Amanda Parker - the thoroughly modern High Sheriff of Lancashire

PUBLISHED: 00:00 23 October 2015

The new High Sheriff with her shield

The new High Sheriff with her shield

glynn ward

Amanda Parker may fill an ancient role but her support for the homeless and victims of abuse means she brings a contemporary edge to the job, writes Julie Frankland

Amanda being sworn inAmanda being sworn in

As the High Sheriff of Lancashire, Amanda Parker is officially responsible to the Queen for the maintenance of law and order within the county. It is a position that dates to Saxon times and is bound in ceremony and tradition – tradition that Amanda has embraced but is not being constrained by as she works to ensure the role is as relevant now as ever.

For when her year-long tenure ends next March, Amanda wants her legacy to be a better Lancashire – better in terms of tackling issues that are often at the root cause of crime and also, better at acknowledging and celebrating the successes that come from that.

As a thoroughly modern woman who has served as a local magistrate in the criminal and family courts for more than a decade, Amanda is shortly to speak at a conference in Leyland aimed at helping employers spot signs of domestic abuse in their workforce. She is no stranger at the county’s women’s centres and, as a mother-of-two, is also a champion of young people’s causes with ties to Blackburn Youth Zone and the University of Central Lancashire.

Amanda is patron of the Blackburn-based charity Nightsafe, which provides shelter for homeless young people, and has even joined police officers on night patrol through Preston’s streets. Amanda says: ‘Time was when policing was all about tackling crime through punishment.

High Sheriff Amanda Parker with husband Robert and children Eleanor and RolandHigh Sheriff Amanda Parker with husband Robert and children Eleanor and Roland

‘Now a lot of work is being done in partnership with other agencies to prevent crime before it has a chance to be committed through direct contact with groups and families in which there are known drink, drug or other problems that are often at its root cause. By working at source, you are tackling crime in the immediate and longer term.

‘Through my role as High Sheriff, I have the opportunity to highlight this work, to help charities such as Nightsafe and also, to talk to businesses about corporate social responsibility. That’s not a favourite phrase of mine but if I can encourage a company to offer an ex-offender a job or support a women’s centre or youth group by offering it a meeting room or free use of its photocopier once in a while then it’s a step to a better society, a better Lancashire for all of us.’

Although she has immersed herself in contemporary issues, Amanda has not forgotten her traditional duties, which include welcoming high court circuit judges to the county, supporting the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire Lord Shuttleworth when royalty visits as she did in May when the Queen marked the 750th anniversary of the creation of the Duchy of Lancaster with a visit to Lancaster Castle, and attending civic ceremonies. Amanda will be at a number of this month’s Remembrance services.

She is also well aware that she is upholding another very important tradition – a family one – as Amanda is not the first Parker to hold the High Sheriff of Lancashire office. In fact, she is its fifth incumbent over the last couple of centuries, her most recent predecessor being her late father-in-law Christopher, who held the title in 1985.

A winter scene at Browsholme Hall, the family home for more than 500 yearsA winter scene at Browsholme Hall, the family home for more than 500 years

Before him, it was Col. Robert, from whom Amanda’s husband, also Robert, inherited the family home of Browsholme Hall in the Ribble Valley’s beautiful Forest of Bowland.

Amanda grew up in picturesque Bashall Eaves, its nearest village. She attended Clitheroe Royal Grammar School before spending a year working for Lancashire County Council. She then read agricultural economics at Newcastle University before joining Barclays Bank on its graduate trainee programme. Quickly realising banking was not the career for her, Amanda set up a paintball company.

She met Robert in the local pub, The Red Pump, and last month, they celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. When their children – Eleanor, who is now 22 and a modern languages graduate of St Andrew’s University, and Roland, who is 21 this month and an industrial design and technology student at Loughborough University – were small, Amanda worked as a sports coach at her old school.

A former member of and coach to Lancashire’s senior and junior hockey teams, Amanda founded a local scheme to encourage young people to stay in hockey by becoming umpires. It has now been adopted nationally.

More recently, Amanda set up a home automation company that designed and installed integrated home entertainment, lighting and heating systems. Nowadays, when not on High Sheriff or magistrates duty or undertaking voluntary work, her time is taken up by managing Browsholme, which is open to the public, and its Tithe Barn, a lovingly restored an 18th century barn that serves as the hall’s visitors’ café and also, a wedding and conference venue.

Amanda says: ‘When you become High Sheriff, you attend a shield hanging ceremony at Lancaster Castle. Your banner is hung in the Shire Hall with those of previous High Sheriffs under the crest of the monarch, which you serve.

‘My banner takes the Parker family coat of arms – green and gold stag heads with a chevron. It also has a diamond lozenge to denote that I am the ‘wife of’ rather than the bearer of the coat of arms. It was lovely to see those of my family predecessors also hanging in the hall and as my children love Browsholme with a passion, who knows if there’ll be others there in the future.’

How to become a High Sheriff

There are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales. They come from all walks of life but like Amanda, have had to be nominated for the year-long role. Amanda was nominated for her work in the voluntary sector and as Lancashire is a duchy county, her nomination had to be approved by the Queen.

Being a High Sheriff is a labour of love – there is no pay or expenses for the role. You even have to buy your own uniform. Amanda wears a skirt suit made of purple silk velvet, which was designed for her by Amy Prescott, a young design tutor at UCLan. It has a jabot (frilly collar) and cut steel buttons and is topped off by a hat trimmed with a John O’ Gaunt feather. You also have to pay for your own banner for the shield hanging ceremony. You can see a copy of Amanda’s banner in the entrance hall at Browsholme along with copies of those of the other Parker family members who have held the High Sheriff office.

Again, as Lancashire is a duchy county, High Sheriffs receive a gift from the Queen for taking on the role. Men receive a tie, while women (Amanda is the 8th woman in Lancashire and the 22nd woman from a duchy county to hold the High Sheriff title) are presented with a white and yellow gold John O’Gaunt feather brooch. However, the brooch is a lifetime only gift, which means you cannot bequeath it to your nearest and dearest but rather, it has to go back to the monarch on your death.

The Parkers of Browsholme

Amanda’s husband Robert is the Bowbearer of the Forest of Bowland – a role his family members have held since Tudor times. This means that should the monarch be hunting in the forest with a bow and arrow, Robert is the officially designated person to carry the weapon on their behalf.

The Parkers have lived at Browsholme Hall for more than 500 years. It has never been emptied so has a remarkable antiquarian collection – Gillow furniture, civil war arms, mementos of Bonnie Prince Charlie and even a fragment of a Zeppelin.

To help maintain the hall, which has extensive gardens, lakes and woodland, it is open to the public on selected days from May to September but groups can pre-book guided tours year-round by calling 01254 827160 or emailing info@browsholme.com

From Tuesday, December 1st to Friday, December 11th, touring groups can enjoy a special seasonal lunch and pop up shops selling artisan food and Christmas craft gifts. From Sunday, December 6th to Friday, December 11th, Clitheroe historian and raconteur Simon Entwistle will be presenting ‘Ghostly Tales of Christmas Past’ to visitors.

Young Citizen Awards

Do you know a young person aged 21 or under who has shown outstanding citizenship this year? They could be a volunteer in a youth group, given up their time to help an elderly neighbour or overcome some personal difficulty such as an addiction or abuse and used their experience to help others. If you do, then log on www.lanpac.co.uk

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