'We didn't even have an inside toilet': Lancashire's new High Sheriff on going from 'tough start' in Lancaster to King's representative

The new High Sheriff of Lancashire says she hopes to serve as an inspiration to fellow Lancasterians by proving that they live in a county where they can aspire to be whatever they want - regardless of their background.
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Lancaster-born Helen Bingley OBE JP DL will be appointed to the role of the monarch’s representative in the county by King Charles III next month.

She recalls her time growing up in the city as “tough” - with her family not even having an inside toilet or bathroom until she was 13. However, she says there was plenty of family and community spirit.

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"You don't miss what you don't have," says Helen, as she reminisces about an age of playing “made-up games on the street”.

Lancashire's soon-to-be High Sheriff, Helen Bingley OBELancashire's soon-to-be High Sheriff, Helen Bingley OBE
Lancashire's soon-to-be High Sheriff, Helen Bingley OBE

"I went to an ordinary, comprehensive - Skerton School - [leaving] without any A-levels. [I] studied much later, part-time, whilst working as a mature student to achieve several post-graduate degrees and a masters in administration in order to develop my professional and personal life.

"I went from being an ordinary little girl in Lancaster, with ordinary parents, to being a senior manager in the NHS and charity sector and now becoming High Sheriff of Lancashire.

"My beginnings were nothing special, yet I have achieved so much living in the County of Lancashire. I truly believe that I am not unique [and] that Lancashire County is a place of opportunity for everyone.

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“I hope to inspire people across the county to aim high - as, in Lancashire, my journey is evidence that anything is possible..

Helen Bingley with girls at a brick kiln school in PakistanHelen Bingley with girls at a brick kiln school in Pakistan
Helen Bingley with girls at a brick kiln school in Pakistan

"My motto is ‘Carpe Diem’ – ‘seize the day’ - and if you can seize the day, in Lancashire you, too, can aspire to become High Sheriff one day.”

A keen mountaineer in her spare time, Helen rose through the ranks of the NHS from nurse to chief executive and non-executive director of several trusts in the North West - including Lancashire Care and the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay. More recently, she has become the lead for the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector on the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board .

She has herself undertaken voluntary work for the likes of Amnesty International, Cumbrian mental health charity Mind in Furness and the Children of Russia Project – for which she received an accolade from then Russian president Boris Yeltsin in 1993.

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A pivotal moment in her life came 25 years ago when she accompanied an NHS colleague, Dr Mukhtiar Zaman, on a trip to Shamshatoo, an area just outside Peshawar in North West Pakistan.

There, she was so saddened to see people living and working in harsh conditions in the region's brick kilns - with a life expectancy of just 38 years - that she and Dr Zaman set about searching for like-minded people in Lancashire with whom they could set up the Abaseen Foundation.

The charity provides healthcare and education for people born into a life of extreme poverty with no option but to work in the kilns - and its volunteers from across Lancashire and beyond received a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2017.

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that one of Helen’s top priorities in her year-long role as High Sheriff will be shining a light on the unsung heroes of the charity sector in the county.

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"In 2020, more than 4,000 charities in Lancashire were registered with the Charity Commission and there are many more voluntary groups, social enterprises and faith groups that are not registered. Our society is dependent on these groups for so many things and they provide much needed support in many forms to so many people - often without recognition - constantly seeking financial support to provide services.

“A priority in my year will be to visit as many voluntary groups as possible, to raise their profile,” Helen explained.


The High Sheriff of Lancashire is the King’s representative in the county for all matters relating to the judiciary and the maintenance of law and order. Their main role is to protect - and assist in upholding - the dignity and wellbeing of HM Judges, as well as undertaking other public duties, including the support and encouragement of the voluntary sector and the emergency services.

The office of High Sheriff is carried out on a voluntary basis and the holder does not receive any salary or expenses.