High Sheriff of Oxfordshire

The current High Sheriff of Oxfordshire is Lady Jay of Ewelme.

Sylvia Jay was a senior UK civil servant working in Whitehall, the French Treasury and The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

She entered the private sector as Director General of the UK Food and Drink Federation in 2001, became Vice Chairman, then Chairman of L’Oréal UK from 2005 to 2013 and has served as a non-executive Director on a number of large companies. She continues to be on the Boards of Lazard Ltd and the Casino Supermarket Group.

Her voluntary work has mainly been concerned with prison reform and The Pilgrim Trust, which she chaired from 2005 for ten years. She was awarded a CBE in 2005, was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 2008 and received an Honorary Doctorate from Nottingham University in 2009.

She is married to Michael, former UK Ambassador in Paris and Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, who now sits as a Cross Bencher in the House of Lords. They live in Ewelme, South Oxfordshire.

The office of High Sheriff

The office of High Sheriff is the oldest secular office in country outside the monarchy. Today, the former very extensive powers which the office enjoyed have gone and the role involves a mix of ceremonial, charitable and community functions. The role is voluntary, unfunded and non-political.

Duties include:

  • Participating in civic and community events and functions
  • Offering encouragement to those who are engaged in supporting the voluntary sector and those most in need
  • Pursuing themes and initiatives which bring communities together and benefit the social fabric of the county.
  • Ensuring the well-being of High Court Judges when in Oxfordshire

High Sheriff in Nomination

Amanda Ponsonby lives on a farm near Chipping Norton with her husband Rupert.  They have three children.

She worked in Westminster for 14 years, first in the House of Commons for Sir Geoffrey Howe, then in the Political office followed by the Private Office at 10 Downing Street during Margaret Thatcher's premiership.  On leaving the political world, she moved to North Oxfordshire and worked for Sir Crispin Tickell, Warden of Green College in Oxford.  She has been a Governor of Oundle School and was Chairman of its Primary School, Laxton Junior. She now helps run The Rectory Society.  

Since moving to Oxfordshire, Amanda has been involved in a large number of local community organisations in North Oxfordshire and runs the family farm enterprise. 

Shrieval Remembrancer

Oxfordshire does have a Shrieval Remembrancer however, who undertakes many of the Under Sheriff's functions and is currently His Honour Judge Patrick Eccles.

Nominations open for High Sheriff’s awards

The purpose of these awards is to recognise people in Oxfordshire who have made outstanding contributions to the communities in which they live and work. Nominees will usually have had a high impact on the lives of others over a sustained period of time and will be recognised by other people working in the nominee’s area as inspirational and as setting an example for others to follow.

High Sheriff’s Awards will not normally be made to people whose work and commitment has already been recognised by the award of a National Honour or by bodies such as the Police, the Fire and Rescue Service and Oxfordshire Charity and Voluntary Action.

Nominations are welcome for people who have made outstanding contributions to any aspect of community life but this year nominations in the following area will be particularly welcome.

  • Individuals who are, or have been, involved in crime reduction projects, whether in prevention, rehabilitation or support for the vulnerable.
  • Individuals who have helped the homeless into work and/or accommodation.
  • Individuals who have helped turn around the lives of addicts.


Nominations closed 11 January.