Beating of the Bounds of Aspley Guise

Before people had easy access to mass-printed maps, local children needed to be taught where their parish boundaries ran, in order to avoid land disputes with neighbours, settle liability over parish contributions, or even ensure rights for burial within the local churchyard. Parish boundaries were far more important then than they are now. With each parish being responsible for supporting their own poor, there were even cases of pregnant travellers being harried and pushed into an adjoining parish, so that the family would not be able to claim financial assistance locally. Therefore, a periodic walk around the parish limits to teach the inhabitants was established.

This boundary walk developed into a tradition that usually occurred on Ascension Day or during Rogation week. The parish and church officials would lead a crowd of boys armed with birch or willow sticks to ‘beat’ the parish boundary markers, so they were more likely to remember where they were. Sometimes the boys themselves were whipped or bumped up and down on the boundary-stones to make the memory more permanent. Prayers were said for protection in the forthcoming year and Psalms 103 and 104 were often recited. There is also thought that this Christian festival had merged with an earlier Pagan one, which annually blessed the fields and crops.

Nearby in Leighton Buzzard, a London merchant Edward Wilkes, wrote into his will of 1646 that the trustees of his almshouses should accompany the boys, and he also paid for beer and plum rolls to be distributed while his will was recited. A remarkable feature of the bequest was that while the will was read, one of the boys had to stand on his head, and this idea seems to have been adopted by Aspley Guise, with the addition of a hole being dug, and a smack on the bottom with the spade (if that process wasn’t already in use elsewhere.) A cartoon by George Cruickshank from 1827 shows all the great and good of an anonymous parish, dressed in their official robes of office. I imagine the procession would have looked very formal, if somewhat bizarre, parading the edges of countryside fields, occasionally stopping to beat stones or boys!

I have seen various sources quoting that the event should take place every three, seven, 11 or even 21 years. 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 1866-ish, 1878, 1887, 1910, 1933, 1952, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2016. There are reports on each of these except the 1866, which is only mentioned casually in the first press report of 1878.

The idea of an orderly procession of dignitaries, with younger members of the community learning the parish boundaries from their forebears, seems to have descended into an unruly mob, if the earliest newspaper reports can be believed…

Leighton Buzzard Observer – 30th April 1878
“Aspley Guise. Beating the Boundary. This old-fashioned custom, which has slumbered in the village for about 12 years, was again brought to life on Monday, April 22nd. It appears that a piece of land called “the town close” was given to the parish many years ago, the rent arising to be spent in bread and distributed to the poor. The land is let out in allotments, and produces a net rental of £9 per annum. Many years ago it was customary to “beat the boundary” every seven years, the rent on those occasions to be spent in bread and cheese and beer. It was thought this year by some of the parishioners that the old custom ought to be revived, and, as it appears the churchwardens who are trustees of the land have no power to refuse to grant the request, provided it is not made oftener than every seven years, a number of parishioners assembled in the morning and proceeded to execute their task. Led by some of the officials of the parish, and a man carrying a spade, they marched round the boundary. Here and there a hole was dug by the spade bearer, and the first boy who could be caught was taken by the heels and his head was thrust into the hole, and while in this attitude was reminded of his position by a slap from the spade. At some parts of the journey the boundary walkers found it unpleasant business. For instance, at the Weathercock Inn, several crawled through the bar parlour window, and at Mr Hutton’s some got upon the roof to pass over the house, but they found that too dangerous, and descended, one of the guardians of the poor pacifying the mob by walking through Mr. Hutton’s house. At another a rather deep stream was forded, and an arch crawled through by one of the party, for which he received compensation. After crossing the mill stream at Hulcut, two men who occupy respectable positions in the neighbourhood quarrelled about some trifling matter, and fought together in a dreadful manner, one getting his head cut open and the other his face and head fearfully mutilated. Never has there been known so much drunkenness as was witnessed on the occasion, there being not less than sixty men intoxicated and also several women and young lads. It is hoped by the respectable inhabitants that such disgraceful scenes will never again be witnessed in the usually quiet and orderly village of Aspley Guise.”

