Essex Community Foundation

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New High Sheriff of Essex appointed

9th April 2019

Architectural historian Dr James Bettley is rolling up his sleeves to take a hands-on approach as he becomes the new High Sheriff of Essex.

James, 61, is determined to make a difference to the county he loves during his year of office and will raise money for the High Sheriffs' Fund, which is run by the independent charitable trust Essex Community Foundation (ECF).

The fund supports voluntary and community organisations and projects that help prevent crime and make Essex a safer place and gives recognition and grants, through the High Sheriffs' Awards, to people working towards these aims.

His fundraising initiatives will include taking part in sponsored litter-picking sessions to help raise awareness of and tackle the menace of litter and fly-tipping.

James, who took up the role of High Sheriff of Essex on 8 April, said: “The office of High Sheriff is the oldest secular office in England after the Crown, and it is a great honour for me to be able to add my name to those of my predecessors in the county of Essex.

“I believe passionately in public service and the rule of law, two values that underpin our society and which the High Sheriff supports and promotes.

“I look forward to meeting those organisations and individuals in Essex who embody these values, without which our communities simply could not function.

“Through my experience as a magistrate I am particularly interested in the rehabilitation of offenders, and during my year in office I want to focus particularly on women who are caught up in the criminal justice system.

“It is clear that women suffer disproportionately by being sent to prison and are generally more likely than men to respond well to community penalties.

“But the facilities to manage them in the community have to be in place, and I want to support those that already exist and, if possible, make them more widely available across the county.

“My work and interests have given me a profound knowledge and love of Essex and have taken me to every single town and village in the county.

“In the coming months I hope to revisit as many of these places as I can, but this time, seeing rather more of the people who live in them.”

Originally from Kent, James has lived in Great Totham since 1991 with his wife Lucy, who was brought up in Ingatestone and is manager of Citizens Advice in Maldon. The couple have three children.

In his work as an architectural historian James has produced a long list of publications including new editions of the Pevsner Architectural Guides for Essex, Suffolk and Hertfordshire.

He has also contributed to successive volumes of the Victoria County History of Essex.  He received his PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1999 and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Before he decided he had spent enough time commuting to London, he worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Design Museum and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Since 2014 he has also been part-time Librarian of Chevening House, Kent, traditionally the country residence of the Foreign Secretary.

James is particularly interested in church buildings and was chairman of the Friends of Essex Churches Trust from 2012 to 2017, having previously led their study days for over ten years.

James was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1996, originally sitting in Witham but now in Chelmsford and Colchester.  He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Essex in 2013.

In his spare time James enjoys walking. He has walked the Essex Way from Epping to Harwich and has covered most of the county’s coastline and riverbanks.

Now he has set his sights on covering many more miles in Essex and helping to make the county a safer and cleaner place.

For more details about the High Sheriff and to read his blog, visit: You can also follow him throughout his year on Twitter @Essex_HS.