Sheriffs of the City of London

Last updated

Two sheriffs are elected annually for the City of London by the Liverymen of the City livery companies. Today's sheriffs have only nominal duties, but the historical officeholders had important judicial responsibilities. They have attended the justices at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, since its original role as the court for the City and Middlesex.


The sheriffs live in the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, during their year of service, so that one of them can always be attendant on the judges. In Court No 1 the principal chairs on the bench are reserved for their and the Lord Mayor's use, with the Sword of the City hanging behind the bench. It is an invariable custom that the Lord Mayor of London must previously have served as a sheriff.

By a "custom of immemorial usage in the City", [1] the two sheriffs are elected at the Midsummer Common Hall by the Liverymen by acclamation, unless a ballot is demanded from the floor, which takes place within fourteen days. The returning officers at the Common Hall are the Recorder of London (senior Judge of the "Old Bailey") and the outgoing Sheriffs. As of September 2019, the current sheriffs are Michael Mainelli and Christopher Hayward. [2]

As elected officers from the 7th century (excepting 1067 to 1132), the sheriffs' jurisdiction covers the square mile of the City of London. The more recent creation of High Sheriff of Greater London covers areas of London outside the City, which today incorporates parts of several old counties, most notably Middlesex.

History of the office

The title of sheriff, or shire reeve, evolved during the Anglo-Saxon period of English history. The reeve was the representative of the king in a city, town or shire, responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing the law. [3] By the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, the City of London had sheriffs, usually two at a time. The sheriffs were the most important city officials and collected London's annual taxes on behalf of the royal exchequer; they also had judicial duties in the City's law courts. [4]

Until c.1130, the sheriffs were directly appointed by the king. London gained a degree of self-government by a charter granted by Henry I, including the right to choose its own sheriff, a right which was affirmed in an 1141 charter by King Stephen. By Henry's charter, the sheriffs of London also gained jurisdiction over the neighbouring county of Middlesex, paying £300 per annum to the Crown for the privilege. [4] [5] This did not make the county a dependency of the City but rather from that time the City of London and Middlesex were viewed as a single administrative area. [6]

In 1189, [7] an annually elected mayor was introduced as chief magistrate for the City of London (along the lines of some European cities of the time such as Rouen and Liège); this change was reaffirmed by a charter granted by King John in 1215. As such, the sheriffs were relegated to a less senior role in the running of the city, and became subordinate to the mayor. [8] The mayor (later Lord Mayor of London) generally served as sheriff before becoming mayor, and in 1385 the Common Council of London stipulated that every future Lord Mayor should "have previously been Sheriff so that he may be tried as to his governance and bounty before he attains to the Estate of Mayoralty"; this tradition continues to this day. [7]

In 1889 the jurisdiction of the sheriffs was restricted to the City. The Local Government Act 1888 created a new office of High Sheriff of Middlesex appointed in the same manner as other English and Welsh counties. At the same time, the most populous parts of Middlesex were included in the new County of London, which had its own High Sheriff. [9]

List of sheriffs of London

See also


  1. Howell et al., p. 191
  2. "Election Results". City of London. Archived from the original on 11 October 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  3. Bruce & Calder, p. 10.
  4. 1 2 Inwood (1998) , pp. 55–56
  5. "Charter granted by Henry I to London". Florilegium Urbanum. The ORB: On-line Reference Book for Medieval Studies. 18 August 2001. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  6. Victoria County History. A history of the County of Middlesex. Vol. 2. pp. 15–60. Paragraph 12. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  7. 1 2 "Sheriffs and Aldermen". City of London Corporation. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011.
  8. Inwood (1998) , p. 59
  9. "The Local Government Bill". The Times . London. 17 May 1888. p. 8.

Related Research Articles

The Lord Mayor of London is the mayor of the City of London and the leader of the City of London Corporation. Within the City, the Lord Mayor is accorded precedence over all individuals except the sovereign and retains various traditional powers, rights, and privileges, including the title and style The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London.

A sheriff is a government official, with varying duties, existing in some countries with historical ties to England where the office originated. There is an analogous, although independently developed, office in Iceland that is commonly translated to English as sheriff, and this is discussed below.

Old Bailey Court in London and one of a number of buildings housing the Crown Court

The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly referred to as the Old Bailey after the street on which it stands, is a criminal court building in central London, one of several that houses the Crown Court of England and Wales. The street outside follows the route of the ancient wall around the City of London, which was part of the fortification's bailey, hence the metonymic name.

Shires of Scotland Historic administrative and geographical division of Scotland

The shires of Scotland, or counties of Scotland, are historic subdivisions of Scotland established in the Middle Ages and used as administrative divisions until 1975. Originally established for judicial purposes, from the 17th century they started to be used for local administration purposes as well. The areas used for judicial functions (sheriffdoms) came to diverge from the shires, which ceased to be used for local government purposes after 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.

City of London Corporation Municipal corporation of City of London

The City of London Corporation, officially and legally the Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London, is the municipal governing body of the City of London, the historic centre of London and the location of much of the United Kingdom's financial sector.