The whole drunken debacle also earned Aspley a stern ticking off in another local paper…

Luton Times – 3rd May 1878
“Aspley Guise. Once more news of proceedings of a disorderly character came from this usually quiet parish. It was only a very little time ago that we had to remark upon certain circumstances in connection with the election of Guardians. Now it is beating the bounds of the parish, which is the cause of much comment. The practice has been allowed to lie dormant for several years, but upon a recent day the custom was revived. Much was done that ought not to have been, and the proceedings throughout savoured more of those prevalent in the most benighted and besotted hamlet in the Black County or the potteries, than such as one would expect from the inhabitants of what ought to be one of the best conducted, as it is, one of the most picturesque of our Bedfordshire villages. Aspley Guise must take care of its reputation for the future.”

Aspley Guise was not the only parish to experience some unruly behaviour during their Bounds Beating. In 1874, in Maidenhead, an unsuspecting farmer was picked up and “bumped” by a procession which included the Maidenhead Mayor and two policemen. He later sued for damages and the Judge said that such horseplay was detestable and a disgrace to all Englishmen! The farmer won his case, and was awarded £10, plus costs, for the assault.

When it happened again at Aspley in 1887, another local paper was equally dismissive:

Beds Times – 21st May 1887
“Aspley Guise – Boundary Beating – The old custom of beating the boundary every seventh year in this parish took place on Tuesday, May 10th. A number of men, with the parish officials, performed the ceremony and carried it out, as is usual, by digging a hole and putting a boy head first unto it at different points. When will such tom foolery come to an end?”

…but every seventh year would not work out to be 1887 from 1878? Perhaps the continued distain of the Press was taken notice of, as it would be 23 years before it occurred again in 1910, organised by Dr. Fowler, the great Antiquary who lived at Aspley House. He was instrumental in setting up Bedfordshire County Archives and the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society. If anyone would have wanted to revive and continue this old tradition, it would have been him.

Beds Times – 30th September 1910
From the Parish Council Meeting:
“The question of the parish boundary was discussed at some length, and it was ultimatly resolved, on the motion of Mr. Wilkinson, to beat the bounds on Saturday, October 22nd, the Committee to settle the route consisting of Dr. Fowler, Messrs. S. G. Wilkinson, W. Smith, W. Ellis, and A. Sibley. At the conclusion of the function the Councillers will be entertained to a supper given by two members of the Council.”

Luton Times – 7th October 1910
“The old custom of “beating the bounds” will be revived here on Saturday, October 22nd. Afterwards the Parish Councillors will be entertained to supper by two members.”

Luton Times – 14th October 1910
“Great interest is being taken in the arrangements for beating the bounds on October 22nd. The special committee of the Parish Council have drawn up a programme.”

It seems a reporter from the Beds Times was invited with them, so perhaps the organisers wanted to ensure a better write-up than they had previously enjoyed! They choose to mention it in their editorial and as a separate report.

Beds Times – 28th October 1910
““Beating the bounds” is evidently a practice which requires not merely a feeling for old traditions, but considerable bodily activity, if the thing is to be done well. The Parish Council of Aspley Guise did it well on Saturday, and we give an interesting account of the procedings on page 3. It is well that these old customs should not die out entirely, though the modern practice of relying on good maps may render them not so necessary as in former days, when the important points of the parish boundaries were impressed upon the memories of small boys by sound whippings. If our correspondent is right, some such methods were employed on Saturday, and we confess we should have like to have seen a Councillor, placed head foremost in a hole, and patted with a spade!”

Beds Times – 28th October 1910
“Beating the Bounds. The action of the Parish Council in arranging for the beating of the Parish Bounds after an interval of 23 years, aroused a great deal of interest throughout the village, and on Saturday morning, when the members and friends met in the centre of the village, quite a number of spectators attended to give the party a hearty send off. The Councillors present at the start were Dr. G. H. Fowler, Messrs S. G. Wilkinson, W. Ellis, F. Perry, W. Smith, B. Sibley, and C. Randall. They were joined later by Mr. J. W. Arnall. In addition there were present Miss E. Sargeaunt, Mr. McIntyre, Mr. S. J. Southwood, Mr. C. Billingham, the Vice-Chairman of the Crawley Council, the village policeman, and about three dozen lads, who expected to take in turns an active part in the proceedings. The mode of procedure adopted was to follow Messrs. Fowler and Wilkinson, who were in charge of the map and walk along the outside of the parish boundary, and at intervals, with a spade carried by Councillor B. Sibley, dig a hole in which one of the boys or sometimes a councillor was placed in the somewhat undignified position of standing on his head while the spade was brought into sharp contact with the lower part of his body.
The procession wended its way to the starting point, Crawley Lodge, and from there to Hulcote. Hedges and ditches were cleared by some with ease but others with difficulty, barbed wire often causing some anxiety. The first really difficult point to negotiate was a brook with water about 5 feet deep at Salford Bridge, the middle of which constitutes the boundary, but Billington soon divested himself of his clothing, and so was able to do the business thoroughly. At the Red Lion, in Water Hall, came the first stopping place for rest and refreshment, and although the landlord had been warned of the proposed attack his supply of bread and cheese with drink was sorely taxed. After a stay of a quarter of an hour, a move was made to Crabtree Hall, and from thence across the Railway line to “The Weathercock” at Woburn Sands. Here a longer rest and more refreshments were taken in view of the more difficult task to follow. A lady at one house, which contains a bedroom which covers ground in both parishes, resented the intrusion, and for some time with a huge stick held the intruders at bay, until mutual explanations put things right. Then several tall buildings and walls covered with broken glass were conquered until the “Maypole” was reached. From here the party struck across the wood through the puzzle gardens to Henry VII Lodge, from here to Woburn Wash brook. Then to Crawley grove and back to the starting point was plain sailing, but it was noticed that the last 2 miles were walked almost in silence, the long journey having taxed the best of the pedestrians present. At the conclusion of their task, the Councillors and their followers broke up with three hearty cheers for the parish of Aspley Guise. The journey accomplished was about 12 miles, and excepting for the one lady, one adult parishioner and about a dozen or more lads, all the starters finished the course.
In the evening, at the invitation of Messrs Fowler, Harris and Wilkinson, the promoters of the expedition, the members of the Council sat down to an excellent supper at the “Bell” Hotel. In addition there were present the Rev. D. W. Henry and Mr. H M Freears, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Woburn Sands Council; Mr. A. Norris, Vice-Chairman of the Crawley Council; Mr. Macfarlane and Mr. W. R. Pegg. The King’s health was heartily drunk, and a “Smoker” followed. Messrs. E. and C. Barrett and A. Tomlin providing a most entertaining program. During the evening Mr. S. G. Wilkinson, who acted as Chairman in the unavoidable absence of Mr. Stanley Harris, intimated that Mr. J. W. Goodall, the Vice-Chairman of the Council, was suffering from neuritis, and expressed regret at not being able to come, whilst apologies had been received from Rev. R. C. F. Scott, Vicar of Salford; Mr. Tanqueray, of Woburn; Mr. Stuges of Wavendon, and Mr. Barnwell, of Husborne Crawley. Dr. Fowler proposed “The Guests,” and the Rev. D. W. Henry replied with a clever and amusing speech in which he complimented the Council upon its work, and suggested one day Aspley Guise would be a town with a Mayor and Corporation. Mr W. Ellis proposed a hearty vote of thanks to those who promoted the scheme and bore the whole of the expenses. Mr. W. Wells seconded, the proposal being carried with acclamation. Mr. Wilkinson replied, as did Dr. Fowler, both expressing regret that Mr. Stanley Harris had been unable to be present.”

