New High Sheriff of Northumberland pricked into action

The new High Sheriff of Northumberland has been "pricked" into action by the Queen in an ancient ceremony

John Carr-Ellison, the new High Sheriff of Northumberland
John Carr-Ellison, the new High Sheriff of Northumberland

The new High Sheriff of Northumberland has become the fourth member of his family to take on the role.

John Carr-Ellison, from Powburn, near Alnwick, was “pricked” into action by the Queen in an ancient ceremony at Buckingham Palace, becoming one of the latest incumbents of the oldest secular office in Britain.

John, 61, is owner of Hedgeley Farms, a 1,640-hectare estate in north Northumberland which has been in his family since the 18th century. The firm also has estates in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

He takes on the role held by his father Sir Ralph Carr-Ellison in 1972. His great-grandfather and and his great-great-great grandfather also held the roles in the 19th century

His role as high sheriff is largely ceremonial, and the only significant legal functions performed by high sheriffs today relate to the enforcement of high court writs.

However, they are still expected to be ready to attend to the needs of, and provide hospitality to, high court judges out on “circuit”, when they preside over the county’s crown courts.

And, ranking as they do among the country’s top dignitaries, they are also expected to attend at royal visits to their counties. Mr Carr-Ellison will also preside over a series of financial awards made to community groups which work with youths and help them stay away from crime.

As is standard practice for the role, he was nominated three years ago by an advisory committee, which has been introduced in recent times in place of selection by the incumbent.

The induction process began with a nomination ceremony at London’s High Court last November which pre-dates the Norman Conquest.

The Queen then used a silver bodkin to “prick” his name which was on a list written on parchment of all new high sheriffs for England and Wales.

The ceremony at the privy council at the palace dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria.

Legend has it that the silver bodkin used to this day to “prick” the names of the sheriffs on the list was originally used by Queen Elizabeth I, who was embroidering when she was asked to mark the names on the list. She couldn’t find a pen so used the bodkin instead to prick them.

He said: “Northumberland has been good to me, it is an opportunity to give something back. You put quite a bit of time and effort into something you think is worthwhile for Northumberland.”Mr Carr-Ellison has lived in Northumberland his whole life other than his 10 years in the army. His father Sir Ralph Carr-Ellison was Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear from 1984 to 2000.


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