When: 5th May 2016
Where: City of London
£: Free to watch
What is it?
Each year, on Ascension Day, an ancient custom is carried out in the City of London. Beating the Bounds originates from a time before maps were commonplace. The custom was used as a way of passing on the knowledge of where the parish boundaries lay. Officials would take the boys from the parish on a formal walk along the boundaries, beating boundary markers with canes as a way of remembering where they lay.
This custom of Beating the Bounds is still carried out by All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the City of London. The Beating Party usually consists of clergy from the church, students from St Dunstan’s College, and Masters of the associated Livery Companies dressed in their finery.
The south boundary of the parish is mid-stream in the Thames, but that doesn’t deter the beating party from their task and each year the party board a boat which takes them out onto the river to beat that boundary mark. After they return to the shore the procession moves around the parish, stopping at various points for the beating party to mark the boundaries with canes.
The ceremony is followed every year by a service of Festal Evensong at All Hallows by the Tower.
The custom is still carried out in a handful of other places in the UK, such as in Oxford, where it is carried out by Brasenose College.