Lord-Lieutenant of London installed as High Bailiff

Tuesday, 18th May 2021

Westminster Abbey's Dean Hoyle with Sir Kenneth Olisa

Sir Kenneth Olisa, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, was installed as High Bailiff of Westminster Abbey by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, at Evensong on Monday 17th May 2021.

Sir Kenneth, who as Lord-Lieutenant is HM The Queen’s representative in Greater London (excluding the City), was also installed as Searcher of the Sanctuary. Both are historic roles, but today the High Bailiff acts as one of the principal external advisers to the Dean & Chapter and takes part in the Abbey’s most significant ceremonial occasions. He succeeds Sir Roy Strong, who retired in 2019.

Born in Nottingham and educated in state schools and at Cambridge University, Sir Kenneth worked at IBM and Wang, after which he founded two merchant banks focused on the technology sector. His charitable work includes being president of the London homeless charity Thames Reach (for which he received an OBE), chair of the welfare-to-work charity Shaw Trust, and founding chair of the Aleto Foundation, which supports future leaders from tough backgrounds.

At Evensong which followed the Installation, the Reverend Anthony Ball, Canon in Residence, read Numbers 27: 15–end; and the Dean read 1 Corinthians 3.

The service was sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey conducted by James O’Donnell, Master of the Choristers. The organ was played by Charles Maxtone-Smith, Organ Scholar.

The service was also attended by robed members of the College of Westminster Abbey, including the Lord Mayor of Westminster and Deputy High Steward of the Abbey, Councillor Jonathan Glanz; and the Deputy High Bailiff, Sir Stephen Lamport.

About the High Bailiff and Searcher of the Sanctuary

The High Bailiff of the Abbey and the Searcher of the Sanctuary were officers of local government in Westminster whose roles evolved from responsibilities and jurisdictions originally exercised by the medieval abbot and convent.

The High Bailiff’s jurisdiction covered not only the precincts of Westminster Abbey and the parish of St Margaret, Westminster, but also Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Soho. Within this area the High Bailiff was responsible for serving writs and warrants, committing prisoners to the Gatehouse prison (which stood within the Abbey precincts), and the confiscation of forfeited goods. The Searcher of the Sanctuary (or Bailiff of the Precincts) had a similar authority to the High Bailiff, but within a smaller area, confined principally to the Close of Westminster Abbey, the area around Parliament Square and St Margaret's Churchyard, and the area between Tothill Street, the Thames, and Horseferry Road.