Home / News / Rutland High Sheriff reaches out to her opposite number in Vermont


Surely this is the start of a beautiful friendship? The High Sheriff of Rutland, Dr Sarah Furness, had the wonderful idea of inviting her opposite number from Rutland County in Vermont state in the USA to come over and discover Rutland for himself.

And while Oakham is officially twinned with Barmstedt in Germany and Dodgeville in Wisconsin, I know that the High Sheriff of Rutland hopes that the two counties of Rutland can forge a relationship that will benefit local tourism for years to come.

Sarah Furness hosted her opposite number from Vermont, Sheriff Stephen Bernard, over the weekend of 24, 25 and 26 February 2017. Sarah showed Stephen and his partner Jen all show him the delights of England’s smallest county, culminating in a special service of celebration at Peterborough Cathedral.

Dr Sarah Furness High Sheriff of Rutland (photo: Sonara Studios)

Before Sheriff Bernard arrived Sarah said “I think the visit will be fun and interesting historically and socially. I want to explore the historical links between the two Rutlands. Comparison of the historical role of sheriff, which still exists in the USA, with the modern role of High Sheriff as it exists here will be interesting. We also want to talk about the differences in the approach and problems faced by police here and in Rutland USA. I want to show him the delights of our area. I hope to promote a permanent link between the two areas and foster tourism.”

Sheriff Bernard’s weekend tour took in both Uppingham and Oakham, including the superbly restored Oakham Castle. He strolled beside Rutland Water of course, and also enjoyed a private tour of Burghley House. Meals at the Old White Hart in Lyddington, Barnsdale Lodge, The Finches Arms and Hambleton Hall hotel showcased the best of local food, and Sheriff Bernard also met Emma, Duchess of Rutland at Belvoir Castle.

The service at the Cathedral – which is Rutland’s mother church – was a real spectacle. As well as Sarah in all her glory (her fabulous hat is a Rutland icon), Dr Laurence Howard the Lord Lieutenant of the county attended as did other High Sheriffs in full regalia plus representatives from the army and fire service in full dress uniform. Add the magnificent setting of Peterborough Cathedral and Sheriff Bernard could not fail to be impressed! The service celebrated our County of Rutland and Sarah was thrilled to see the nave absolutely packed with people, including Rutland schoolchildren who led prayers and sang.

Rutland Sheriff Stephen Bernard presents Dr Sarah Furness, High Sheriff of Rutland, with a commemorative plaque

At the end of the service, Stephen thanked Sarah for this wonderful initiative, and presented her with a plaque to commemorate the event (right).


So, if the two Rutlands are to become better acquainted, what should we know about our cousins across the Atlantic?

Rutland County is in Vermont, one of New England’s most beautiful states. At around 950 square miles, Rutland County is more than six times larger than Rutland UK, but only around 60,000 people live there, compared to our population of 37,000-ish, so it’s clear that Rutland Vermont is by comparison sparsely populated.

In American terms, Rutland County has a long history: it was officially created in 1781 and named by the King’s representative at the time after the third Duke of Rutland. At the heart of Rutland County is the ‘county town’ Rutland City. Just like here, agriculture has long been important and it was the birthplace of John Deere, who started his working life as a blacksmith then went on to invent a pioneering plough and found the Deere tractor company. And while our quarries give up beautiful Clipsham and Collyweston limestone, Rutland Vermont was famous in the States for its high quality white marble.

Tourism is also important to Rutland Vermont. Where we enjoy the vast body of Rutland Water and all the outdoor activities there, Rutland Vermont has snow, and lots of it in the winter, so skiing at Killington and Pico mountain resorts is popular, and in the summer there is fishing, horse-riding, forest hikes, rock climbing and canoeing in streams and small lakes.

Our High Sheriff’s initiative is to be applauded. So many of Britain’s post-war twinnings have gone stale as communities evolve. It seems to me that Rutland England and Rutland USA have much in common and I hope it won’t be long before we see a two-way exchange!

To learn more about Rutland Vermont, visit the County website rutlandvermont.com the City website rutlandcity.org and the website for its local paper, the Rutland Herald rutlandherald.com

Thanks to Rutland City’s Pine Hill Park for the photo.

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