"Beating the Bounds" Old English Custom

BEATING THE BOUNDS
In several places in England—at Oxford and some of the London parishes for instance—a singular procession may be seen every Ascension Day.

A number of men and boys carrying white willow wands walk round the boundaries of the parish and afterwards dine together.

This custom is called ” beating the bounds,” and arose in olden times, when parish or village boundaries were not so accurately marked out as they are nowadays.

It was once a great ceremony in country districts.

The choir sang hymns, the parson read the Gospel for the day under a tree—hence styled the Gospel Tree—and occasionally boys were whipped, or thrown into a river, or bumped against trees at certain spots, the better to impress upon their memories the exact position of a boundary.

This was all done in good part, for the lads were rewarded, and during the procession money and other gifts were distributed amongst the poor.

From “Little Folks Magazine” for May.

Source: Skegness Herald 27th April 1894

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