The city boundaries were formerly marked out by wooden crosses, as they are now by stones.

Done every 7 years

Beating of the Bounds 1910 (before the crossing of the Stour where his hat fell in), Bennett-Goldney on the right with the white scarf


"The perambulating the boundaries of the city every seven years seemed to have been a time-honoured practice. On the 21st August, 2nd of Edward VI., on one of these occastions, the Corporation banqueted on "Pater Noster Hill." COT/JB

Beating of the Bounds

"...The lords of manors were in many cases the founders of the parish church, and hence it is, that the parish has often the same boundaries as the manor. At all events, any local division of that land would necessarily follow the manor. The exact boundaries of parishes were, moreover kept in constant remembrance by an annual custom of perambulations for beating the bounds. The older practice was to have a procession of parishioners singing the litany. The Injunctions of Elizabeth directed the curate and the substantial men of the parish to join in this walk. And it is reported, that the women said amen to the curses." The liberty of the press, speech and public worship 1880


"An Inventory of the Parish Registers and Other Records in the Diocese of Canterbury" by Charles Everleigh Woodruff 1922 - This register has a detailed account of Beating the Bounds in 1763"


The following is an account of the last survey of the boundaries of the city and liberties of Canterbury, taken in April, 1791, with the assistance of the owners and occupiers of the lands and premises, through which they run, or adjoin to. According to the old custom in describing the marks and bounds of this ancient city, they begin at Westgate bridge, and include the whole breadth of the river Stour, along the back of Northlane to the bridge above Dean's-mill; and then crossing the river, take a direction by the rails, that part the foot path from Dean's meadow; the meadow being in, and the foot-path out of the liberty; the said rails being placed there in lieu of a dike that formerly was a boundary, but is now filled up; and crossing the said foot-path about twenty feet from the site of the old postern, where, until this year, there was a wooden foot bridge, which divided the middle branch of the Stour from a garden belonging to the mayor and commonalty, in the occupation of Mr. John Brown, and includes the said garden or island, but leaves out the middle branch of the river, until it comes to the lowermost point of the said island, it then includes the whole breadth of the main or principal river to Barton-mill; and from thence to Claris's island, and so on, still including the breadth of the river, for upwards of half a mile below the said island, to the corner called Chantry head, where the river divides itself into two branches; and from the said corner across the meadows by a ditch unto the king's highway leading from Canterbury to Sturry, to a large ash tree, and crossing the road from thence along the hedge by the end of Millfield, to a boundary stone at the lower end of a field called the Lower Ten Acres, of the Old Park lands, belonging to Sir Edward Hales, bart. and now in the occupation of Mr. John Austen; and so by the hedge and ditch to the north end of the rough grounds called Scotland hills; and from thence up a hollow that divides Scotland-hills from Chequers-wood, to a stone by the king's highway without the wall of Earl Cowper's park, called the Mote; and then leading along the highway under the said wall towards Stodmarsh, by the Mote farm-house; and by the end of Well-lane, where the cross and gallows of Fordwich formerly stood, to the gate that leadeth into Trenly park; seventeen rods from which gate, within the Mote park, stands King's tree, an antient boundary; and from the said gate by the corner of the park, right down the hollow of Mead's-ruff, to a mark stone at the north-east corner of Elbery-marsh, by Holdridge wood; and along by the brook under Holdridge wood, and enclosing the Mote lands by Organ-lane, unto Fishpole bottom; and crossing the king's highway that leads from Canterbury to Littlebourn, southward, through the boggy hollow ground, close under the side of Paternoster wood, crossing the Patrixbourn road, under the garden of Paternoster-house to Homepitfield, in the occupation of Mr. Thomas W. Collar; and from thence along the eastern extremity of Gutteridge-field unto the mile stone, a few rods eastward up Dover road, beyond Gutteridge bottom; and from thence to a stone by an elm tree at the north east corner of Shegdowne, and the south-east corner of Dover close, in the occupation of Mr. Fox, of Nackington; and circuiting through Shegdowne, enclose the Hengrove and Heathen-land, and so on to an elder tree in the land of the said Mr. Fox; and then to a stone in the garden at the corner of the farm-yard of Nackington; and through the said farm-yard into the high road leading from Canterbury to Hithe; and then along the said high road to the south-east corner of and including the gardens and pleasure grounds of Richard Milles, esq. of Nackington, and from thence by the end of Murton-lane, across the two fields in a southwest direction to Winsole chalk-pit, about eighty rods from Murton farm-house; and from thence in the same direction to a stone in the hedge adjoining to the foot-path that leads from Murton to Heppington, near the angle of the hedge in Hanne field; and then right across two fields to the stone in Holloway-lane, which leadeth from Stuppington to Almes-hole; and then by the said lane to the smith's forge at the corner of St. Jacob's hospital, in Wincheap; and along the said wall to the turnpike house; and then back again by the street of Wincheap to Cock and Bull lane; and down the said lane and across the meadow at the end thereof to the end of a ditch, unto the river Stour; and along the said river, including the island of Brittain, round the point below Bingley; and from thence across the field to the city ditch, without the city wall; and including the said ditch to the bridge of Westgate, from whence the perambulation began. (HT)