The Luton Times report of 28th October offered a similar report, but added a few extra details. They (incorrectly) said it had been revived after a 24-year lapse. The first “Bumping” had taken place at Crawley Lodge, and the entire route had been 12 miles, which had been traversed in 5½ hours. At Mrs. Medcalf’s house, Ernest Blanchard was put through the bedroom window. There was only one householder who objected to the procession. Dr. Fowler gave a speech at the evening event, outlining the method by which the present boundaries had been defined. He was able to trace them back some 950 years, when they were practically the same as now, with the exception that Hulcote and Aspley Heath had been cut out of the original parish area.

Ampthill & District News – 3rd December 1910
It was reported that at the usual bi-monthly Parish Council Meeting, the question was raised as to whether some record should be entered in the minute book of the beating of the bounds on October 22nd; it was resolved on the motion of Dr. Fowler, and seconded by Mr. Wells, that it be done.

Luton Times – 9th December 1910
“Aspley Guise – At the Parish Council meeting, Mr J. W. Goodall in the chair, it was resolved to record in the minute book the fact of “beating the bounds” on October 22, and the memorandum is to be signed by some of the “beaters”.”

The next event seems to have been 1933, although given the lapse they thought there had been since the last one, it is possible one also took place in 1912, or was that a mistake for 1910?

Northampton Mercury – 29th September 1933
“Beating the Bounds. Aspley Guise, a Beds. village on the Bucks border, has been interesting itself in the question of footpaths and boundaries, and on Saturday, in a steady downpour accomplished the task of beating the bounds – a ceremony which had not previously taken place for 21 years. Most of those who took part were new to the procedure but facilities were given by the Duke of Bedford for traversing the necessary woods in order that the boundary marks could be renewed. Refreshments were served at the Weathercock Inn, Woburn Sands, where the Bucks. and Beds. boundary runs through the house.”

Beds Times – 29th September 1933
“On Saturday at Aspley Guise the old-time ceremony of beating the bounds of the parish was carried out under the direction of the Parish Council. Twenty-one years had elapsed since a similar ceremony took place. Then Dr. G. H. Fowler was responsible, and fortunately his advice was available for the scheme again this year, as well as his marked maps, which were used. The Council had invited parishioners to take part and some forty gathered in or near the Square. These included Mr. W. Wells, the Chairman of the Council for the past seventeen years, who, despite passing his eightieth birthday seemed as keen as any, Messrs. A. L. McIntyre, Hanckel, Murrer, Parkins (members), and H. Stanley Brown (Clerk of the Council). There were also present a number of ladies, including Miss Mahon, Miss Sargeaunt, Miss Charlton, Miss Crisp, Miss Holmes, Miss Hodgkin, Mrs. H. S. Brown, Mrs. Tripp, a number of young people, and two police constables.
A move was made to Malting Close, where Dr. Fowler met the party with his maps. After final instructions had been given the first boundary mark was cut, the Clerk’s seven-year-old son doing duty and getting the honoured “pat”. The boundary was then followed in the direction of Hulcot and Salford, and here the new boundary mark shown on Messrs. Eve’s map was followed. Rain was now falling, and there were plenty of incidents. Woburn Sands was reached and after a couple of boys had been put through the window of a house which is partly in Bedfordshire and partly in Buckinghamshire as adjournment was made to a private room at the “Weathercock”, where coffee and biscuits were served through the generosity of Mr. McIntyre. Aspley Hill and the Woods were then “done”, and the boundary on the Crawley side was followed until the starting place was again reached.
Mr McIntyre was thanked for his welcome provision by Messrs. E. Murrer and H. S. Brown. The ceremony lasted between four and five hours.”

An un-named boy being taught where the boundary is in Aspley Guise, 1933!

