Beating the Bounds

Beating the Bounds is an ancient custom still observed in many English parishes. Its roots go back to mediaeval times when parishes reaffirmed their boundaries by processing round them at Rogationtide, stopping to beat each boundary mark with wands and to pray for protection and blessings for the land. At All Hallows we beat the bounds of our parish every year on Ascension Day, followed by a service of Festal Evensong in the church.

The Beating Party is made up of students from St Dunstan's College, Catford, who return to their roots in the parish of St Dunstan-in-the-East to take part in the proceedings, together with the clergy and the Masters of our associated Livery Companies. The south boundary of the parish is mid-stream of the Thames and the Beating Party board a boat which takes them out onto the river to beat that boundary mark. They then return to shore and the procession moves around the parish, stopping at various points to allow the beating party to mark the boundaries with canes as they go. The ceremony is followed by a service of Festal Evensong for Ascension Day at All Hallows at 6pm.

Every third year the ceremony includes a 'battle' with the Governor and Yeomen Warders of HM Tower of London at the boundary mark shared by the Tower and the church. During the middle ages the boundary was always in dispute, and this meeting commemorates an occasion in 1698 when a riot took place between the people of the Tower and those of the parish. Fortunately for all concerned, the exchange in present times is rather more peaceful than in the past!

This being the third year, the battle will take place on the terrace between the church and the Tower on Thursday 21 May at 4.15pm, followed by the Beating of the Bounds, with Evensong at 6pm. All are welcome to watch the battle and follow the beating ceremony, and to join us for the service afterwards.