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South Yorkshire

County History

The High Sheriffs of Yorkshire 

The office of High Sheriff can be traced back to the seventh century when the Saxons divided their kingdoms into more practical administrative regions they named shires. A reeve was a community leader and each shire soon had its reeve, shire-reeve or sheriff. He was a royal appointment with the duties of collecting revenues from the shire; raising armed forces; and administering justice in the shire court.

The Normans kept the office of sheriff and the earliest record identifies Gamel, son of Osbern as Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1066. He may have been the last Saxon Sheriff allowed to remain in office. Gamel, son of Osbert, a king’s thegn was a substantial Yorkshire landowner at the time of the Domesday Survey, and was probably the same man.

Serious historians are referred to a book compiled by the University of York and published in 2000 entitled “The Lord Lieutenants & High Sheriffs of Yorkshire 1066 – 2000”. It describes the origins of the two offices and biographical summaries of all known High Sheriffs and Lord Lieutenants of Yorkshire.

Today the High Sheriff is still a royal appointment and every March The Queen pricks the name of each High Sheriff on parchment, just as Elizabeth I did centuries before. The role remains unpaid and without expense claims. 

The High Sheriff supported by his wife, Under Sheriff and Chaplain visits the police, courts, prisons, charities and those who work with them for the County. The role is completely non-political. We are there to recognise those who have done exceptional work; to bring people together; and to facilitate things which need to be done.


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