‘Beating the Bounds’

The annual act of ‘Beating the Bounds’ of the parish was extremely important before maps were commonplace. Local officials and interested parties would walk the parish boundary, often on Ascension Day (40th day after Easter), re-affirming the limits and passing on the knowledge to each generation. The ritual was banned by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans as an ‘ancient frivolity’, but revived by the Victorians who had a penchant for resurrecting old traditions. Even today, the City of London parish of Allhallows-by-the-Tower continues the annual walk.

The precise border has always been of interest, as it signifies who is responsible for taxes, road upkeep, street lighting, sanitation and the like. Unsurprisingly, there are tales of the stones used to mark parish borders at intervals being nefariously moved in the dead of night…

The photo shows an Islington vestry border stone from 1863, still in position today, in a perhaps surprising place…. my next ‘Beating the Bounds’ I walk around the Hackney and Islington border near Dalston, De Beauvoir and the Regent’s Canal reveals more.