Lancashire’s new High Sheriff Edwin Booth

Edwin Booth family

Edwin with his wife Anne and daughters Emma and Charlotte - Credit: Blink Photography

He’s had a lifetime in the retail industry and has guided the family business through some of the biggest changes it has ever seen, but even Edwin Booth doesn't know what’s in store for the coming year. 

As Lancashire’s new High Sheriff, he would normally be looking forward to a year filled with events and engagements. But as the world starts to emerge from lockdown, it is still unclear how many actual events will be in his diary. 

When they do happen though, Edwin will be prepared. Since he learned of his appointment, he has spoken to many people about different aspects of the role, and has learned some things that only a very select group of people ever get to know. 

Edwin was given an honorary doctorate from Lancaster University

Edwin was given an honorary doctorate from Lancaster University - Credit: Lancaster University

‘I have learned things that you only know if you’re in this position,’ he said. ‘How to wear a Sam Brown and a frog and carry a sword in a crowded room without nicking everyone’s ankles, for example.’ 

That’s a sword through a loop on a belt, to the rest of us. 

Edwin, the chair and CEO of Booths, was appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, the Duke of Lancaster. The role of a High Sheriff involves supporting the Crown and the judiciary, lending support to crime prevention agencies, emergency services and the voluntary sector. Edwin intends to focus particularly on three issues: crime, homelessness and education. 

‘It is a privilege to be recognised for this role and I want to celebrate everything that is good about Lancashire, a county my family has called home for nearly 200 years,’ he said. 

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‘Every county is different in terms of how they approach the role. The history of the role goes back to the 1200s in Lancashire and it is an enormous privilege to hang your shield in the Shire Hall at Lancaster Castle. The Queen takes a real interest in the Duchy of Lancaster and a big part of the role is to uphold the dignity of the crown. 

‘I have had a lot of Zoom meetings and I have spoken remotely to a lot of groups and although it’s nothing like as good as meeting in person, it has been very helpful to me at the start of my year to speak with them,’ he said. ‘There is an amazing amount that High Sheriffs have been able to achieve during the pandemic. 

‘I have spoken with quite a lot of High Sheriffs and lots of groups. It has been heartening to listen to supporting those groups talking, especially groups of young people. It is easy to think as adults that we know it all, but young people can really make a difference if they are seen and heard, and listened to and believed. 

‘There is a great deal of opportunity in Lancashire, and it is my wish to give others the same inspiration and chance to succeed that I have been fortunate to receive. 

READ MORE: Booths launches campaign to support artisan cheesemakers

‘Access to education, and by that I don’t just mean academic education, but inspiring people to find and celebrate what they are good at, can be a driver in solving the larger societal issues of crime and homelessness. 

‘I often say, “there is no such thing as a dull person”. Finding and cultivating what excites people is key to education. My great-great grandfather Edwin Henry Booth believed in giving back. Orphaned at the age of 11, by age 19 he was a tea dealer, opening his first shop in Blackpool. He found what he excelled at and became a founding trustee of the Harris Childrens’ Homes, now the Harris charity, which supports young people in difficulty, ensuring talents are not constrained though lack of opportunity.’ 

Edwin is the fifth generation of the family to lead the business since it was founded in 1847 and has held a number of posts around the county. He was chair of the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership for over seven years and chaired the Business in the Community Advisory Board for the North West from 2007 to 2014. 

He has received an Honorary Doctorate from the Lancaster University for his services to the region and industry, is chairman of Preston’s Harris Charity which was co-founded by his forebear Edwin Henry Booth and is a founding trustee of the Prince’s Countryside Fund. 

Edwin Booth in his office at Booths

Edwin in his office at Booths HQ - Credit: Blink Photography

In 2019 Edwin was awarded a CBE in The Queens’s New Year Honours list for services to business and charity and he has been a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire since 2005. 

So he’s clearly no stranger to being busy, but how does he plan to fit his High Sheriff role around managing his supermarket chain into the post-Covid world? 

‘The advice I’ve received from the Lord Lieutenant is to put as much in as I possibly can, but people understand my position,’ he said. ‘I will dedicate certain days to the High Sheriff role and other days to Booths. 

‘There have been extra costs in the business since the lockdowns began. We’ve not furloughed anybody and having the cafes closed has had a big impact on us. Some stores have taken very large increases, but others have found the last year very difficult. 

‘We have had to reconfigure the ways we work in all aspects of the business and in the future it’s likely we will see fewer people in the office day-to-day. But overall it has been an entirely satisfactory year given the circumstances.’ 

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