The office of Sheriff is one of great age and distinction. The name derives from the old english ‘Shire Reeve’ who was the representative of the King’s authority in a Shire. The Sheriffs were responsible for the maintenance of the King’s peace and for the collection of rents and other financial dues of the King’s revenue, for which they accounted annually at the Exchequer. The Sheriffs were also in charge of all military matters within the Shire until the Tudors instigated the office of Lord Lieutenant, who took over this responsibility.
In the early period the City of York was effectively ruled by the Sheriff of Yorkshire from his seat at York Castle (which remained physically and administratively outside the territory and jurisdiction of the city authorities until the 20th Century). However, the medieval city council continually directed its efforts to obtain as much control over its own affairs and as great a degree of self-government as was possible in those times. Great success was achieved with the granting of a charter by King Richard II in 1396. This charter conferred county status upon the city, which henceforth became the “County of the City of York”. The city retained its status as a top tier authority (with an exception of a brief period between 1974 and 1996).
The 1396 Charter stipulated that the three city Bailiffs were to be replaced by two Sheriffs for the newly created county. In return for securing of the charter, the city had given Richard II a gift of 300 Marks and three palfreys (a light saddle horse especially suitable for a Lady). It was well worth the cost. Henceforth –
- The Mayor and Sheriffs were to have cognizance of all please of Assizes for lands and tenements within the city,
- The city was to take the fines from the sessions of the Justices of the Peace and
- The Mayor and Sheriffs were to account annually to the Exchequer (in place of the Sheriff of Yorkshire).
The names of the first 2 holders of the office (of Sheriff) were William de Alne and Thomas de Roseton, both names demonstrating the arrival of prosperous or ambitious men from other areas coming to settle in a thriving city. Both men were merchants and William de Alne went on to become both Mayor (1415) and Member of Parliament (May 1413 – Nov 1414) & (Mar 1416 – 1417).
In 1835 , the two Sheriffs’ offices were merged into one.