Rollits 180: Partner becomes Undersheriff of York

We’re delighted to be working with Rollits to create a series of heritage articles that celebrate the law firm’s 180th anniversary. This time we had a chat with Andrew Digwood, a Partner at Rollits who recently became the Undersheriff of York.

“I’m based in the firm’s York office but come to Hull every couple of weeks or so,” says Andrew. “I’d just finished two years as the President of the York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, during which time I’d got to know quite a few of the city’s councillors.

“Councillor Ashley Mason was asked by the incoming Lord Mayor to become the Sheriff of York shortly before the pandemic struck. Now that life is returning to normal, Ashley has begun his new role and he appointed me as Undersheriff, as the position has to be filled by a lawyer with a good reputation.

“It’s a great honour to be the Undersheriff, as it means that Rollits is involved in the civic life of York, where we’ve had an office for over thirty years, as well as Hull and East Yorkshire.”

Like many people at Rollits, Andrew is passionate about supporting his local business community in any way he can. He is a member of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York, which for centuries has brought together York and the wider region, including Hull and East Yorkshire. Many of its members are business owners or directors from the East Riding and together they work hard to strengthen both civic and business life.

“It’s very easy to forget that York was a mercantile city with commercial docks,” says Andrew. “If you look around, you can still see the infrastructure when you’re down by the Ouse, such as the many staithes, and of course the Ouse then links us to the Humber, connecting York to Hull.”

Andrew is now busy supporting the Lord Mayor, the Sheriff and City of York Council by attending events where the Civic Party needs to be represented. These events take many forms, such as raising the flag on Mansion House during Armed Forces Week.

“One of the traditional landmark events of the civic calendar is Legal Sunday, which is when the North East Circuit judges have a service at York Minster and a procession through York in their robes and wigs, led by the Undersheriff,” says Andrew. “We also lay wreaths on Remembrance Sunday, paying tribute to those from the city who have fought for our country and the freedom of others.

“Another less sombre civic tradition is the Sheriff’s Assize of Ale, which originally was when the Sheriff’s party would visit a number of pubs to make sure they weren’t giving short measures or watering down their drinks. These days it’s a fundraising activity, so we would take collection buckets with us in support of the Lord Mayor and Sheriff’s chosen charities.

“Ashley and I are also keen to share attendance at events like Citizenship ceremonies between us,” adds Andrew. “Our view is that people invest a lot of time, heart and money into becoming British citizens, and deserve it to be a special occasion, so the sooner we can get back to organising these with pomp and ceremony, the better.”

Over the centuries, there have been numerous people at Rollits who have acted as Sheriffs and Undersheriffs in Hull, such as former Partners Tom Farrell and Chris Dawson, but this is the first time that one has taken on the role in York. Rollits has operated offices in the heart of York for over thirty years, making Andrew’s new responsibilities a reflection of the law firm’s dedication to supporting the city.

“As a firm, we recognise that our history in Hull has given us that profile in a civic sense there,” says Andrew. “It’s very gratifying that we’re starting to achieve something of a similar nature in York, as we’re very much committed to both locations and the unique proposition that each represents.”

We asked Andrew for a bit more detail regarding the history of the Undersheriff of York, which he was delighted to share with us:

“The Shrievalty of the City of York dates back to the reign of King Richard II in 1396, when the King granted the city special status, distinct from the surrounding county of Yorkshire, and the right for it to appoint two of its own Sheriffs. The Undersheriffs would have supported those Sheriffs in representing the Crown as the ‘law of the land’ in the city, even for a period operating their own jail. The role is now however almost entirely a ceremonial one.

“That said, I’m deeply honoured to have been asked to support the Lord Mayor and Sheriff in their civic and charitable endeavours this year, and I hope that together we can get York’s Civic Party back into an active and more visible role in the city after the pandemic restrictions have kept everything rather muted this past year.”

The team here at Hull Is This wishes Andrew the very best in this prestigious role and we look forward to hearing more about his duties throughout 2021 and 2022.

We’re writing two articles/interviews a month to help Rollits celebrate their special anniversary. Keep checking our Heritage section for new updates and exciting announcements.