Why sheriffs of London cherish the City's power

Charles Bowman
Inside The City Of London's New Landmark Skyscraper
Charles Bowman is a former sheriff of the City of London (Source: Getty)

I served recently as one of the two sheriffs of London – a role that surpassed all expectations.

Whether travelling to Cuba with the former lord mayor Jeffrey Mountevans, drumming up business for UK firms, hosting judges’ lunches at the Central Criminal Court, or presenting prizes at a City school, I relished every minute of the role.

The job has its lighter moments, but there is a serious side to the shrievalty, which dates back to the seventh century, making it the oldest secular role outside the monarchy. In Anglo-Saxon times, the ‘Shire Reeve’ represented the king to collect taxes and enforce the law.

Read more: Celebrity connection lifts City’s sheriff election

The role has, of course, changed considerably over the centuries.

Fast forward to the present day and, as well as looking after the City of London’s relationship with the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey), the sheriffs attend to, and support, the lord mayor in his or her role as ambassador and key spokesperson for London and the UK’s financial and business services.

The sheriffs officiate at sessions at the Central Criminal Court, where they work and have accommodation, and attend a large number of City functions, as well as travel with the lord mayor on domestic and foreign business visits.

Read more: It's official: City Airport really is the only airport in London

They also work with the City’s livery companies, which are responsible for electing two new sheriffs every June. Andrew Parmley, from whom I took over as aldermanic sheriff, served from 2014 to 2015 and took office as the 689th lord mayor on 11 November.

Being a sheriff is a fairly full time job – albeit I continued my role as a practising PwC partner throughout.

Some of the events in our diaries are planned for, often, many months in advance; others are less expected.

Read more: Gallery: Spectacular Great Fire of London 350th anniversary display

We celebrated Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday, we commemorated the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, and we considered the outcome of the European referendum.

During the course of my year as a sheriff, I learnt much.

I was particularly struck by a number of features of our great city: the relevance of our rule of law; the significance of the City of London to the wider UK economy; the importance of continuing to rebuild trust in the City; and the seriousness of our well-being, education and employability agendas.

And going back to “Brexit”, I have been reminded of the crucial roles of the City of London Corporation and the mayoralty in supporting our UK financial and professional services through periods of change, opportunity and risk.

The foundations of the City of London are remarkably strong and while giving a speech to some 700 delegates at a wealth management event in Qingdao, one of China’s new mega-cities, I realised how fortunate we are.

Read more: City of London Corporation warns Brexit threatens City's global standing

Our great city thrives due to its rule of law, timezone, access to talent, and language. We can take pride in its trust, knowledge, meritocracy, diversity and culture.

Our modern city – a global financial powerhouse – is underpinned by ancient, and yet still relevant, institutions, including the shrievalty, the mayoralty, and the livery.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles