Beating the Bounds

Dotted around most ancient cities of England are parish boundary markers, often carved stones but sometimes lead letters on walls. they were numbered and every year or perhaps decade, the officials of each parish and the congregation would follow the boundaries to confirm the parish’s rights, to check the state of the markers (which were often repaired by masons in advance) and the officials often celebrated the event with a dinner. People attending for the first time were often bounced on the first stone. It is unclear when this practice died out – St Mary Redcliffe still has an annual walk tracing the route of their water pipe up to the hills of Knowle.

St Leonard’s parish ceased to exist when the church – a strange structure built over a 3 way gate in the town wall – was demolished in 1771 to make way for Clare Street. the parish was combined with St Nicholas, but the beating of the bounds continued till 1911. and a picture survives of the new Bishop of Bristol being bounced on the first stone as late as 1933.

I have no date for this perambulation but I think it is 18th century:

Go from the vestry and begin at stone no. 1 on the stone bridge (now buried beneath the centre). Cross the centre of the bridge to no. 2 – through the pound into Harford’s Court. Return through the same way and cross Quay Street to stone no. 7 – through a trap door into Bell Lane no. 8 then to Mr Wanklyns no 9. Go through the warehouse and come out into Small St no 10. Cross over to Mr Averbury’s warehouse no.11. go into Lewis’s cheese warehouse. The numbers in Mr Lewis’s is 12 and 13. go through a hole in th eall and come into Leonard Lane. Go up a ladder into a Hay Loft which stone in Leonards lane will be 14 and 15. Go through Leonards Lane into Harford’s warehouse to stone no 17. Follow the wall on your left to the back part of Mr Edward’s house. Go into the front door of Mr Edward’s house in Corn st, stone no 18 and back into the kitchen. return again and cross the street into cyupher Lane to no 19. In the middle of Cypher Lane is stone no 20. then into Mr Mereweather’s warehouse stone 21. Return again into Nicholas St stone no 22. Cross the road and go into the flour warehouse no 23. Come through the warehouse into Baldwin St no 24. Cross the road – go into Mr Cowleys door no 25. go into Mr Bush’s yard by the pump is no 27. Go into the Hop warehouse no 28. return back again to the corner of Mr Hamlyn’s house no 29. go into Mr Croones house no 39. At the back of Mr Ford’s yard (there the wall ought to be broken) go into Mr Fords yard to warehouse no 200. Stone 31 ought to be in the warehouse. come out at the entrance into King St there ought to be stone no 32. Go into the middle of the street. Cross into the City Library stone no 33. go into the privy of the Library. There is a stone marked LL no 34. Return into Mr Fords yard and in the stables on the left hand and there one stone of St Stephens Parish which has no right there. Keep to the left and cross over the Privy and come into Mr Bush’s yard and come out into Baldwin St and in the walls of Mr Bush’s warehouse Baldwin st is stone no 36. Go up the right of Baldwin st to the far end of Mr Warrs house no 37. Return again into Leonards Lane stone no 38. Go through the White Lion into Stephen St and against Matthews Printing Office ought to be the stone no. 43. Cross over to the Wall of the Quay adn that ends the Boundaries.
Recollect you go into a house on Leonards Lane and look into Stephens st which ought to be 39 and 40.

8 thoughts on “Beating the Bounds

  1. Colchester has an annual walking the walls, easily followed since everyone follows the boundaries of the visible Roman Wall that surrounds the ancient city.


    • That’s great, but I love the idea of going through peoples houses and even their privies to check the markers. More a journey of discovery. I’m not sure if I ever found all the stones in Bristol. I have a book of the markers in Norwich – they have a lot/

      On Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 6:25 PM, texthistory


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