Almost 30 years have elapsed since there has been a Beating of the Bounds of the ancient parish of Chipping Barnet -- an historic custom which volunteers at Barnet Museum intend to revive on the May Day Bank Holiday.


An open invitation is being issued to residents to join the ceremony starting at 2pm on Monday 6 May with an assembly point in the graveyard of the parish church of St John the Baptist.

Beating the Bounds is a custom that dates back to the 9th century and involves local villagers or townspeople walking round their parish boundary checking and beating the boundary posts with willow wands.

In Chipping Barnet, boundary stones have replaced the posts and the first one to be visited will be in the High Street which is set into the wall of Barnet Post Office – seen above being inspected by Graham Willcocks, who is organising the walk, and volunteer Emilia Bryce.

Graham, who helped with the last Beating the Bounds of Chipping Barnet in May 1995, said he was delighted to become project manager for this year’s event.

Once again those beating the bounds on the May Bank Holiday will proceed in an anti-clockwise direction as they circle Chipping Barnet.

The precise route to be taken is still being worked on. A map is being prepared and copies will be issued on the day.

It will be five miles in length and take two-and-a-half hours to three hours to complete. So those who finish the walk should be back at the parish church by around 5pm.

Because of new housing and other development over the last 30 years the circuit around Chipping Barnet will have to be amended but it will follow as closely as possible the route taken in 1995 – see above -- when the ancient ceremony was resurrected as one of a series of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Barnet Society.

 Graham, who assisted his late father Peter Willcocks with the arrangements, said that unfortunately since 1995 some of the boundary stones do seem to have been lost or disappeared.

“We do hope as many people as possible will join us to beat the bounds or perhaps join us along the route.

“We will have some willow branches, or willow wands as they are known, and are we hoping people on the walk will bring along their own branches, so that we can all carry on the custom of beating the boundary stones.

First stop will be the boundary stone set into the front of the Post Office; then via Union Street to the Black Horse public house; and on to Ravenscroft Park.

On the northern boundary of the park – just after the horse trough -- is probably Chipping Barnet’s most prominent boundary stone – see above.

Although the inscription is badly weathered, the final words are clearly visible: “…of the boundary of the Parish of Chipping Barnet”.

Then via Wood Street to The Arkley public house, where the traffic island marks the boundary between the parishes of Chipping Barnet, Arkley, and Christchurch.

According to a report in the Barnet Society’s September 1995 newsletter, the Deputy Lieutenant of Barnet, Lawrence Bains, unveiled a plaque in the traffic island opposite The Arkley to mark the boundary point between these ancient parishes.

From The Arkley, the route to be followed will be down Elmbank Avenue, calling at the Barnet Physic Well, and then crossing Mays Lane to join the combined footpath of the Dollis Valley Green walk and London Loop– Dollis Brook marks the parish boundary with Totteridge.

Continuing along the London Loop walk, the route is likely to head towards Grasvenor Avenue and the boundary with Whetstone parish.

Details of this section are yet to be decided. In 1995 the route went across a footbridge over the Northern Line and on to the Great North Road to the boundary with Lyonsdown parish.

At Underhill, by the railway bridge, there is a boundary marker with Barnet Vale, near the now demolished Old Red Lion public house.

In 1995 the route went via Potters Lane to Meadway where there was – until recently – another boundary stone with Barnet Vale. Nearby residents say this stone disappeared when building work was underway on a house in Meadway.

From Meadway, the route is likely to proceed via King George’s Field along the London Loop footpath to meet the parish of Monken Hadley.

In 1995 some of the group cut through the playing fields of Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School and finally emerged in the High Street beside Boots the Chemist which was the site of what was known as Boundary House, a shop that marked the boundary between Hertfordshire and Middlesex and which remains the boundary between Chipping Barnet and Hadley.

Over 200 people took part in the 1995 ceremony, 30 of them with willow wands. Some were determined to follow the precise route, despite the construction of building and walls over the original boundary.

This involved – see above – climbing over the wall at the back of the Post Office into the garden of what was then St Martha’s Convent and on into Union Street, a route now blocked by the New Ground flats of the Older Women’s Co-Housing community.