usually on foot but still accompanied by a considerable and colourful procession further proclamations and horn blowing take place at several points along the route.  The event finishes at the Mansion House where the Sheriff of York delivers a speech still welcoming to the City “whores, thieves, diceplayers and other unthrifty folk” for the period of twelve days of Yule.

 

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Cllr Jonathon Tyler Sheriff of York 2016-2017 inspects the quality of beer at the Assize of Ale

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Cllr Verna Campbell, Sheriff of York 2018 reading a proclamation at the start of York's Assize of Ale

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Sheriff's Riding

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Cllr Jonathon Tyler Sheriff of York delivers his concluding speech at the Sheriff's Riding , 2016. 

York Assize of Ale

Each year (subject to the Sheriff of York's approval) on a Saturday in August another ancient tradition is revisited.  The assize is taken from a medieval custom whereby the Sheriff would summon his men to visit the ale houses in the city and taste the ale to ensure it was palatable.  The custom was revived as a charity fund raising event by the Guild of Scriveners over 25 years ago. 

The event stems from the Sheriff of York's duty, as far back as Richard II's reign around 1396, to hold the City's publicans to account for the beer they served - a preventative measure against cheating on measures, quality and price. 

 

 

The Sheriff now follows a route around the City's participating pubs assisted by their 'Sergeants' to check the quality of beers.  The group is accompanied by the City Waits and other citizens willing to help with the difficult and onerous task

Into the 21st Century

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Sheriff of York 2021, Ashley Mason promotes the role and history of the Office and increases the 'reach' to people through social media 
 

  • Facebook
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York's Office of Sheriff and its role has changed over the years in keeping with political and social shifts.  Before the Sheriff is appointed the Lord Mayor-Elect is consulted as the two must work closely through their year in Office.  The Sheriff ranks next to the Lord Mayor in civic dignity and is entitled to the deference of all citizens. 

 

Although elected by the City Council, the Sheriff is still the Sovereign's representative in the City and attends H.M. Judges when they visit the City three times a year. 

 

The Sheriff also formally oversees arrangements for Parliamentary elections.  They assist and deputise for the Lord Mayor of York and serve to promote the City, the role and Office of Sheriff and support local residents how and when they can. 

An important function in the 21st Century is to help with fund-raising for local charities.  Normally for the Mayor's chosen

charities the Sheriff can support or organise fund raising events in their own right.

 

 

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The Guild of Scrivemers, raise money on behalf of the Sheriff of York through the Assize of Ale.
 

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The Sheriff of York, Jo Trythall worked with the Mayor of York to choose three Charities to support through fundraising 
 

Sheriffs of York

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Year       Sheriff

1984       Kenneth King

1985       Malcolm Bartram

1986       David Wilde

1987       Paul Milling

1988       Ken Cooper

1989       William Richardson

1990       Peter Brown

1991       Bernard Bell

1992       Cyril Waite

1993       David Horwell

1994       Sue Cooke

1995       Reginald Pulleyn

1996       Kenneth Cooper

1997       Eurig Thomas

1998       Bernard Bell

1999       Harry Briggs

2000      Barrie Ferguson

2001       Janet Greenwood

2002       Martin Brumby

2003       Keith Orrell

2004       Robert Scrase

 

 

Year          Sheriff

2005         Gilbert Nimmo

2006         Richard Baldwin

2007         Keith Hyman

2008         David Wylde

2009         Jill Burnett

2010         Richard Watson

2011          Alan Deller

2012          Paul Firth

2013          Brian Watson

2014          John Kenny

2015          Brian Smith

2016          Jonathan Tyler

2017          Gillian Brian

2018          Verna Campbell

2019          Dafydd Williams (22/05 - 25/07)

                  Jo Trythall (from 26/07)

2020         Jo Trythall

2021          Ashley Mason

2022         Suzie Mercer

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