Home History of Rode Social History Civil Administration

Civil Administration

Beating the Bounds

In ancient times, groups marked the bounds of their territory using natural features, such as streams, trees and large rocks. Sometimes these boundary markers would be moved, or lines obscured, and so a custom arose of the inhabitants of a settlement occasionally checking or beating the boundaries of their territory as a way of preventing encroachment by neighbours. A group of old and young members of the community would walk round the whole boundary. The boys would be encouraged to beat the boundary markers with green boughs, usually birch or willow, and so a folk memory of the true extent of the territory was passed on down the generations.
Later the custom became a religious ceremony during Rogation week with the clergy accompanying the group and beseeching (rogare) the divine blessing upon the parish lands for the ensuing harvest.
Knowledge of the bounds of each parish was also needed to administer the rights and responsibilities between a parish and its inhabitants. For instance, the parish’s right to refuse a stranger permanent residence and its responsibility to support its own poor, or the parishioner’s responsibility to contribute to the support of the church and the poor of the parish. And so maintaining the knowledge of the parish limits by beating the bounds remained an important custom until the advent of detailed maps in the 19th C. This could have had particular significance in Rode, as the boundary between Rode in Somerset and Rode Hill (North Bradley) in Wiltshire followed the brook running down Lower Street. Permission would therefore have been required to move house from one side of Lower Street to the other.
Although modern maps make the custom obsolete, at least for its secular purpose, many English parishes, including Rode, occasionally repeat the practice as a way of strengthening the community and giving it a sense of place. The last two events were in 1978 and 1995 and were described in the village magazine, the Link (see below):

Article from the June 1978 issue of the Link magazine:

Beating the Bounds is a custom which dates from pre-reformation times, and originally had ecclesiastical overtones.  Elizabethan clergy were allowed to beat their bounds and to preach and offer prayers at certain points along the route.  Concerning this, George Herbert wrote in 1652: “There are contained therein four manifold advantages; a blessing of God for the fruits of the field: Justice in the preservation of bounds, charitie, in living, walking and neigh-bourly accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if there are any; mercie, in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution of largess which at that time is or ought to be made. The parson should require all to be present at the perambulation and. those that withdraw or sever themselves from it he mis-likes and reproves as uncharitable and unneighbourly”.

The preservation of bounds is now, however, no longer as dependent on beating them as it used to be when the scarcity of accurate maps necessitated a more down-to-earth method of remembering where the boundaries lay. The young people especially, were ducked in ponds, dragged through hedges and over walls, beaten with willow wands, and forced to climb over roofs of houses built across the parish boundary. In this way, they were not likely to forget the scene of their dis- comfort and so prominent marks along the boundary were remembered. They were, however, compensated for these miseries with white willow wands or money as a reward.  Beating the Bounds occurred on Holy Thursday or Ascension Day (Rogation Days) and was sometimes referred to as Gang Day, gang meaning way, track or passage. At Rode, the venture had been attempted last in 1798, but the party had encountered various obstacles and had “repaired to the Cross Keys to talk it over”.  So to 1978, when it was for the very purpose

Beating the Bounds that I found myself in a very small rowing boat (lent by Mr. Peter Quartley) on St. George’s Day, together with David Hornsey (who organised the enterprise), Douglas and David Jupp. John Osborne walked along the banks as our lifeguard. Our most enjoy- able but sometimes perilous route, took us from Shawford Farm down-stream to the confluence of the Dilly Brook with the river. Negotiating weirs proved to be an unexpectedly uneventful manoeuvre, although David Hornsey nearly lost us once when giving us a push in shallow rapids.

From Dilly Brook two of our party braved the muddy, stagnant and uninviting culvert under the track to Arney’s farm, and then, our numbers were swelled by the arrival of eight other walkers. The party progressed up the Dilly Brook as far as Bradford Road, where at Dilly Brook Farm we turned towards Sparrow’s Rest and emerged in Poplar Tree Lane. We crossed the A361, keeping to the boundary hedge of Rode Common farm,’ and the Wiltshire-Somerset border.  We left the boundary at an acute angled confluence of hedgerows, and headed for the Devil’s Bed and Bolster, passing Monkley Lane on the right and Casley Lane on the left.  After a brief stop for lunch we continued downhill towards the A361, crossing Green Park Pond.  At the A361 we turned left, across the Cross Lanes and right through the five-barred gate twenty yards further on.  We continued along the stream at the rear of the Dutch barns at Straight Lane. From there, the boundary runs towards the main road emerging at the dilapidated gate. There we climbed into our cars parked nearby and drove to Rode.