"Processions. Ecclesiastical processions are of early origin in the Church, being heard of as early as the time of Gregory Thaumaturgus [A.D. 254]. They were introudced into Constantinople by Chrysostom [A.D. 398]. The Church historian Socrates, relates that the Arians, being forbidden to use any churches in the city, were accustomed to assemble about the porches, and march to their meeting-houses without the walls, singing anthems on the way. To counteract their influence, Chrysostom established processions of the orthodox, in which clergy and people perambulated the city singing hymns, and carrying large silver crosses and lighted was tapers. By the fifth century, processions had come into general use in the Church. In 467, Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne, on the occasion of a great earthquake, instituted processions to be held annually in Ascension week, for the purpose of imploring God's grace and protection. The observance of these Rogation days became general. In England they received the name of Gangdagas ("procession days"), and the perambulations of parishes then performed still survive in the custom of "beating the bounds." The joyful hymns and anthems, first sung in processions, were early replaced by solemn Litanies. Noteworthy amongst these is the Litania Septena of Gregory the Great, or the Great Litany of St. Mark's Day, which provides for seven processions setting out from different starting places and meeting at a central church for a solemn service. It was from this Litany that the anthem, chanted by Augustine and his monks on entering Canterbury, was derived. According to Scriptural and ancient usage, the procession was a distinct service in itself, and not, as now, a mere adjunct to some other service. DOR


Grimsby - "The first of these is territorial, and was technically termed "beating the boundaries. The annual preambulation of the boundaries was a ceremony of great antiquity and importance in the Borough of Grimsby, and in an old document amongst the Corporation records, it is stated to be a custom of ancient usage. The day was ushered in with appropriate solemnity. The Mayor and his brethren, in their robes of state, attended by the commonalty of the town, assembled at the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, and heard Divine Service in the chapel of that house, performed by the chaplain therof. After which they "beat the boundaries" by perambulation; that is, they proceeded round the extremities of the parish in every direction; pausing at certain points to mark them by peculiar ceremonies. At some they offered up prayers; at others they threw money for the people to scramble for; and at a few they scourged sundry little boys, to imprint upon their minds a memory of particular places by means of painful associations. The preambulation concluded, the Mayor formally claimed the whole space as belonging to the lordship of Grimsby; and by this practice, anually performed, litigation was prevented, and the rights of every adjoining parish, as far as they related to that of Grimsby, were accurately defined. In these preambulations the jury levied fines for nuisances.

These duties performed, the Mayor and his brethren adjourned to the preceptory, to partake of the procurator's good cheer; for it was one of the articles of his tenure to provide ample refreshment for his visitors on this occasion. The particulars of the progress were then recorded in the Boundary book, and the party dispersed." GM,1831


p. 269. Notes taken on beating bounds of City (Jacob, Mayor), 19 Sept., 1778.
Note that the party was met by the Rev. and Worshipful Mr Nicholls, Mayor of Fordwich, with the Fordwich Map.
p. 272. Note on beating bounds 1748. Refs. to beating bounds in 1728, 1735, 25 Aug., 1757, 7 Sep., 1770. (Alderman Gray's Notebook)

© T. Machado 2014