26 May

On a very windy, but fortunately dry, Ascension Day (Thursday May 26), Mark and I took part in the procession to beat the bounds from All Hallows by the Tower with a number of World Traders in the following group. Beating the bounds traditionally takes place on Rogation Sunday and involves the Church leading parishioners around the parish boundary where children beat the boundary with sticks to mark it out and the parish is blessed to guarantee good crops for the year. St Dunstan’s College provides the enthusiastic children for the occasion. 

The walk stopped at five boundary points for a blessing and a beating, starting with the River Thames where the children were sent out on a boat to beat the water as that’s where the parish boundary is! We then moved on to Custom House, St Dunstans, Plantation House, and Knollys House before returning to All Hallows for Festal Evensong. At the conclusion of the service we went to the final boundary mark at the Tower of London. 

In 1698 a riot ensued during the ceremony, presumably due to a dispute over where the boundary lay. Every third year this is commemorated in a ‘battle’ between the forces of the Tower and All Hallows. This being the third year we were all looking forward to the excitement, but, sadly, although the choir and beaters from All Hallows were confronted by the Governor and Yeomen Warders in full uniform, it was a tame affair with speeches and proclamations of peaceful intent, although the children from both sides indulged in some vigorous beating with a number of the sticks not surviving the encounter!

Mary Hardy