History of Beating the Bounds in Westerham

Beating the Bounds of a parish is an ancient tradition, based on the need for inhabitants to know the extent of their land, before the days of maps. The people, led by parish officials and sometimes the vicar and choirboys, would walk round the boundary, checking that the boundary stones were in place, and making sure that everyone, particularly the young, knew where the boundary lay. See also the Whats-on menu in this website.

There are records held in the Maidstone Reference Library which show that the ceremony of Beating the Bounds was performed on May 22nd 1718 and recorded in meticulous detail by a Mr Lewis.

In 1758, the text, which was not easy to read, was copied his son, George Lewis, and this transcript is well-preserved. The whole account takes some 19 pages. We reproduce the beginning and the end.

We began at the Gate by a Barn leading to the house of Mr Lang in the occupation of his Tennant Thomas Holmes of Heaver and pass’d along leaving the House on the right hand and set a W upon the corner of the House it being allow’d that formerly they had gone through the House then standing and had mark’d an oak where we found now the Stump before the House… (read on)

That year (1718), the walk took 3 days, the first part being done on AscensionThursday (22nd May), the second part being done on the Saturday and the final part on Monday 26th May. George Lewis repeated the walk in 1758 (the year of he made this copy) and the last two pages of his notebook are reproduced below.

And he then gives tribute to the accuracy of his father’s account 40 years earlier…

The 1805 record of Beating the Bounds

OS maps that we know today did get started till 1840. In these early accounts, no one drew a sketch or plan. People knew their way around the fields and hedges. It is difficult to place where they were (and many of the hedges will have gone), but here are a few extracts

In the 1805 perambulations…some persons went over hedge for conveniency of not walking in the woods, the wood being so ruff…into fields occupied by Reginald Hooker of Brasted Court Lodge,  At Horns Acre came to a dyke called Kent Dyke followed the same through the Chart until came to a Turnpike Rd coming from Crockham Hill to Limpsfield, leaving a field belonging to John Warde.

That year they recorded the walkers names:

Record made by
William Saunders Sen and Ed Atkinson (Churchwardens)
Robert Palin, David George Watson (Overseers)
William Ray (schoolmaster)

Walked by
C Coliner (churchwarden)
R Bellchambers and John Hoath (overseers)
George Puddefoot (High Constable)
John Bellchambers (Parish Clerk)
William Puddefoot (son of George)

The 1837 record of Beating the Bounds

The Churchwarden and overseers and inhabitants of the Parish at the corner of a Meadow called Shingle Mead, now called Dog Kennel Mead, belonging to Hill Park Estate, marked a Post through some of Charmans Farm belonging to Mr Hope…and went into a field called Potters Land.

The record says that the notes were used again in 1851 and 1857.

The 1863 record of Beating the Bounds

3rd July. Started in meadow of Charmans’s Farm called Shingle Mead (now called Dog Kennel Mead)..Marked a post with a W in the turnpike leading from Westerham to Brasted… marked a maple pollard in the hedge at the corner of the next field which was called Riley Field. Keeping the hedge on the right then into a second field called Eight Acres. Oak pollard cut down but they found an old mark near oak tree in the hedge and at the farther end an ash tree and the old W mark. Then to the 3rd field called Tick Field and marked an oak tree…

Then mention of Betsom’s Hill Farm and Goddards Farm and Cudham Field..

Tye Wood. We kept the wood on the right and went into a second field now laid into one went over the hedge into a meadow belonging to Gaysham Farm called Osen Lea. Kept down th emeradows the hedge still on th eright and into a field called Chalky Croft then into Furze Field through which a pathway leads from Westerham to Titsey.

2nd Day 16th July 1863 begins Began from the road, went over the hedge into the Park marked a beech which not only divides the parishes of W’ham and Limpsfield but the counties of Kent and Surrey. We then proceeded southwards and going against Limpsfield parish on the right upon a bank at the west end of Squerries Park and at the top of the bank marked a Holly Tree.

..Corner of Treveraux Lodge marked a maple and at the lower end an elm.. Mrs Young’s cottages are in the occupation of George Dallon…marked a gate post to Shearn being the boundary then into the Hurst land belonging to H. Cox.

..At the top of the hill at the end of the shaw mark’d a willow pollard then came into the field called the Slip occupied by Mrs Jane Skinner, the hedge we left on the right, then a shaw belonging to French St Farm called Four Acres.

Part of Map from 1873