Beating the Bounds
Here’s a picture Memory Lane readers may be able to shed a little light on.
It’s another belonging to Margaret Pettifer. All she knows is that it was taken at an event called ‘Beating the Bounds’. From the signpost, we can pinpoint that it was taken in The Green area of High Street, Hillmorton, with the cars in the background turning out of Deerings Road. The signpost is at the top of Barby Lane.
It would be interesting if anyone can put a year to it.
The only two people who can be named are Margaret’s father Herbert Dumbleton, known as Bert, from Long Lawford and the man next to him, who was called John, possibly with the surname Goodman. They are the two men in the white shirts, just to the left of the signpost.
Perhaps readers can recognise themselves or members of their families?
I’d not heard of Beating the Bounds before - and haven’t managed to find anything in our files, but there’s lots on the internet about the tradition. Apparently the custom goes back to the Anglo Saxon period at least.
In the days before maps and written title deeds a knowledge of the physical boundaries of property was very important. So the custom grew up of walking the boundaries, stopping at intervals to strike boundary stones to ‘mark’ the bounds. The practice was often linked to Rogation Days, days set aside by the Church for prayers for the crops; walking the boundaries of the parish was an obvious opportunity to do so.
Another definition says the priest of the parish with the churchwardens and the parochial officials headed a crowd of boys who, armed with green boughs, usually birch or willow, ‘beat’ the parish boundary markers with them. Sometimes the boys were themselves bumped on the boundary-stones to make them remember.
The object of taking boys along is supposed to ensure that witnesses to the boundaries should survive as long as possible.