The Sheriff, who is not necessarily chosen from the members of the Council, shall be appointed at the Annual Meeting of the Council, the appointment taking place immediately after the election of the Mayor. The Sheriff holds office until the appointment of his or her successor, and must make a special declaration under the Sheriff’s Act of 18871.
In 1206 the royal officer, the Reeve, yielded place to the communal Mayor. The Burgesses were given the right to choose their own Mayor, who, with the Bailiffs, farmed the town i.e. they were responsible for raising the taxes demanded of government.
In 1409, under a Charter of King Henry IV2, the City of Lincoln became the County of the City of Lincoln, and the Bailiffs were replaced by two Sheriffs who were still personally responsible for the collection of this revenue. It was of such great importance to the City’s liberties that they had to find sureties for the due performance of their duties. Needless to say that there were complaints that these unfortunate Bailiffs, and subsequently Sheriffs, never rose from poverty and misery.
The existence of a Shire Court for the City and other provisions of the Charter may have brought some financial relief. In 1466 the addition to the County of the four towns of Branston, Waddington, Bracebridge and Canwick enlarged the area from which revenue could be gathered. Even so, the resources of the Sheriffs became so inadequate that by the sixteenth century it had become customary to indemnify the Sheriffs against claims for the fee-farm rent and the burden was borne by the Common Council.
It is interesting to note how the two Sheriffs were elected for their office. In the Middle Ages the City was governed by an inner Chamber consisting of the Mayor and twelve Aldermen, the Aldermen being elected for life, and an outer, less powerful body called the Common Council, 40 in number, their members being called Chamberlains. Four Chamberlains were appointed, one for each ward, year by year, by the Mayor, and a like number retired. When they went out of office they became known as Chamberlain Peers and had various privileges, such as exemption from Jury service. From among the Chamberlain Peers were chosen two Sheriffs – one nominated by the Mayor, and the other elected by the Mayor, Aldermen and Common Council from a calendar of five ex-Chamberlains.
The Sheriffs were to be sworn before the Mayor and Commonality in the Guildhall and were to hold County Courts every six weeks in the County and City of Lincoln. The old City courts were to empanel Juries, execute Royal Writs and other processes, and to preside in County Courts. Their chief responsibility was for the fee-farm rent. A past holder of the office having become a Sheriff’s Peer, was eligible for election as an Alderman, an office which was held for life.
The gaols were in the custody of the Sheriffs who were fined if a prisoner escaped. The pillory was also their affair. One Robert Bishop, having been taken for petty larceny and having left the city , returned, whereupon the Sheriffs were commanded to set him in the pillory and nail his ear to it. One of the Sheriffs brought him to the pillory but confessed he did not do execution upon the offender as the Mayor had commanded, for which undue squeamishness he submitted to such fine as the Mayor and his brethren imposed.
Since the Municipal Corporations Act (1835) there has been only one Sheriff in Lincoln, whose role is now of a ceremonial nature. The Sheriff is accorded precedence after the Mayor.