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A Riddle for Christmas! – What has Lasted Centuries and is Made New Every Year...?

The City does Renewal with Stability better than anywhere. Management consultants very often work in this dialectic. In the City, Renewal with Stability is shown in the leading offices of governance and ceremony!


Even the higher reaches around the monarchy, whilst stable, do not witness frequent renewal!

Every year the person of the Lord Mayor changes. As members who walk in the joyous Lord Mayor’s Show see each time, there is a new figure on the Mansion House balcony cheerily doffing his or her ceremonial hat to return our greetings.

A less well-known renewal is the election of the Sheriffs, the closest supporters of the Lord Mayor in civic and ceremonial duties in the Square Mile, nationally and internationally. (*Quick Christmas Quiz: what is the area of the Square Mile? Answer in the last line!). Again, each year there is an election of two new Sheriffs. And a prerequisite of being Lord Mayor is that one must have previously served as Sheriff. 

Which brings us to the Centuries and the Shrieval Chains...  [Texts and the Photographs of the Badges are by kind permission of the Sheriffs].

                The Shrieval Chain of Sheriff Ald. Vincent Keaveny





The Chains with Badges have one of the longest histories of any institution. Sheriffs date back to Anglo-Saxon times and long before there was a Mayor or Lord Mayor of the City and even the Battle of Hastings. Today’s sheriffs can count themselves as part of a line of probably over a millennium.



Every Sheriff has their own new-made Chain of Office. These are splendid decorations. They are very personal to the bearer. A lot of time goes into ensuring the badge reflects the Sheriff’s life, affiliations and other interests.






                      The Shrieval Chain of Sheriff The Hon Elizabeth Green




What are Sheriffs?

Sheriffs used also to be known as reeves. They were the monarch’s representative to enforce the law and collect taxes.  Today, they still have responsibilities in the Old Bailey, in particular where they have to ensure the good running of the courts.





Since c.1130 the Sheriffs of the City have been elected. Today the election of the Sheriffs is a high point for the Livery, often being the culmination of long election campaigns. Liverymen are the electorate and vote together in Guildhall, enthusiastically and noisily! 

                 The Livery votes at the latest Shrieval Election... [by kind permission of
         Deputy Peter Bottomley CC]


Our Newest Sheriffs

The newly-elected Sheriffs were presented with their Chains before their formal installation and are Ald. Vincent Keaveny (City of London Solicitors et al)

                                                  The Sheriffs
         [Photo by kind permission of Sheriff Ald. Vincent Keaveny]

and the Hon Elizabeth Green (Framework Knitters).



A Reception was held for each at which the Chains were presented – but not worn. The Chains were ceremonially placed on their shoulders a few days later when the Sheriffs Elect were formally installed, again in the great surroundings of Guildhall

Vincent grew up in Ireland, as did his wife, and studied and qualified in Dublin. These and other references are on his badge are described below.




The Emblems on the Badges    

[photos and text reproductions by kind permission of Sheriff The Hon. Elizabeth Green and Sheriff Ald. Vincent Keaveny]

















In Liz’s case, being from a farming family and living in the East Midlands (the homeland of many Framework Knitters!) some of the emblems show more rural themes.

As well as Renewal by annual election, the Sheriffs bring other initiatives. The Schools Debating Challenge was Past Sheriff Estlin’s innovation. WCoMC’s chosen and mentored Academy has come first and second in the two runnings of the Challenge!

Back to the Old Bailey

One way to see the Shrieval Chains might be to be in the Court No 1 of the Old Bailey.  The Sheriffs, one or other of them at any time, have the serious duty to be attendant on the judges.  In Court No 1 the principal chairs on the Bench are reserved for their use and the Lord Mayor's, with the Sword of the City mounted behind the Bench.

The City of London Corporation finances The Central Criminal Court out of its own resources. Generally, in England and Wales Court buildings are in the hands of the Ministry of Justice.  But the Old Bailey, the running of it, the staff and the maintenance are a responsibility the City of London undertakes as part of its wider role beyond the Square Mile.

*And the area of the Square Mile is 1.12sq. miles!


WCoMC Hon. Liveryman, Past Lord Mayor Ald. Sir Andrew Parmley.
the Hon. Elizabeth Green and Mr Peter Green. Taken at the presentation
of the Hon. Elizabeth Green's chain.  [Photo by kind permission of Mr Peter Green].










Past Master Edward Sankey