When Dr. Fowler died in 1940, the detailed obituary of his long and distinguished career appeared in the Beds Times of 23rd August. It mentioned that during his Chairmanship of the Aspley Parish Council, he had revived the Beating of the Bounds, and the start of the scheme, with its full day of walking and its suppers in the evening to which the chairmen of neighbouring parishes were invited, were still fresh in the memory of the older folk. With the intervening Second World War, it was to be a full 19 years before the next event.

Beds Times – 3rd October 1952
“We Beat the Bounds. An amusing adventure, if you’ve never tried it before, is “Beating the Bounds” of a country parish.
Last Saturday your humble contributor played this old-world game. He went part of the course around the limits of Aspley Guise – over the field-ways, through bush and through briar, wriggling under malevolent barbed wire, scaling high fences or crawling under ‘em (once, to ecstatic mirth of the party, he stuck between the pales of one!), and performing other feats both difficult and undignified to a degree for a cross-county traveller of such generous girth. By the lunchtime break he felt he had earned it.
This was the first time Aspley Guise bounds has been beaten in 19 years, and there was a fine “field” out, representative of the local council, the church, the law, and the many interests which are contained in the “residents” of this picturesque region.
It was a sporting company which looked as if it could have tackled a day’s shooting or beagling with equal zest and good-humour. Friendly, withal and always ready to help the lame dogs over the stiles. And there were ladies, too, who kept up with the hunt right gallantly.
At the prescribed points the nearest boy was “bumped” and received the sacrificial strokes with the spade.
Laughter which was running free all this merry morning fairly bubbled over at these refreshing interludes. I regret that I could not be in at the death, when the course had been circumnavigated and where at the very point where the first victims had been turned upside down six hours before, impious hands were laid upon the person of the Chairman of the Parish Council, he who had been our dashing leader in this memorable “perambulation”, and he suffered the same fate. I repeat, I wish I had been there to see.”

A report of the 1952 walk was also submitted to the publication “Folklore”, Vol. 64, No. 2, published June 1953, written by Thomas W. Bagshawe. (Article © Folklore Enterprises, Ltd.)

“Beating the Bounds, Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire
Aspley Guise Parish Council decided to beat the bounds of the parish on September 27, 1952. The last time this had taken place was in September 1933, after a previous lapse of 21 years. Some forty parishioners took part in the 1933 perambulation, about twenty-five assembled in 1952 though only a dozen or so, including the writer, completed the twelve mile circuit.
The party assembled on the Square at Aspley Guise at 10a.m. The procession was led by the Chairman of the Parish Council (Mr. W. K. Allen) and the Clerk (Mr. H. S. Brown), followed by the Rector of Aspley Guise, Parish Councillors, and others. The following extract from the Woburn Reporter of September 30th, 1952, gives an account of the journey round the bounds:
“A move was made along Bedford Road, and the first stopping place was at Wednesden, where Aspley Guise and Husborne Crawley meet. The first boundary mark (officially termed as “cutting the sod”) was made, Mr. H. S. Brown using the spade carried by him for the ceremony 19 years ago.
Mr. W. K. Allen grabbed the person standing nearest to him, who happened to be a young reporter from Leighton Buzzard, Miss Anne Whebley, who despite protests, was stood on her head and received the time-honoured ‘pat’ with the spade. That ceremony was repeated, the
‘victim’ being a son of the Rector. After Mr. Allen had appealed to those taking part not to break down fences and hedges, the party went on their journey following the boundary in the direction of Hulcote, Salford, Wavendon, and Woburn Sands. Arriving at the Weathercock Inn (situated partly in Woburn Sands, partly in Aspley Guise parishes) refreshments were served, supplied by Mr. Allen. A boy was put through a window of the Weathercock Inn…. Walking through Cherry Tree Cottage, which, like the Weathercock Inn, nearby, is in two parishes, Weathercock Lane, Aspley Hill, the Square (where three parishes, Aspley Guise, Woburn Sands and Aspley Heath) meet, the Woods were walked, and the boundary with Husborne
Crawley was again reached. It was close on 4p.m. when the starting point was again reached.”
There are no old records available of the names of the Aspley Guise parish boundaries such as are sometimes preserved in memoranda in parish registers. There was also no ancient local inhabitant who could provide these often picturesque and at times gruesome names.”

