New High Sheriff of Suffolk Edward Creasy takes on role after Ipswich ceremony and plans to work from windmill
Suffolk’s new High Sheriff is taking on the role ready to uphold a long-established tradition of serving the community... but he is possibly the first who will be doing some of his work from a windmill.
Edward Creasy and his wife Penny acquired the 70ft high tower mill when they bought their home more than 20 years ago.
Since then they have restored the landmark in their garden and he uses one of its attached outbuildings as an office.
Edward stepped into the buckled shoes and velvet coat of the High Sheriff’s uniform, known as court dress, earlier this month.
He was sworn in at a scaled-down ceremony at Ipswich Crown Court which, due to Covid restrictions, was attended by only eight people.
Aims for his year of office include promoting all that is good about Suffolk, and helping the whole community go forward into a brighter future.
It's the office not the individual that's important. - Edward Creasy
He also hopes to set up a local branch of a charity that gives good causes access to the expertise of business leaders.
High Sheriffs represent the Queen’s interests in everything concerning law and order, including policing and the courts.
It is an ancient role adapted for modern times, which although now mostly ceremonial also gives the chance to promote initiatives to benefit the community.
“It’s the office, which has been around for about 1,300 years, not the individual that’s important,” said Edward.
“It goes back to pre-King Alfred. He was the first one who really started to shape the role.
“In those days the Sheriff could raise local armies, and collect taxes, pursue criminals and had considerable authority.”
Medieval times saw the peak of their formidable powers . . . as in the Sheriff of Nottingham, legendary foe of Robin Hood. They tended to be feared and unpopular, but their powers gradually diminished over the centuries.
I felt somewhat daunted. It was a complete surprise. - Edward Creasy
“Our job now is to encourage rather than suppress,” said Edward.
High Sheriffs are nominated several years in advance, and each county has a list of those waiting to take their turn.
A county panel, which includes the Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriffs past and future, and others such as people from the Church and local authorities, puts together a list of potential candidates.
“They must be interested in the upkeep of legal and social justice,” Edward explained.
“You have to own land, even if it’s only a garden, have an appreciation and admiration for Suffolk, and a degree of experience and commitment to do the job.
“I found out three-and-a-half years ago I’d been nominated. I felt somewhat daunted. It was a complete surprise.
“Penny and I talked about it and decided we would love to do it. She will help me very much. It will be very much a team effort.”
He will also be supported by Under Sheriff Jonathan Mathers, and Chaplain Canon Brynn Bayman.
Edward succeeds Bridget McIntyre, who had to navigate new territory and find ways of continuing her role as the pandemic turned life upside down.
He hopes his year of office can be spent helping to build back confidence and optimism.
We must look forward and do what we can to build for the future. - Edward Creasy
“Bridget has done an outstanding job in a really tough year. She had to think outside the box, so she and the Lord Lieutenant (Clare, Countess of Euston) came up with this idea of the Suffolk Award. It was given out to thank all those people who had worked so hard during the pandemic and that’s something the Lord Lieutenant and I are going to continue.
“In terms of actual duties there aren’t that many, but as High Sheriff you can take on what you like. One of the things as far as I’m concerned is to raise the profile of everything that’s good in Suffolk, and that’s particularly important now given that we are recovering from this pandemic.
“Everyone needs to be encouraged to look to the future and we need to go forward making sure we take everyone in the community with us, and make sure no one is left behind or singled out. It’s a difficult thing to do because Covid has had a huge impact on our community.
“We have had to do without things. There are people who have ended up in deprivation. Isolation has been a much bigger issue than we realised.
“We must look forward and do what we can to build for the future. That’s not in my job description, but these are extraordinary times.”
Edward has a lifelong connection with Suffolk. “I’m a Suffolk boy, born in Tostock,” he said.
He went to Eton then studied history, which he still loves, at Cambridge. “After school and university I ended up going to work in London, in the Lloyds Insurance market place for 40 years.”
He became CEO and chairman of a large underwriting company, but stopped working full time 10 years ago and got involved in more local and part-time activities.
Edward and Penny met in London after she moved from Scotland to work in the Foreign Office, and have been married for 38 years.
They have three children – Jamie, who has also worked in insurance, Frances, who is a doctor in Edinburgh, and Hugh, who works for auctioneers Christie’s.
In 1986 they moved back to Suffolk from London and have lived in Burgh, near Woodbridge, since 2000.
“We live in a house with an enormous windmill in the garden ... possibly the largest tower windmill in Suffolk, which was operating from the mid-19th to the early 20th century.
“The mill was both an attraction and a detraction because obviously at some stage we were going to have to invest in it to make it structurally sound.
“It was used during the war as an observation post by the Royal Observer Corps. Since then it had gradually declined and, with very many thanks to Defra, who gave us a grant, we were able to restore it.
“Mills were a very important part of the agricultural production in Suffolk. It’s a landmark, you can see it for a very long way.
“It’s been a boon during Covid. I’ve done a lot of work from here, in one of the outbuildings of the mill itself.”
Edward said pride was not the right word to describe how he felt at being selected as High Sheriff.
“It’s a feeling there is an opportunity to be fulfilled and being very happy to be given that opportunity.
“I’m feeling slightly daunted at the opportunity there is ahead of us all in this extraordinary post-Covid period. There is no blueprint.
“I’ll be working I hope very closely with His Honour Judge Martin Levett (resident judge and Honorary Recorder at Ipswich) to ensure the court system is running well in Suffolk, and engender trust and make everyone think they are well treated by the legal system.
“I’ll also be working with and encouraging the police force and fire service in all the wonderful work they do, and with the police and crime commissioner.”
Edward hopes to continue his predecessor’s idea of going for walks with people rather than sitting down for meetings.
“I’ve always been a keen walker. My full time job involved a lot of travel to London and internationally. I wasn’t as fit as I should have been then, but have made up for it since.
“Penny and I have done good long walks in various places around the world, and have organised the odd walking holiday in the Alps and across the desert in Jordan.”
He also supports a charity called Street Child that creates educational opportunities for vulnerable children in Africa and Asia.
“They are very active young charity,” he said. “I was a trustee and organised a marathon for them in Sierra Leone. Getting 150 people from around the world to Sierra Leone to take part was no mean feat.
“The conditions are hot and humid – it’s ultra-marathon territory. I was walking at the back to pick up on any who had injuries or weren’t feeling good.”
He expects his High Sheriff duties to take up most of his working time. “I have two part-time jobs in London, but my employers are being very kind to me.
“I hope I’ll be able to do more as the Covid restrictions are lifted – very much with my fingers crossed.
“One project I have in mind has its roots in a London-based charity called Pilotlight which was set up in the early 2000s.
“It brings people who have had good careers on the commercial side together with charities, so that they can work with these charities to make them more effective and have more of a impact.
“I’m very keen to set up a Pilotlight branch in Suffolk. It’s something I hope will go on for very much longer than my term as High Sheriff.
“The pool of talent in Suffolk is very good and diverse and understated. I love the fact that Suffolk doesn’t blow its own trumpet.
“It’s definitely an understated county, and very beautiful ... just getting on with things without making too much of a fuss about it is wonderful.
“Look at how local communities have responded to Covid – it’s the ability to roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done with a smile on your face.”