The Shrievalty is the oldest secular Office in the kingdom after the Crown and dates from Saxon times. The earliest High Sheriff of Dorset of whom there is a record was called Beaduherd and held office in the 9th Century. He was killed near Weymouth by some Vikings from whom he was trying to collect taxes. It is the position of the High Sheriff as the executive Officer of the Crown which has always been the outstanding characteristic of the Office and, by long tradition, the Office has been connected with the maintenance of law and order.

Sheriffs have been appointed for the Counties of England for over 1000 years. Originally, the holder of the Office was the principal agent of government in his County. He was responsible for maintaining Law and Order, for raising certain revenues and for the provision of military services. He was the Official who carried out the orders of the Crown within his County.

The Sheriff held very extensive powers from Norman times until the 15th Century, but over the years the powers which had been solely given to the Sheriff have been passed to others, including the various levels of local government, Justices of the Peace, and the Inland Revenue. Nevertheless, he continues to hold a unique position of influence in the County.

When the King's Judges started coming on circuit to the Counties in the 13th Century, it was natural that the Sheriff should be commanded to look after them, to provide Courts, and to summon juries, functions carded out by High Sheriffs until 1972.

The erosion of the Sheriffs powers probably dates from the latter part of the 12th Century. At the time of the American Declaration of Independence the Sheriff was still responsible for law enforcement. At independence the former American colonies adopted English law as it then existed which is why the Sheriff is the law officer in "Westerns". Over the last 150 years or so, the powers of the Sheriff have been greatly reduced and taken over by new authorities. The Courts Act 1971, transferred the responsibility for Assize Courts to the Courts' Administration.

With the abolition of the Assize Courts, the High Sheriff of Dorset would have lost contact with the Dorchester Court. However, with the agreement of the Judges and the Court's Administrator, the Sheriff actively maintains this contact by arranging a ceremonial opening of the Crown Court in Dorchester.
The principal legal duties carried out by the Sheriff today involve the enforcement of High Court Judgements; acting as Parliamentary Returning Officer for County constituencies; and presenting Certificates of Commendation directed to be made by the Judges, and Awards ordered by the Court under the Criminal Law Act 1826 to those who have helped the Police apprehend offenders. The Sheriff also attends Royal events within the County, although the Lord Lieutenant then has precedence over the Sheriff.

The Sheriffs duties for the enforcement of High Court Judgements are carried out by Under Sheriffs (normally Solicitors) appointed annually by the High Sheriff, and by Sheriff's Officers similarly appointed.

A Sheriff is chosen for each County by the Queen who "pricks" one of the three names which appear on the Roll of Sheriffs for each County. The Sheriff must then make his or her declaration of office within one month of being "pricked", and will hold office for one year. Historically, as the office gave the holder such power, the Sheriff cannot by law be re-appointed until 3 years have elapsed since the office was last held.

The Queen is said to "prick" a Sheriff when she chooses him or her. Rumour has it that the origin of this expression comes from the time of one of her predecessors, possibly Queen Anne. She was busy doing some needlework when a courtier asked her to select some Sheriffs from a list of possible candidates. She indicated her choices by pricking the list with her needle.

The Sheriff receives no financial allowance to meet the expenses of his office.

Originally the Shrieval County of Dorset (i.e. the whole of the old administrative County of Dorset) excluded the Borough of Poole. In 1568 Elizabeth 1 granted to the Town of Poole the status of a County and the right to appoint its own Sheriff. Until 1974, all Shrieval work in Poole was carried out by the Sheriff of Poole. Then, with the re-organisation of Local Government, although Poole retained the privilege of appointing a Sheriff, the Sheriff of Poole no longer had any legal duties.

The High Sheriff of Dorset now has jurisdiction not only over the Borough of Poole but also Bournemouth and Christchurch which were then added to the County of Dorset.

The present High Sheriff is Michael Bond of Corfe.

Thomas Hardy




Hardy's Tooting House

Ever since the former residences of the famous and important were first commemorated by The Royal Society of Arts with blue plaques back in 1867, they have spread throughout London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Southampton. Recognising individuals as diverse as George Orwell and Jimi Hendrix. But what's it like to live in the house where a famous author, politician or' entertainer once lived?

Felicity Hope bought author Thomas Hardy's former Tooting residence three years ago and is in the process of renovating it. "I was looking for somewhere when the estate agent told us that

Thomas Hardy's house was available. Apparently Hardy lived here when he was working as an architect in Tooting, but didn't stay for long because he was so miserable. I'd studied Hardy for A-level so 1 thought I'd go and have a look, and 1 absolutely loved it. I rang the bank and begged and begged for extra money and bought it for about £82,000, and it's now been valued at around £180,000.

"A lot of people are quite interested in it. We're forever getting people taking photographs. "Quite a few times people have rung on the doorbell, asking if we'd ever found one of Hardy's manuscripts here. When we took the carpets up I did find something underneath the floor that looked like a letter. 1 got really excited and spent an hour with a pair of chopsticks trying to get it out, thinking, 'Yes, this is it'. When 1 finally got it out, it was a letter-dated from 1981, which was very disappointing. Also, one of the girls who lived downstairs was convinced she had seen his ghost. She got hysterical one night, when she thought he'd walked through her kitchen."

Even without supernatural visitations, blue plaques do have the potential to increase the value of a property. "They make a house sell, mainly because it gives the property a focal point says Tony Halstead, a residential property consultant. "It helps to create an interest, helps in advertising which makes it easier to sell, and ultimately might result in a slightly better price. "Of course a lot depends on who the blue plaque commemorates as to whether it will increase the price. But were two houses which identical and one had a blue plaque and the didn't I'd certainly buy the one with the blue plaque." Ultimately however it is important to keep in mind that no matter which poet, singer or superstar lived there, the blue plaque is just a bonus.