Oxford Traditions - Beating the Bounds

The ancient ceremony of ‘Beating the Bounds’ takes place tomorrow in Oxford. This annual event occurs on Ascension Day and involves parishioners of at least two Oxford Churches, St Michael at the North Gate and the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on the High Street, marking the confines of their parish by beating the boundary stones with sticks, while shouting ‘Mark, Mark, Mark’. Boundary stones are situated in Marks & Spencer, near the rear entrance to Boots in Market Street, and another is set in the wall in New Inn Hall Street.  Others are found within Oxford colleges such as St Peter’s, Brasenose and Lincoln. An article written by Alastair Lack in the May issue of the University’s staff magazine Blueprint, explains how Brasenose and Lincoln colleges have developed a particularly interesting custom to mark Beating the Bounds.  At noon for two minutes only, a small door situated between the colleges at the back of Staircase Three in the main quad is opened. This is the only time this door is unlocked, to allow Brasenose members to go through the door into the Lincoln kitchens where they are served a college ale, which is traditionally flavoured with ground ivy. Chris Koenig in a recent edition of the Oxford Times, described the Beating the Bounds walk from The University Church of St Mary the Virgin.  Starting at 8.30am with a sung Eucharist, the first stone is marked at Brasenose College and verses of an Ascension Day carol sung in the quad.  Then the choir and congregation proceed to stones at the Clarendon Building, Hertford College and All Souls where the party is served a breakfast of cherry cake as a reminder that part of the college was built on an orchard that once belonged to the parish.  University College and Oriel are the next stops on the way before returning to the church. Will Other Oxford take part in this year’s Beating the Bounds?  We’ll keep you posted……. For more information on Beating the Bounds visit the Brasenose College website

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