The Sheriff’s Ride takes to the streets of Lichfield

The Sheriff's Ride on Beacon Street

The Sheriff's Ride on Beacon Street last weekend

On Saturday Lichfield’s annual Sheriff’s Ride was completed, with the participants starting off from the Guildhall in the morning and taking a marked path around the city boundary.

The custom dates back to 1553, when Lichfield was a county in its own right, separate from Staffordshire and in possession of its own Sheriff. Queen Mary’s Charter ruled that the Sheriff must ‘perambulate the new County and City annually on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 8th September’ (a form of ‘beating the bounds’).

Things were not always straightforward. In 1903 Lichfield had a watermill at Darnford, with the boundary running right through the mill wheel, so a small boy had to be passed over the wheel to ensure the route was complete. In 1939, when Britain had declared war on Germany, the Sheriff was accompanied by just one other rider, and both carried gas masks; by 1940 the group had grown to nine.

Images &copy Mrs Woffington

Images © Mrs Woffington

Now held on the nearest Saturday to September 8th, the route remains the same each year, with the northern and eastern boundaries covered first, followed by lunch, tea at Pipe Hill, and a return to the city at about 6pm. Once in Lichfield, the party is met by sword and mace bearers (top right) and escorted to the Cathedral Close to be met by the Dean, before completing the ride at the Guildhall.

This year, Simon Price, Chief Executive of Arthur Price Cutlery and Gifts was appointed Sheriff of Lichfield, making him the 456th Sheriff to escort the ride. In Dr Johnson’s Tercentenary year, the riders followed in the footsteps of Johnson’s father, Michael, who participated in the event just days before the birth of Samuel in 1709.

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