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Beating the Bounds, Berkshire

The custom of beating the bounds is an ancient one: before accurate maps, it was useful for the people of a parish to know the landmarks that delineated their area – it was particularly vital for the local priest, as his tithes were taken on the properties within the parish boundaries. Some claim the act dates all the way back to Norman times, and even Saxon , it being important to know which Lord of the Manor you came under in those days, for feudal service and for rents. In more recent times the custom gained a more Christian aspect, held at Rogationtide (the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day), often with church processions and religious banners held aloft during the walk.
Given that in many cases the beating of the bounds only took place every five to seven years, in some places peculiar methods of fixing the knowledge in people’s heads were used, and are still kept up, though with less vigour perhaps: children were shown a landmark, say a tree, and then given a thick ear or worse to make them remember it! If the boundary was a stream the children might be pushed in, or ducked there. A gentler if more absurd method for this was holding children upside down at certain spots.
In Berkshire Newbury was well known for its beating of the bounds, and the village of Binfield has an area known as Amen Corner, the name supposedly derived from the saying of prayers at a particular place during the bound beating, though other suggestions have been made for this too.
What may become a new custom has been devised lately as a way of raising money for charity, extending the beating of the bounds to the entire county of Berkshire.

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