IMMENSELY powerful and often despised, as far back as a thousand years ago High Sheriffs were roaming the shires, raising taxes and acting as judge and jury in the name of the monarch.

The reality today is a little different, and you need look no further than Hampshire’s own sheriff, Rupert Younger, to see how much the role has changed.

Affable and engaging, you’re more likely to catch him strumming a bass guitar in his band, Chalk Flowers, or updating his twitter account, than harassing serfs or drumming up funds on behalf of the Queen.

Today the office is a ceremonial one, but Mr Younger is adamant he can still make a difference.

“I’m very keen on practical outcomes,” he says.

“The first thing I was aware of is that the high sheriff is only in place for a year, so it’s important not to try and put in place too many new initiatives that will eat up the time and the finances of the council. We need to look at ways we can help organisations. That was my guiding principle: to listen to the heartbeat of the county and try and connect organisations.

“I’m focussing the year on three areas. First is reoffending rates, which struck me as very high. So I wanted to see what was happening in the county and to work with re-offenders, helping young people escape and not to end up in the criminal justice system in the first place.

“National Grid’s young offender programme was not working in Hampshire but I spoke with Mary Harris and she already new Dave Rogers, the governor of Winchester prison. But what I was able to do was connect them and they’re now working on that in Winchester prison.”

The second area Mr Younger has in his sights sits closer to home.

A married father of three, the 47-year-old also has a brother with learning difficulties, and it’s partially for this reason he felt a natural inclination to dedicate his time in office to helping the vulnerable.

“That allowed me an opportunity to think about helping the vulnerable. So for example, tonight I’m going to watch a rehearsal for the Blue Apple Theatre Company, an organisation which does tremendous work for people with learning disabilities, and I think a lot of them are really very inspiring.”

He says the community awards are the third big priority for him and he has drawn the county into eight areas, appointing a chair for each, who will help him in his search for those deserving of special recognition for their community work.

As you might expect of someone educated at Winchester College, who went on to considerable success in the City as a public relations expert, Mr Younger is a polished, well-spoken man.

Having co-founded the financial communications group RLM Finsbury, he remains a consulting partner after the firm was sold in 2001, in a deal rumoured to be worth up to £60m.

He is also the founding director of a research centre at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

But while the veneer may be ultra-smooth, Mr Younger still comes across as sincere and one has the impression that, despite their very different backgrounds, he’ll communicate effectively with the young offenders he hopes to help.

As we discuss his work in the drawing room of an impressive home he shares with his wife, Catherine, in West Meon, you have to wonder why he has elected to add further to his workload.

“I was intrigued by the history but what I found really appealed to me was the chance to meet an incredibly interesting and varied group of people. It’s a great chance to learn about the county, so what’s not to like?”

He’s not short on enthusiasm for the task at hand, but it’s when discussing his first business ventures as a fresh faced student-cum-entrepreneur at Aberdeen University that he really comes alive.

“I do think that (entrepreneurship) is what makes me tick most in life,” he concedes.

Perhaps this energy and entrepreneurial spirit will be vital if such an ancient - some might say obsolete – role is to survive.

He insists: “Well anything that has lasted more than a thousand years has to have some providence that’s worth learning about. But also it’s about people – people make a difference. If you get a good and engaging high sheriff who is able to connect with various organisations, you can make a difference. The role of a high sheriff is about listening and learning and sharing what you have learnt.”