Beating the Bounds

A boy being taught where the boundary is in Aspley Guise, 1933.

Woburn Sands Collection

Before the borders of England’s parishes were definitively mapped, people learned the boundaries of their community by foot. Every year, a few days before the feast of the Ascension, the members of each parish would come together to walk the edge of their common lands.

The practice was called “beating the bounds” and the purpose was to create a shared mental map of the parish, to ensure that neighboring communities couldn’t encroach on their land.

There are printed newspaper reports or Parish Council records to show that a beating of the bounds around the parish boundary of Aspley Guise has taken place in c.1866, 1878, 1887, 1910, 1933, 1952, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2016. There are reports on each of these except for that in 1866, which is only mentioned casually in the first press report of 1878.

Beating the Bounds of Aspley Guise