Historic ‘Beating the Bounds’ ceremony to mark out boundary of St Albans

The Beating the Bounds ceremony in St Albans

The Beating the Bounds ceremony in St Albans - Credit: Archant

An ancient ceremony will be taking place in St Albans later this month which involves beating the ground with willow sticks while circumnavigating the city.

The ‘Beating the Bounds’ ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 21, and residents are invited to take part in the custom alongside St Albans Mayor Cllr Frances Leonard.

The ceremony dates back 700 years, to 1327, and involves walking along the 4.5 mile boundary of the city and using wands made of willow to beat the ground at significant locations. In the past, the ceremony was used for people to pass on knowledge of where the boundary lay and to exert their rights as citizens.

In 1327, 24 citizens rebelled against the authority of the established church by walking around the town to lay down its boundaries, following a riot by the townspeople against the Abbot.

Cllr Leonard will lead the ceremony, and the walk will start at 2pm at the pudding stone in front of Kingsbury Mill in St Michael’s village. Prayers will be said along the route by the mayor’s chaplain, the Reverend Em Coley from St Leonard’s Church in Sandridge, and tour guide Stephen Potter will take on the role of town crier.

The walk will take about two hours and will finish at Verulamium Museum with tea and biscuits. Everyone who takes part will be given a special Beating the Bounds certificate.

Cllr Leonard said: “Join me in Beating the Bounds and help mark the boundary of historic St Albans. This traditional ceremony not only helps remind us of our rights as citizens, but is also a lot of fun.”