Beating the Bounds

The Beating the Bounds is a Helston ritual that has been in existence since the second charter of Queen Elizabeth in 1585 — and still takes place today.

The ancient borough of Helston, granted by a charter of King John in 1201, is believed to have been staked out using a stone at three corners and a toft – a tuft of grass – at the fourth. The actual boundary followed an irregular perimeter enclosing lands and houses owned by the burgesses.

The boundaries of the parishes were established in a similar way and in the days before maps it was essential to regularly walk the exact boundary to guard against encroachments. This was done by taking local young boys on the route, and bumping them against trees, walls or posts, so that when they grew up they would be able to pass on their knowledge of the boundary.

The modern Beating of the Bounds ceremony still calls for local children (and sometimes the not-so-young) to be turned upside-down and have their heads gently tapped on the boundary stones. The length of the town boundary means that roughly one third of the boundary is walked each year.

Beating Helston Boundaries
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