Beating the Bounds of the Parish of All Hallows – Ascension Day

“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.

THAT'S a stick

THAT’S a stick

The beating party makes its way aboard the Royal Nore

The beating party makes its way aboard the Royal Nore

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!

Beating the bound in the middle of the river

Beating the bound in the middle of the river

The Beating Party of Tower Pier

The Beating Party on Tower Pier

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.

The beating party on Tower Pier (2)

The beating party on Tower Pier (2)

The beating party on St Dunstan's Hill

The beating party on St Dunstan’s Hill

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”.

The mock-confronattion with the inhabitants of the Tower

2014  – The mock-confrontation with the inhabitants of the Tower

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.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

4 thoughts on “Beating the Bounds of the Parish of All Hallows – Ascension Day

  1. rafterd1972

    What an interesting custom and how nice you brought it to light with your great pictures. Looked like a rather wet day. I have a very good friend who lives in the Cotswolds and with whom I communicate every day. She says you have had a lot of rain and wind this spring.

    Reply

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