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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): COL/SF
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Full title: SHERIFFS
Date(s): 1627-1999
Level of description: subfonds
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Extent: 9 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

The office of Sheriff is of greater antiquity than any other in the City of London and is mentioned in Anglo Saxon laws of the seventh century. The Sheriffs, alongside Wicreves and Portreeves, exercised the King's authority over the citizens, collected royal revenue and enforced royal justice. Henry I granted the City the right to choose their own Sheriff in 1132, together with the right to choose the Sheriff of Middlesex. The two sheriffs held office jointly as the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex. The right to appoint the Middlesex sheriff was lost in 1888, although the City continued to elect two sheriffs for the City of London. At the same date the fee formerly payable to the Exchequer was redeemed by the Corporation so that all estate and interest in the office of Sheriff belonged to the Corporation and all fees from the shrievalty were received by the City. At first sheriffs were elected on St Matthew's Day (21 September) but it was advanced to 1 August in 1538 and later to Midsummer Day. The office was held for a year and no person who had served as sheriff once was eligible to serve again. In 1385 the Common Council stipulated that every Mayor must first serve as Sheriff to test his suitability for the post.

The sheriffs were expected to attend the Lord Mayor in the discharge of his official functions and to join him in works of charity and at events. They attended the Courts of Aldermen and Common Council as well as Common Hall and the Court of Husting. They were Execution Officers at the Central Criminal Court and had to be in attendance to carry out directions given by the Judges. They also had to attend the Sessions to see the Judges into Court, and be present when a capital sentence was passed. The sheriff was also required to wait upon the Sovereign and ascertain the royal will and pleasure as to the reception of addresses from the Corporation. The sheriff also presented petitions from the Corporation to the House of Commons.

The modern sheriffs are elected on Midsummer's Day (24 June) by the City livery companies. Their duties remain similar to those of their historical predecessors, including attending the Lord Mayor in carrying out his official duties, attending the sessions at the Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey and presenting petitions from the City to Parliament at the Bar at the House of Commons.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records relating to the office of Sheriff in the Corporation of London, including scruting [scrutinization] papers for elections of Sheriffs, Chamberlains, Ale Conners [inspectors] and Auditors, 1676-1730 (with gaps); Acts of Common Council regarding the nomination and election of Sheriffs, 1631-1834; accounts received under the Greenwax [a seal of green wax was fixed to documents delivered by the Exchequer to sheriffs] and paid into the Chamber of the Corporation of London, 1680-1748; accounts of fines imposed at various courts, 1681-1732; estreat rolls [copies of an original record of fines entered on the rolls of a court, to be levied by the bailiff or other officer] 1670-1858; bailiff's and sheriff's accounts (copies of the estreat rolls, with marginal notes as to the collection or non-collection of the fines), 1795-1839; appointments of Bailiffs of the Greenwax to make the City's claims in the Exchequer and to collect fines due to the City, 1646-1803; bailiff's and sheriff's accounts including expense claims, 1738-1807; 'account of monies paid, laid out and expanded for the use of His Majesty in the Shrievalty 1793-4 for which the sheriffs crave allowance' [Sheriff's expense accounts], 1793-1797; extracts from repertories and journals relating to the fines due to the Sheriffs and the City under various charters, 1449-1803, compiled by the City Solicitor in 1816, and other papers relating to the collection of fines and the rights of the City to those fines, 1685-1874; copy acquittances from the Pipe Roll, 1637-1832; copy petitions and lists of Sheriffs elected, 1627-1678; bonds, in a penalty of 1000, 'that the Sheriffs-Elect shall appear at Guildhall on the Vigil of St Michael to take upon themselves the office of Sheriffs of the City of London for the year ensuing', 1672-1762; 'A letter to the Livery of London relative to the view of the writer in executing the office of Sheriff' by Sir Richard Phillips, 1808; papers relating to the Sheriff's Yeomen, 1829-1859; notes regarding nominations for the office of Sheriff, including numbers of persons nominated each year, 1733-1999, list of Sheriffs from 1832, list of nominations by the Lord Mayor, 1889-1901 and notes on nominations by the Lord Mayor, 1971; precepts for the election of Sheriffs and other officers, 1832-1852; royal approvals of newly elected Sheriffs, 1861-1982; returning officer's files from the election of Sheriffs, which may include correspondence, election addresses, nomination forms signed by Liverymen, notes of poll results, 1933-1999; newspaper cuttings relating to the election of 1980 in which the first woman stood for election as sheriff, 1980; a brief history of the City of London Sheriffs' Society, 20th century; list of Sheriffs and Justiciars of London and Middlesex, 1100-54 and a list of Sheriffs of London and Middlesex, 1154-1216, compiled 1972; notes on the office of Sheriff, 1988; and various other administrative papers relating to the role of Sheriff.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In sections according to catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998;These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Coporation of London Records Office

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also CLA/025: Sheriff's Court, City of London and COL/CC/SDC: Court of Common Council Secondaries and Sheriffs' Courts Committee.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2009

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