A COUNTY’S new High Sheriff made probably the shortest of journeys of anyone taking up the historic post today (Monday April 8).

Peter Stuart Bell took over from Harry Vane to become the 289th High Sheriff of County Durham amid traditional proceedings at Durham Crown Court.

The 54-year-old businessman from Durham was joined at the swearing-in ceremony by his wife Pippa and children Fergus, 22, Flora, 20 and 17-year-old Ruari, plus other family members and friends.

They made the short walk from their home to the nearby 200-year-old crown court in the Elvet area of the city for the annual ceremony, which was overseen by Judge Christopher Prince, in his role as Honorary Judicial Recorder of Durham.

But one member of the family missing the occasion was the new High Sheriff’s twin, David, who is at the opposite end of the earth on holiday in New Zealand.

Mr Bell said the four-week holiday was long pre-booked and his brother would be at the next major event in the shrieval year, the High Sheriff’s matins service, at Durham Cathedral, in July.

A former advertising executive with Saatchi and Saatchi, Mr Bell returned from the bright lights of London to set up his own property investment and insurance company, in his home city in 1993.

He now runs a marketing and management consultancy, although he expects to be absent for much of the coming year.

Mr Bell said: “It’s a tremendous honour and privilege and I’m very much looking forward to what will be a busy 12 months.”

He said the business would continue often in his absence, but he was “delighted to delegate”.

Judge Prince said he was sure the former rugby playing full-back would make his mark as High Sheriff, in the county of his birth.

Mr Bell has many interests in Durham and a passion for sport, having been a double blue at St Andrew’s University in rugby and cricket, also earning Scottish Universities honours in both sports.

A keen Sunderland football fan, he expects some colourful banter in the coming week with his Newcastle United supporting chaplain for the year, Canon David Glover, ahead of Sunday’s Tyne/Wear derby match.

During the shrieval year his chosen charity will be Durham Agency Against Crime.