A HISTORIAN has taken on the ancient role of High Sheriff of Essex.

Architectural historian Dr James Bettley, 61, has stepped into the historic role as the 839th High Sheriff of Essex and said he is determined to make a difference to the county he loves.

Father-of-three Dr Bettley, who lives in Great Totham, 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.

“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.

“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.”

Dr Bettley previously worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London along with the Design Museum and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Dr Bettley is particularly interested in church buildings and was chairman of the Friends of Essex Churches Trust from 2012 to 2017.

He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1996 and sits in Chelmsford and Colchester. He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Essex in 2013.

Dr Bettley will also raise money for the High Sheriffs’ Fund, which is run by the Essex Community Foundation.

For details of the fund, visit essexcommunityfoundation.org.uk.