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County History

THE SOVEREIGN’S reeves have operated in Kent since Saxon times, and as early as 669 King Egbert of Kent sent his reeve, Redfrid, to Paris to escort Theodore of Tarsus back to Canterbury to take office as Archbishop. The King’s Reeve administered agriculture and justice and collected rents on the King’s land.

The County claims the first recorded instance of the use of a new title, Scirgerefa (shire reeve or guardian), when Athelwine, the King’s Reeve, was described thus in a marriage contract drawn up in the presence of Canute (reigned 1017-35). Significant shrieval dates have been: 

1086 - At the time of the Domesday Book, Hamo de Crèvecoeur, William the Conqueror’s cousin and owner of much of Kent, was Sheriff of the County. 

1215 - Reginald de Cornhill was the long-serving Sheriff at the time of Magna Carta, but took the rebel barons' side and opened the gates of Rochester Castle to them.

1258 - Shrieval tenure of one year only was enacted, earlier Sheriffs having often served for several years in succession, although the annual change of post-holder did not operate universally until the mid-14th century.

1264 - Sir Roger de Leybourne, a marauding soldier who switched allegiance from Henry III to Simon de Montfort and back to the King, became Sheriff, and was also Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

1272 - Although High Sheriffs’ early responsibilities gave them opportunities to acquire valuable perquisites, the office was often onerous, as Henry Malmains of Pluckley discovered. As Sheriff of Kent at the time of Edward I’s coronation, he was required to send to Windsor 40 oxen and cows, 40 hogs, sheep, poultry and other provisions for the royal banquet. 

1404 - The Sheriff that year, Richard Clitherow, of Ash in Sandwich, was constituted Admiral of the Seas “from the Thames mouth westward”.

1436 – Sheriffs’ lives could be tumultuous. James Fiennes, of Kemsing and Seal started an illustrious career as Sheriff in 1436, followed two years later by becoming Sheriff of Sussex and Surrey. In 1447 he was created Lord Saye and Sele and was appointed Lord Treasurer of England in 1449, only to be beheaded in 1450 by Jack Cade.

1450 - As the Sovereign’s agents for most purposes within their counties, High Sheriffs were obliged to put down insurrections. In 1450 Jack Cade started his rebellion in Kent against Henry VI’s ministers, and slew the High Sheriff (and Lord Saye’s son-in-law), William Crowmer, who was attempting to put it down. Cade, in turn, was slain by one of Crowmer’s successors, Alexander Iden, who then married Crowmer’s widow, Elizabeth.

1511 - Sir Thomas Boleyn, of Hever Castle, was High Sheriff in 1511 and 1517. Despite being the grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I, he may have rued the day he first entered office and became one of Henry VIII’s chief advisers, as he lived to see the execution of his daughter Anne in 1536.

1554 - The High Sheriff, Sir Robert Southwell, contributed to the defeat of Sir Thomas Wyatt, who had served as Sheriff in 1550, in his rebellion against the proposed marriage of Queen Mary I (1553-58) and King Philip of Spain. In Wyatt’s army was Thomas Fane, who was pardoned on account of his youth, but himself became High Sheriff in 1572.

In the centuries that followed, the High Sheriff’s rôle became more peaceful, although they retained many official responsibilities. 

1638 - the High Sheriff held a meeting at the Red Lion, Sittingbourne, to decide what proportion of ship money should be paid by the Cinque Ports to ships of war of 450 tonnes.

1650 – Henry Crispe, of Quex, Birchington, was the first High Sheriff to be serve during the Commonwealth (when they continued to be appointed), soon handing over to his son Sir Nicholas Crispe. 

1812 - the High Sheriff ordered a general meeting of the Commissioners of Land Tax at the Bell Inn, Maidstone.

1856 - High Sheriffs' responsibilities for greeting and ensuring the welfare of High Court Judges continued through the centuries, although by 1856 they no longer met the Assize Judge in his carriage at the county boundary. That year the High Sheriff welcomed the Judge at Maidstone Station, from where he was conducted to the Sessions House (now part of County Hall) for refreshments, followed by a church service. 

1862 - the High Sheriff, Alexander Randall, presented to Maidstone Borough Council the statue of Queen Victoria, located at the top of the High Street in the County Town.

1956 - More recently, Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake served as High Sheriff in 1956, having previously had the rare distinction of being elected Mayor of Maidstone no less than 12 times. 

1981 - The first lady to be appointed High Sheriff of Kent was the Viscountess Monckton of Brenchley. 

1989 - the Earl Marshal granted the Office of High Sheriff of Kent a coat of arms to be used by High Sheriffs, either on its own or impaled (arranged side by side on one shield) with their own arms, described as Gules a sword erect point upwards hilt pommel and quillons Or and overall within a chaplet of hop vines also leaved and fructed with apple a horse rampant Argent.

The High Sheriff is an ex-officio trustee of The Kent People’s Trust, an independent registered crime prevention charity dedicated to improving community safety throughout the County. In 2005 the Trust became affiliated to National Crimebeat, the High Sheriffs’ Association’s national charity, and nominated The Joint, a youth club at Borough Green, for a National Crimebeat award. The club was delighted to receive third prize out of a total of 20 county submissions in 2005. Kent history was made again in 2013 when the 'Fighting Chance' judo project at Dartford was nominated by the High Sheriff and won first prize.

The High Sheriff is also an ex-officio member of the Court of the University of Kent, President of the Canterbury Shrievalty Association, and Patron of the Kent Prayer Breakfast and Kent Volunteers.

Recent High Sheriffs of Kent

1970 Major W M Robson
1971 Sir Derek Greenaway Bt TD JP
1972 A J H Taylor TD
1973 K McAlpine
1974 D W G Barham JP
1975 J G Phillimore CMG
1976 Lieutenant Colonel G L Doubleday TD JP DL
1977 A P Leschallas JP
1978 Major I M Calvocoressi MBE MC
1979 J K Shipton
1980 E St J Brice
1981 The Viscountess Monckton of Brenchley
1982 Captain R V J Evans
1983 Brigadier M A Atherton CBE JP
1984 R J Corben
1985 Major Sir Marc Noble, Bt
1986 Theda, Mrs Brian Fitzgerald Moore
1987 Captain R D Neame
1988 Lieutenant Colonel J Yerburgh
1989 Hon H C Maude
1990 J St A Warde
1991 D McA Holman
1992 H H Villiers JP
1993 Hon R C Denison-Pender
1994 Chloe, Mrs A J M Teacher
1995 R J Baker White
1996 P J C Smallwood
1997 E R P Boorman
1998 J P Merricks
1999 J B Sunley
2000 R F Loder-Symonds
2001 R H B Neame CBE DL
2002 C L Dawes
2003 A H V Monteuuis
2004 J R H Loudon
2005 W A A Wells TD
2006 Amanda, Mrs Michael Cottrell JP
2007 N L Wheeler JP
2008 R J Oldfield
2009 Jane, Mrs John Rogers
2010 P T E Massey
2011 Georgie, Mrs Charles Warner
2012 M W S Bax
2013 The Lord Colgrain
2014 H M Fenwick


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