A HISTORIAN from Great Totham has taken the reins as the new High Sheriff of Essex.

Architectural historian Dr James Bettley, 61, stepped into his new role at a ceremony on Tuesday.

Originally from Kent, the father-of-three has lived in Great Totham since 1991 with wife Lucy, who is manager of Maldon Citizens Advice.

Dr Bettley said he is determined to make a difference to the county he loves during his year of office and will raise money for the High Sheriffs’ Fund.

Dr Bettley 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 in the county of Essex.

“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.

“But the facilities to manage them in the community have to be in place, and I want to support those that already exist and, if possible, make them more widely available across the county.

“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’s fundraising ideas include taking part in sponsored litter-picking to help tackle the menace of litter and fly-tipping.

Before deciding he had spent enough time commuting to London, he worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 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, originally sitting in Witham but now in Chelmsford and Colchester.

He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Essex in 2013.