Meet the new High Sheriffs

PUBLISHED: 01:16 11 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:23 20 February 2013

Meet the new High Sheriffs

Meet the new High Sheriffs

Many people know of her Lord Lieutenants, but Her Majesty has two other representatives here in Sussex, the High Sheriffs of West and East Sussex. Here we take a look at this ancient office and its new holders

Many people in Sussex have heard of our two Lords Lieutenant, Susan Pyper and Peter Field but Her Majesty has two other representatives here, the High Sheriffs of West and East Sussex. Here we take a look at this ancient office and its new holders

At Lewes Town Court, through a covenant from the Privy Council, David Allam was appointed High Sheriff of East Sussex and Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke, High Sheriff of West Sussex.

Both men read their declarations to a High Court judge who then confirmed their appointments. It was a colourful occasion with the judge and officials attired in their court robes and the two sheriffs in 19th Century court dress, complete with swords.

Following the swearing in of the two candidates the whole gathering assembled on the outside steps of the Courthouse for photographs as three trumpeters blew a fanfare.

Both men were chosen by The Queen who pricked their documents of appointment with a silver bodkin to signify approval.

David Allam, High Sheriff of East Sussex
Retired solicitor David Allam, the new High Sheriff of East Sussex, lives in Bishopstone. He says he would have preferred to have been a farmer had not his father decreed otherwise.

However, a stint in a solicitors office where he was expected to deal with every aspect of work that came through the door: divorce, fraud, matrimonial disputes, property, debts and probate gave him a great insight into how people live and the problems they encounter.

Later Mr Allam became Justices Clerk for the Lay Magistrates in East Sussex. His experience here led him to think about how mentally impaired people were dealt with by the law and he was involved in implementing steps to ensure better provision was made for them.

He sees his appointment as an opportunity to seek out and hopefully offer advice and assistance to vulnerable people.

He has spent a good deal of time serving as a Trustee for various charities. Like many others, he is concerned that with money being more and more difficult to find the voluntary sector, so important in our society, will be under ever greater strain.

Mr Allam has been associated with the South of England Show for many years. He served as Chairman for four years and before that was Vice Chairman at the time when the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease became a real crisis and the Showground had to be closed for six months. At that time there was a real question as to whether the Show could survive.

It was very difficult; it required many, many hours of my time and there was a lot of driving to boot.

Thankfully the show did survive and the annual event remains a marvellous showcase for Sussex agriculture. How to keep our countryside alive and prosperous is one of his major concerns.

Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke, High Sheriff of West Sussex
Borde Hill mansion and garden, near Haywards Heath, home of Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke, High Sheriff of West Sussex, is no stranger to county sheriff incumbents.

Andrewjohns great great grandfather, Col Robert Stephenson Clarke, assumed the position in 1915 as had Sir Stephen Boord, the builder and first owner of Borde Hill, in 1628.

His duties will include ensuring the well-being and protection of high court judges on circuit while also acting as returning officer for parliamentary elections in the county constituencies, proclaiming the accession of a new sovereign [not a function he is expecting to have to undertake] and maintaining the loyalty of subjects to the Crown.

In practice, some of my responsibilities are delegated, he says. The protection of the judges and maintenance of law and order, for example, rest in the hands of the Chief Constable of West Sussex.

As High Sheriff, he will be attending a host of official and public functions, including royal visits, in the county. This Diamond Jubilee year, Mr Stephenson Clarke is expecting a particularly crowded calendar of engagements, as he will be at the side of the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex when members of the royal family visit the county.

I am a Royal official, non-political, above local interest and so able to enforce the sovereigns interest in the county, he explains. The post is an unpaid one and none of my expenses fall on the public purse.

As High Sheriff he has the power to assemble various individuals and office-holders in the county and to support and encourage voluntary and statutory organisations.

The consequences of prison for offenders and the impact of internment on their families will hold special interest for him in his year of office, as will the plight of disadvantaged young people.

As a member of the court of the Clothworkers Guild in the City of London [as was Samuel Pepys] Ive visited many charities under its remit of donating millions of pounds a year to help disabled people and the young disadvantaged. Many have involved those suffering housing, drink and drug problems after serving a prison sentence.

The visits raised my awareness of the good work being done to help the employment of offenders but made me realise that it is disparate. I hope to be able to help by bringing together the community and law and order in ways that will improve the prospects of offenders.

If in my year as High Sheriff of West Sussex I can put mechanisms in place to allow a flowering of results in years to come, I think I will have achieved what Id set out to do. It is important to stress though that it is service to the office itself that should be recognised, rather than the achievements of any one individual an office that commands a long history of respectability.

Conscious of his privileged position as a landowner the Borde Hill estate is spread acros hundreds of acres of beautiful Sussex Weald
Mr Stephenson Clarke believes that with that privilege comes duty
and responsibility.

I believe everyone in society has a duty back to society because we are all members of it. The office of High Sheriff offers a way of carrying out that duty, without monetary reward or perceived gain.

About the Office
The Office of High Sheriff is at least 1,000 years old, dating from Saxon times before the Norman Conquest. It is the oldest continuous secular office under the Crown and the incumbent is now the sovereigns representative for all matters of the judiciary and the maintenance of law and order.

Traditionally sheriffs were appointed by the Monarch who would prick the document of appointment with a silver bodkin to signify approval.

In Elizabeth Is time, the names of the three nominees, scrawled in ink by quill pen on parchment, could be tampered with erased or altered, explains Andrewjohn, Stephenson Clarke who is the latest member of his family to hold the honorary position.

Pricking a hole through the name of the nominee written on the parchment prevented the possibility of any malicious or fraudulent practices.

Today, three nominees, one for each of the next three years, are still selected, for less sinister though still valid, reasons. Should the circumstances of the first nominee change, there are other names to choose from without going through the whole selection process again.

It is said that when Prince Albert saw Queen Victoria pricking in February 1847 he asked Lord Campbell about this rather curious custom. It originated in ancient times, Sir when sovereigns did not know how to write their names, was the reply.

Today High Sheriffs have few genuine powers; their function is largely representational. They are in attendance on Royal visits to the County and at the opening ceremonies before High Court judges go on circuit and they do their very best in every way to support our Queen.

Originally, the High Sheriff held many of the powers now vested in lords lieutenant (the sovereigns personal representative), high court judges, magistrates, coroners, local authorities and the Inland Revenue.

The splitting of Sussex into East and West in 1974 created a high sheriff of each county.

Latest from the Sussex Life