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What Are the Shrievalties? High Sheriffs Explained

Understanding the High Sheriffs, the shrievalties and their impact.

Community Foundations have the privilege of interacting with people from all walks of life, meaning we develop a thorough understanding of our local counties. One member of the community with a unique perspective and impact is the High Sheriff; a royally appointed member of the public that exists across most of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish counties. 

The History of the High Sheriffs

The office of the High Sheriff is known as the shrievalty. The shrievalties have existed for over 1,000 years and have had an everchanging set of responsibilities but have always been intertwined with the police, emergency services and social cohesion. According to,

“Of the 63 clauses in the Magna Carta of 1215, no less than 27 relate to the role of the Sheriff and from 1254 the High Sheriff supervised the election to Parliament of two Knights of the Shire.”

While no exact date is known about the inception of this role, we know that in the 11th and 12th century the shrievalties held extensive power. They were in charge of crown property in their Shire, collected taxes and levies on behalf of the Crown, could summon the full power of the Shire to address lawlessness and, ultimately, were the primary representatives/agents for the Crown.

Today, the shrievalties play a different role in our community, but are important in the development of our voluntary sector.

"We have had a close link with the High Sheriffs since our very beginning... It has been a great pleasure to get to know each of our High Sheriffs and I am in awe of their generosity."

Kevin Richmond
Sussex Community Foundation

The Shrievalties Today

According to, the duties of the Shrievalties includes the following:

  • To lend active support to the principal organs of the Constitution within their county – the Royal Family, the Judiciary, the Police and other law enforcement agencies, the emergency services, local authorities, and church and faith group
  • To take an active part in supporting and promoting the voluntary sector and giving all possible encouragement to the voluntary organisations within a County, particularly those involved with crime reduction and social cohesion
  • To ensure the welfare of visiting High Court Judges, to attend on them at Court and to offer them hospitality
  • To make a meaningful contribution to the High Sheriff’s County during the year of Office and to uphold and enhance the ancient Office of High Sheriff 
  • To support the Lord-Lieutenant on royal visits and on other occasions as appropriate

At Sussex Community Foundation, we work closely with both the High Sheriff of East Sussex and the High Sheriff of West Sussex to fulfil their voluntary sector goals. Both shrievalties of East Sussex and West Sussex hold funds with us, and with our extensive connections to community interest groups and charities throughout the county, we are able to help them channel grants to the right places.

As such, community foundations and the shrievalties across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have a mutualistic relationship. This allows us to combine our resources to invest in local communities and create a better tomorrow. 

The role of High Sheriff only lasts one year and has been held by a variety of different people with different careers. This allows many to prioritise different matters and have an impact across every facet of Sussex.

High Sheriffs and Sussex Community Foundation

Our CEO Kevin Richmond had this to say about the role of High Sheriff:

“At Sussex Community Foundation we have had a close link with the High Sheriffs since our very beginning, and over the last decade we have helped each High Sheriff to visit and learn from a vast range of grassroots charities that they would otherwise not be aware of.

It has been a great pleasure to get to know each of our High Sheriffs and I am in awe of their generosity. One former High Sheriff said his main job was to say thank you to people. Having seen the impact of a thank on so many small charities, I can safely say that is in itself a job worth doing.”

Find out more from the High Sheriff's Association of England and Wales.

Published on 31st May 2022

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