In former times when maps were rare, it was usual to make a formal tour of the parish boundaries. The priest of the parish with the churchwardens and the parochial officials, headed a crowd of boys who, armed with green boughs, usually birch or willow, beat the parish boundary markers with them. Sometimes the boys were themselves whipped, or even violently bumped on the boundary stones to make them remember. The object of taking boys is supposed to ensure that witnesses to the boundaries, should survive as long as possible.
The ceremony had an important practical purpose. Checking the boundaries was a way of preventing encroachment by neighbours; sometimes boundary markers would be moved, or lines obscured and a folk memory of the true extent of the parish, was necessary to maintain integrity of borders.
In England the custom is as old as Anglo-Saxon days, as it is mentioned in the laws of Alfred the Great and Aethelstan, however it could go back as far as the Vikings, or even the Romans who had a festival – Terminalia – in honour of Terminus, the god of landmarks.
It is some time since we ‘beat the bounds’ of Chawton, so this coming October, on Saturday 2nd, we will be doing what Chawtonians have been doing for centuries.
We will start mid morning from the entrance to Chawton House drive, with lunch at the Greyfriar before the second half of our 11 mile walk.
It is a fun day out, good exercise too, and a chance to meet your fellow villagers.
Nearer the date I will confirm the exact time of departure.
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