Four years ago Wellington’s then new mayor Vivienne Stock-Williams revived the ancient custom of beating the bounds – walking the parish boundaries. This Sunday councillors plus anyone who else who wants to join in will once again walk the 7-mile route, starting at the Skylark, 10am.
The route passes many of the town’s historic sites such as the old carriage drive entrance to Nynehead Court, Perry Elm Farm which dates back to 1615 and Tone Works, part of Fox’s Woollen Mill. En route, walkers will be served with cream teas at Prowses Mill and those who ‘beat’ the entire boundary celebrate their achievement back at at the Skylark pub.
The practice dates back to Anglo Saxon times. Its original purpose was to share knowledge of the extent of the parish boundary at a time when maps and written records were rare. By walking the line around the town, local people could check that boundary markers were clear and had not been moved. Local people’s rights to be buried in a churchyard and their duty to contribute to the repair of a church were determined by their residence within each boundary.
So that the knowledge of where the boundaries lay was not forgotten, members of the local community would patrol them with green boughs to beat the markers. Small boys would be whipped with the boughs or have their heads banged against the markers so that they would not forget their local geography.
Further information about Sunday’s walk can be obtained from the Council Office 01823 662855.