Whether there were any walks between 1952 and 2008, I have yet to discover. If not, there was a break of 56 years before the next. A Central Bedfordshire Council initiative called P3 (People, Projects & Partnerships) began to organise the walk, in conjunction with Aspley Guise Parish Council. From here on, the event seems to be a lot more sedate than some previous occasions, with no upside-down-beatings!

Aspley Guise Parish Council Minutes Monday 4th August 2008
“The Parish Council agreed to have the Beating of the Bounds on 28th September starting at 9.30am in the Square. The route is about ten miles and will be done with a break at lunchtime at the Weathercock pub. Walkers could do half or all the walk or join it at any point. The Clerk is to contact Bedford Estates and Peter Sinnott to inform them and any other landowners that the walk is to take place.”

Aspley Guise Parish Council Minutes Monday 6th October 2008
“Mr Outram reported on a successful ‘Beating the Bounds’ walk with 44 people and 4 dogs taking part. The weather was kind and after a lunch break at the Weathercock pub about half the number continued on to complete the walk. P3 would like to make the event more frequent, say every 3 years.”

Aspley Guise Parish Newsletter November 2008
“Aspley Guise P3 Group Update. On Sunday 27th September, in warm sunny weather, a group of 45 people and four dogs left The Square at 10a.m. to Beat the Bounds of the Parish. Following past practice this was a walk around the civic parish boundary of Aspley Guise, a total distance of 9.5 miles. The morning section was just over 5 miles, walking up the Bedford Road to reach the boundary and then following it northwards across the fields and the railway line to the A421. The boundary on the north side with Hulcote and Salford parish actually runs down the central reservation of the M1 motorway so we followed the edge of the fields south of the A421 before heading down the Cranfield Road and zigzagging across the harvested fields to our boundary with Woburn Sands.
At lunchtime the walkers were welcomed at The Weathercock, where we had refreshments, excellent bar snacks and had a chance to rest and chat at tables in the garden. It was also the opportunity for people to decide whether to leave the walk there or to continue for the remaining 4 miles on an even sunnier afternoon. 21 people decided to walk the second part. Via Weathercock Lane, Aspley Hill and the Woburn Road we made our way over Ling Hill on the bridleway to Birchmoor Farm. From here it was over the fields and back to the Bedford Road where we completed the walk, after another 2 hours, at 3.45p.m.”

Minutes of the Aspley Guise Parish Council Meeting held on Monday 5th September 2011
“The minutes of the P3 meeting held on 25th August had been distributed. Mr Outram confirmed that the date for the Beating of the Bounds will be 25th September starting at 10am from The Square. There will be a halfway stop at The Weathercock PH for refreshments returning to The Square at about 4pm.”

