From Prince Harry and Meghan to Shoreham Fort - a year as High Sheriff

Being High Sheriff of West Sussex for a year creates many memories that stay with the person long after their appointment.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 8:16 am
Updated Monday, 1st April 2019, 9:26 am
Caroline Nicholls (High Sheriff 2018-19). Pic Steve Robards
Caroline Nicholls (High Sheriff 2018-19). Pic Steve Robards

From working with community groups to blue light services it gives the person the chance to visit and meet people they may not have otherwise.

Caroline Nicholls held the role until March 22, 2019.“What I have enjoyed is being able to connect people who may not have met otherwise,” she says.“In my last week I took children from Chestnut Tree House to Shoreham Lifeboat Station and I couldn’t wait to see the fun they would have there.“I have worked a lot with the police cadets, which is similar to brownies or scouts, and many expressed an interest in law and order so I arranged for a judge to talk to them.“It has been amazing to bring people together who may not have had the opportunity to meet previously.”

The role of high sheriff dates from the Saxon times when they were a representative of the royalty and would collect taxes, it is where the sheriff of Nottingham comes from. They would also hold court and make judgements on cases.“It became a ceremonial role about 50 years ago,” explains Caroline. “You are a representative of the Queen in matters relating to the judiciary and law and order.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Chichester Picture: Steve Robards

Caroline, who lives in Worthing, had previously worked as a journalist before moving in to PR and was communications director at Gatwick.“I actually arranged a visit for the high sheriff when I worked there so it was interesting this year to be on the other side,” she says.“The same is true with the blue light services. Before I would be the one going to the police station asking about incidents the night before but this gave me the chance to go on patrol with the police officers and see the compassion and commitment they have to their job and community.”

During her year in the role Caroline chose to champion youth projects.“There are a lot of challenges facing the youth of today,” she says.“Knife crime in places like London and in our county. I just wanted to be involved in projects to encourage and help people to see how their actions could impact their futures.“But you get involved with so many different projects, you get emails daily from organisations.”

There have been many memorable moments but one in particular was the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to the county in October.“I met them in Chichester,” she says.“They were warm, chatty and interested in the people that had turned up to see them. Chatting to children and people as they walked down the street. “I have also met the Countess of Wessex twice and the Earl of Wessex.”

On leaving the role she says: “It has been a roller coaster and you get to see places and meet people you didn’t know of before and being able to give these charities and volunteers some recognition.“The role has been such an honour.”

At Gatwick with the police

She also chose Shoreham Fort to give her high sheriff award to.“It is a Victorian monument that the volunteers work really hard to maintain it.“They hold loads of events throughout the year, but vandals do go and take off bricks so they are working with police to tackle the issue. ““It was is nice to give the team the recognition they need and they were overwhelmed with the award.”

With the previous 12 months being a very busy what are her plans for the year ahead?“I think I have been to more than 300 official engagements,” she reveals.“I am still a Deputy Lieutenants for West Sussex and I am actively involved in Sussex Community Foundation, which I founded, so I will still be busy.”

The next high sheriff of West Sussex will be Davina Irwin-Clark who lives at Handcross.