“Beating the Bounds” is an ancient but still practised annual custom, dating back to Medieval times, during which parishes re-affirm their boundaries, at Rogationtide, by processing round them and stopping and beating each boundary mark with wands.
The City church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower will be beating its bounds today, Ascension Day, Thursday 14th May 2015. (Last year Ascension Day fell on 29th May – my photographs below were all taken then). The “Beating Party” will be made up of students from St Dunstan’s School in Catford, returning to their roots in the parish of St Dunstan-in-the-East to take part in the proceedings.
The party, accompanied by the Clergy from All Hallows, and the Masters of the Livery Companies associated with the church, will first board a boat (last year called the “Royal Nore”) to beat the southern boundary mark, in the middle of the Thames!
They will then return to dry land, and process round the remainder of the boundary of the parish, beating the remaining boundary marks – at Custom House, St Dunstan-in-the-East, Plantation House and Knolly’s House – as they go, before returning to the church for a service of Festal Evensong in the presence of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs.
In 2014, they then took part in a “Boundary Dispute Ceremony” with the Resident Governor and Yeoman Warders of HM Tower of London, as they do every third year, in commemoration of an occasion in 1698 when an actual fight broke out between the people of the parish and those of the Tower over a long-standing boundary dispute. As one historical account put it:
“On this occasion the warders used their halberds to some purpose, and several parishioners were seriously injured”.
All Hallows by the Tower is visited, although not generally entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walk, and on our “Lost City Highlights”, “Dark Age London” and “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of our web-site.