Aspley Guise Parish Newsletter – Autumn 2014
“BEATING THE BOUNDS 2014. Aspley Guise P3 Group. At 10.00a.m. on Sunday September 28th 14 adults, 1 young lady and 2 dogs left The Square to walk to the Parish Boundary and from there set off to Beat The Bounds.
Beating the Bounds is an Old English custom for perpetuating parish boundaries. Where it survives or has been revived, it usually takes place once in three years. The ceremony took place annually on one of the Rogation days preceding Ascension Day (between April 27 and June 2). The Parish Priest, Churchwardens, Beadle, and other parish officials walked round the boundaries accompanied by boys, who beat the boundary stones with boughs. To reinforce memory, the boys themselves were sometimes bumped on the stones.
The precise boundary does not always follow designated footpaths or bridleways. Consequently we had to deviate from the boundary in a few places. One field had cattle in; a couple of others had been newly planted; Concra Park and St Vincent’s have been built on another part and, most bizarre of all, the boundary goes down the middle of the M1!
The version that we walked was 9.2 miles (14.8km) so by the time we had walked to and from The Square we actually walked just under 10 miles.
We were able to avoid the cattle field by walking back down Bedford Road from Venison Lodge to Wednesden Lane. From here we walked up the lane and diverted in front of the farmhouse to re-join the boundary the other side of the cow field. We then walked along the hedgerow bordering the A421 rather than down the middle of the M1. When Cranfield Road was reached we walked along it to Crabtree Lane. Once the Caravan Company was reached we walked from there across fields to eventually reach Vandyke Close. From there we went through the Recreation Ground as far as The Weathercock where we stopped for lunch at about 12.15. Two people left here and the remaining 13 set off on the last leg just after 1.00.
From The Weathercock the boundary goes up Station Road, through The Jitty and up Weathercock Lane. We had to walk up to the crossroads and down Aspley Hill because the housing had been built over the boundary. On reaching The Fir Tree (we didn’t stop!) we turned up the Woburn Road and into the woods. We followed the old packhorse route to eventually arrive at the drive up to Birchmoor Farm. This was another diversion because of planting. We walked along the bridleway then into the field, skirted round Carter’s Grove and the back across the fields to Gypsy Lane to complete the Beating of the Bounds. From here it was back to The Square and into The Anchor for more refreshments just after 4.00.
Thanks to Peter Sinnott for letting us divert to avoid his cattle, to Mike Dickins for taking the photos, to The Weathercock and The Anchor for our refreshments and, finally, to the 15 hardy souls that made the effort.
Even the weather was kind to us! See you all in 3 years’ time and see how much of the boundary we can walk then.”

The next break was only two years, as councillors asked for it to be brought forward. Aspley Guise Council Newsletter again:

Aspley Guise Parish Newsletter – Beating the Bounds 2016
“At 10.00a.m. on Sunday September 18th 25 adults (including 7 members of the Parish Council), 1 child and 4 dogs left The Square to walk to the Parish Boundary and from there set off to’ Beat The Bounds’.
Beating the Bounds is an Old English custom for perpetuating parish boundaries. Where it survives or has been revived, it usually takes place once in three years. The ceremony took place annually on one of the Rogation days preceding Ascension Day (between April 27 and June 2). The Parish Priest, Churchwardens, Beadle, and other parish officials walked round the boundaries accompanied by boys, who beat the boundary stones with boughs. To reinforce memory, the boys themselves were sometimes bumped on the stones. Before the Reformation (16th C) the prayer or asking (Lat. rogare, to ask) for a good harvest was a feature of the ceremony. In the N of England, Rogation week is known as Gang (go) week, in allusion to the procession.
The precise boundary does not always follow designated footpaths or bridleways. Consequently we had to deviate from the boundary in a few places. One field had electric fences; Concra Park and St Vincent’s have been built on another part and, most bizarre of all, the boundary goes down the middle of the M1 and through The Weathercock dining room!
The version that we walked was 9.2 miles so, by the time we had walked to and from The Square, we actually walked just under 10 miles. We reached The Weathercock just after 12 where we stopped for lunch. Five people left us here and two ladies and another dog joined us for the second half. We set off on the last leg at 12.45. We arrived back at The Square and into The Anchor for more refreshments just after 4.00.
Thanks to New Barn Farm and Birchmoor Farm for letting us cross their private land, to The Weathercock and The Anchor for our refreshments and, finally, to the 26 hardy souls that made the effort. Even the weather was kind to us.”

It is expected that, owing to the last walk being held a year early, the next Beating the Bounds around Aspley Guise will take place in 2020.


Last updated June 2019.