Beating the Bounds of the parish of Chipping Barnet -- an ancient custom first recorded in Barnet in 1658 -- was re-enacted on May bank holiday Monday for the first time for nearly 30 years.


A goodly crowd assembled outside the parish church where willow branches – or willow wands as they are known -- were handed out by volunteers from Barnet Museum so that those taking part could beat historic boundary posts and marker stones.

As a downpour continued all afternoon, umbrellas, raincoats, and rubber boots were the required attire for the five mile walk which started in the graveyard of the parish church of St John the Baptist.

The custom of beating the bounds dates back to the 9th century and involved local villagers or townspeople walking round their parish boundary.

It was last re-enacted in Chipping Barnet in 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Barnet Society.

Barnet Museum and its curator Mike Noronha were determined to revive the historic ceremony with the help of Graham Willcocks and volunteer Emilia Bryce who devised an updated route.

Father Sam Rossiter-Peters, the team vicar, gave a blessing at the start of the ceremony which he said celebrates the relationship between the ancient parish, the parish church, and the community – an expression of the relationship between the people who live and work together in the Barnet community.

Later, with his willow wand in his hand, Father Sam explained that before the Norman Conquest the tradition was that the parishioners beat their children, so that they would remember the community where they lived – a custom that he said would not be repeated today!

John Hall, chairman of Barnet Museum, welcomed those joining the walk, who included the Deputy Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Tony Vourou, and Martin Russell, Deputy Lieutenant.

The museum's revival of beating the bounds generated so much interest there are bound to be appeals for it to be repeated next year -- with the hope of better weather.

A programme for the event contained photographs of earlier re-enactments, including the 1911 beating of the bounds. Local officials and dignitaries lined up for the official photograph including Canon Manning, Mr Hill, the sanitary inspector, and Mr Higgins, the High Street chemist (before Parry Jones).


The first stop on the 2024 walk, as the group set off up the High Street, was a boundary stone set into the wall of Barnet Post Office – seen here getting a beating from Diana Killip (left) with her daughter Jasmin and Gwyneth Hibbett (right) who has written an I-Spy-style guide and quiz booklet about the Battle of Barnet banners which line the High Street.

For Ms Killip the Beating of the Bounds was a walk down memory lane. She did the walk in 1995, the year she got married.

Next stop was in Union Street to examine a listed boundary stone largely hidden under a hedge. Graham Willcocks (left) and museum volunteer Irene Nichols pointed it out to the group.

Graham assisted his late father Peter Willcocks in organising the previous beating of the bounds in 1995.

Union Street was once known as Hart’s Horn Lane after the Hart’s Horn pub on the corner with Barnet High Street and the name Union Street was adopted in the mid to late 1800s after it became popularised as a direct route to Barnet Union Workhouse built in 1837.

What is probably Chipping Barnet’s most prominent boundary stone is situated on the northern boundary of Ravenscroft Park, just after the horse trough opposite the Black Horse public house.

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

Here the honours were performed by Jenny Remfry, vice president of the Barnet Society, who was chairman in 1995 for the last re-enactment.

Among those accompanying that walk was the late Sir Sydney Chapman, the former Chipping Barnet MP.

At the parish border with Arkley – opposite The Arkley public house – the Barnet Museum chairman John Hall beat the recently-installed village sign, erected by the Arkley village committee.

It replaced a boundary stone which was installed as part of the 1995 Beating the Bounds.

Because of the constant downpour, the walkers were pleased to take shelter at Barnet Physic Well before heading down Chesterfield Road towards the Dollis Valley Walk and the London Loop route.

At the Underhill junction at the bottom of Barnet Hill some of the group cut the short walk and headed back towards the parish church while the hardy walkers continued down Meadway and through King George’s Fields to rejoin the High Street via Moxon Street.

Mike Noronha, the museum curator, was on hand to welcome back walkers at the Black Horse public house.

Above, from left to right, Cathy Edwards; Maithri Gohil, museum organiser; Emilia Bryce, walk organiser; David Lauder, Barnet Society member, and Mike Noronha.