Livery company Ancient trade association in the City of London

There are 110 livery companies, comprising London's ancient and modern trade associations and guilds, almost all of which are styled the 'Worshipful Company of...' their respective craft, trade or profession. These livery companies play a significant part in the life of the City of London, not least by providing charitable-giving and networking opportunities. Liverymen retain voting rights for the senior civic offices, such as the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs and Corporation, its ancient municipal authority with extensive local government powers.

Worshipful Company of Drapers City of London guild

The Worshipful Company of Drapers is one of the 110 livery companies of the City of London. It has the formal name The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London. More usually known simply as the Drapers' Company, it is one of the historic Great Twelve Livery Companies and was founded during the Middle Ages.

Worshipful Company of Musicians Livery company of the City of London

The Worshipful Company of Musicians is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. Its history dates back to at least 1350. Originally a specialist guild for musicians, its role became an anachronism in the 18th century, when the centre of music making in London moved from the City to the West End, and for more than a century it was a general guild for figures in the City, with no specific musical role. In the late 19th century, the musical element was revived, and the modern Company promotes all aspects of the art and science of music.

Worshipful Company of Shipwrights Livery company of the City of London

The Worshipful Company of Shipwrights is one of the ancient livery companies of the City of London. Although the Shipwrights' Company is no longer a shipbuilding trade association representing solely London-based industry, through its membership it retains strong links with global trade, and maritime and shipping professions.

A high sheriff is a ceremonial officer for each shrieval county of England and Wales and Northern Ireland or the chief sheriff of a number of paid sheriffs in U.S. states who outranks and commands the others in their court-related functions. In Canada, the High Sheriff provides administrative services to the supreme and provincial courts.

A recorder is a judicial officer in England and Wales and some other common law jurisdictions.

The Queen's Remembrancer is an ancient judicial post in the legal system of England and Wales. Since the Lord Chancellor no longer sits as a judge, the Remembrancer is the oldest judicial position in continual existence. The post was created in 1154 by King Henry II as the chief official in the Exchequer Court, whose purpose was "to put the Lord Treasurer and the Barons of Court in remembrance of such things as were to be called upon and dealt with for the benefit of the Crown", a primary duty being to keep records of the taxes, paid and unpaid.

Shire court Anglo-Saxon legal institution

A Shire court, or moot was an Anglo-Saxon legal institution, used to maintain law and order at a local level, and perform various administrative functions, including the collection of taxes for the central government.

The Recorder of London is an ancient legal office in the City of London. The Recorder of London is the senior Circuit Judge at the Central Criminal Court, hearing trials of criminal offences. The Recorder is appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the City of London Corporation with the concurrence of the Lord Chancellor. The Recorder's deputy is the Common Serjeant of London, appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. The Recorder of London is, since 14 April 2020, Mark Lucraft.

Court of Common Pleas (England) English court

The Court of Common Pleas, or Common Bench, was a common law court in the English legal system that covered "common pleas"; actions between subject and subject, which did not concern the king. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century after splitting from the Exchequer of Pleas, the Common Pleas served as one of the central English courts for around 600 years. Authorised by Magna Carta to sit in a fixed location, the Common Pleas sat in Westminster Hall for its entire existence, joined by the Exchequer of Pleas and Court of King's Bench.

History of local government in England Aspect of history

The history of local government in England is one of gradual change and evolution since the Middle Ages. England has never possessed a formal written constitution, with the result that modern administration is based on precedent, and is derived from administrative powers granted to older systems, such as that of the shires.

Ancient borough Historic unit of lower-tier local government in England and Wales

The ancient boroughs were a historic unit of lower-tier local government in England and Wales. The ancient boroughs covered only important towns and were established by charters granted at different times by the monarchy. Their history is largely concerned with the origin of such towns and how they gained the right of self-government. Ancient boroughs were reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, which introduced directly elected corporations and allowed the incorporation of new industrial towns. Municipal boroughs ceased to be used for the purposes of local government in 1974, with borough status retained as an honorific title granted by the Crown.

The Royal Commission on the Corporation of the City of London was a Royal Commission, established in 1853, which considered the local government arrangements of the City of London and the surrounding metropolitan area.

Bristol City Council, formerly known as The Bristol Corporation, is the local government authority governing the city of Bristol, England. Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, successive royal charters granted increasing rights of local governance to Bristol. County status was attained in 1373 and city status in the early sixteenth century. Bristol Corporation was established in the nineteenth century and the office of Lord Mayor was created in 1888. Following a brief period as part of the county of Avon in the late twentieth century, Bristol regained its status as a city and county in 1996.

Guildable Manor is a Court Leet in Southwark under the authority of the City of London, along with the King's Manor, Southwark, and the Great Liberty. The name of 'Guildable' first recorded in 1377 refers to the collection of taxes there and was adopted to distinguish this from the other manors of the Southwark area. Its legal title, according to a Royal charter granted to the City by King Edward III in 1327, is 'the ville of Southwark' i.e. 'ville = 'town'; in the more substantive charter of Edward VI it is designated 'The Town and Borough of Southwark' as is stated on its Seal. It is a preserved limited jurisdiction under the Administration of Justice Act 1977. Although neither a guild nor a livery company, the Guildable Manor does have a permanent organization, consisting of Officers and Jurors.