AT our April meeting, Graham Peters, DL, Past High Sheriff for East Sussex 2013-2014, told us that his office originated well before 1066.
The sheriff was accountable to the monarch and had county oversight of many functions and functionaries. These at various times have included: Collector of Taxes and Chancellor of the Exchequer for a County, organising the justice system and administration of punishments (including castration, blinding, and amputations).
In some hands, the office became almost a ‘licence to extort money’.
Over time the sheriff’s powers were gradually removed and many of the duties were taken over by Lord Lieutenants, the court system and the police.
Nowadays the sheriff has a few remaining ceremonial duties including entertaining visiting High Court judges and attending on the Royal family when they visit the county. When for example the Queen and Prince Philip visited Harveys Brewery in Lewes last year, he was on parade. Black velvet coat and waistcoat, knee breeches, bicorn hat, lace cuffs and jabot, buckled shoes and a sword.
The principal role of the modern High Sheriff is to support and thank charitable, voluntary and emergency services such as the Coastguard, fire services, police, street pastors, Ambulance and Air Ambulance and many charities including those who support homeless people, local hospices and older people’s clubs. It was a busy, revealing and enjoyable year.
We were pleased to have Sarah Peters also as our guest. A fine luncheon was provided by Cooden Beach Golf Club. Our next meeting will be on Friday, May 9, 2.30pm to 5pm, £6, at the Arthur Easton Centre, St Michael’s Hospice.
This will be a double bill: a Tea Party ‘WW1 Remembered’ (beef dripping sandwiches for tea) and the posthumous launch of our previous chairman Sydney Litherland’s book The Junak King. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org (all welcome).