Beating Of The Bounds 2001

The ceremony of "Beating Of The Bounds" took place on May 20th. The custom was widely practised in medieval England, and was reintroduced last year. In it a procession of people walk the boundaries of the parish, saying prayers at strategic points to bless the parish, with particular reference to activities or associations of that location.

The ceremony was presided over by the new mayor, Councillor John Bowen, who is an eminent local historian and was able to pass on many interesting facts about the life of Malmesbury down the ages, and the significance of the places visited. His deputy Councillor Andrew Woodcock took the role of crucifer.

Those present included Councillor Mrs Catherine Doody who as mayor in 2000 had had the idea of re-enacting the ceremony. She had wished to mark the millenium by celebrating the town's past and demonstrating the relevance of the old traditions to today's world. Her predecessor, Councillor Jim Toogood was also present. The prayers at each place were given by representatives from different Churches and co-ordinated by Ian Henderson from Churches Together in Malmesbury.

Because of the foot and mouth restrictions, the river walk was closed to the public, so the exact boundaries could not be followed. Nevertheless it was possible to visit each of the gates and significant places on the normal route, as described below. All pictures were taken during the 2000 ceremony.

  1. St. John's Bridge. This has always been the main entrance to Malmesbury. It is named after St. John the Baptist, as this was almost certainly where St. Aldhelm used to baptise Christian converts.
  2. Goose Bridge. This may well be so called because geese were kept there. It was a smaller entrance to the town that could easily be entered by unwanted visitors. As the Romans discovered, geese were excellent guards, since they could detect the slightest sounds and give a noisy warning.
  3. An extra stop was made outside St. Aldhelm's Roman Catholic Church, so that those present could remember the saint and the significant role he had played in the town's history. This is the 1300th anniversary of the year when he left the community to take up the post of Bishop of Sherborne.
  4. St. Leonard's Bridge, which is also known as Holloway Bridge. The name Holloway comes from the fact that the road was hollowed out from the hill to provide a way in to the town. This was one of the roads to Malmesbury that would have been used by medieval pilgrims.
  5. Abbey Bridge. This is situated directly below the Abbey, and was used by the monks visiting the Abbey lands and the outlying settlements. Near here would have been the storehouses where provisions were kept, so they would have been transported to the Abbey community across this bridge.
  6. Staines Bridge. This is named after Robert the Staine, who was a landowner at Brokenborough.
  7. Burnham House Corner. With the town enclosed on three sides by the river, this is the only stop not at a bridge. Burnham House is now an old people's home, while nearby is Malmesbury School, so this was a suitable place to remember the part played in the community by the old and the young.
  8. Turtle Bridge, also known as Turketyl or Truckle Bridge.
  9. Daniel's Well. This is the oldest entrance to Malmesbury. Originally there was a ford at this point. Daniel's Well is named after an early Christian bishop who used to immerse himself in cold water at all times of the year as a means of mortifying the flesh.
St. John's Bridge
John Bowen explains the history of St. John's Bridge

Holloway Bridge
Holloway Bridge

Daniel's Well
Daniel's Well

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