We must thank the farmers for allowing us to cross their land, and Dick Barton, who tirelessly walks our foot-paths and the boundary.  Luckily for me, being one of the youngest, we did not revert to the practice of dragging young people through hedges, ditches and streams, and nor was I beaten, but luckily for the others, the ritual “Repairing to the Cross Keys” was not forgotten.

Andy St. George.

Article from the July 1995 issue of the Link magazine:

To mark the 100th anniversary of Rode Parish Council, I ‘volunteered’ to organise the beating of the Parish Boundary.  An event which traditionally takes place on Rogation Sunday.

Two small, but essential, elements of organisation were necessary in advance.  First was meeting all the landowners to obtain their permission to walk the boundary as most of it is across private land.  Their response was good but some were concerned about possible damage to their crops, so I limited numbers to about six.  Secondly. part of the boundary runs down the middle of the river, so it was also necessary to acquire a small boat, kindly loaned on this occasion by John Olive.

On Sunday May 21st, the ‘team’; Paul Stacey, Judy Partridge, Maurice and Lynne Webb, David Hornsey, Ann and myself gathered at Shawford Mill for a 9am start.

The boundary joins the river about 300 metres upstream from the mill so, since there were no other volunteers, Ann and I jumped in the boat and, after circling a few times for the benefit of the Somerset Standard photographer, rowed up river to the boundary with Beckington and back to Shawford weir.  At that point Maurice took over and rowed (and waded) all the way down to Langham, negotiating various weirs, bridges and shallows single handed, while the rest of us followed as close as we could to the river bank.  At Langham we lifted the boat out of the water and put it on my boat trailer, which we had conveniently left there earlier.  Ann opted out of the walk at this point and drove the boat home, (stopping a few yards up Langham Lane to re-tie the boat which was falling off the trailer!)

From Langham, the boundary follows Dillybrook up on to Rode Common and out to Poplar Tree Lane, where Ann met us with a welcome cup of coffee.  Across the A361 it runs parallel with Monkley Lane, but about two fields away on the Southwick side.  On this stretch we had to negotiate a lively herd of bullocks and a large swarm of bees. On reaching the high ground between Rudge and Rode the boundary turns right and runs parallel with the A361, passing close to the “Devil’s Bed and Bolster” where we took a well earned lunch break.  (For the uninitiated it is unfortunately not a pub, but the remains of a long-barrow!)

The boundary re-crosses the A361 at the junction with Parkgate Lane and crosses Cooper’s Lane by the remains of the kissing gate.  It continues over the fields to the junction of Straight Lane and the A36, where it drops down the hill on the Beckington side of Shawford Farm and so back to the river where we started.

The whole walk took 6 hours and we estimate it was about 12 miles.  It was last done in 1978, organised then by David Hornsey, who is the only one of the six to have beaten the bounds twice.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the landowners for their co-operation – we couldn’t have done it without their help.

Peter Harris

Village Charities

Webb & Yerbury Charities

The following document was found in Parish Council records presumably copied from an unknown record of parish charities in Somerset. The record must have been made before 1839, when the land was sold to Mr. Thomas Pooll in order to provide money to assist the poor of the parish to emigrate:


Mention has already been made in the account of Beckington parish, in this county, of an annual sum of £6, secured upon land at Westbury, by the deed of Thomas Webb, dated 6th February, 20th Queen Elizabeth, (see the abstract of this deed in the report of the Beckington Charity,) £5 of which was thereby appropriated to the use of the said parish of Beckington, as is stated in that deed, and 20s. were to be paid to the churchwardens of Road, to be distributed in bread to the poor.

In addition to which, William Yerbury gave to the churchwardens of the parish of Road, the sum of £50, with a direction to procure a rent-charge of 50s. a-year, to be settled for the payment of 10s on every Friday for five weeks in Lent, to be distributed to the poor of the said parish for bread, for ever. By an indenture, dated 5th March 1703, (produced to the Commissioners,) made between William Crabbe and others, parishioners of Road, of the first part, Tobias Crabbe and another, churchwardens of the said parish, and John Howell and another, overseers of the said parish, of the second part, and Honor Harris and another of the third part, reciting (among other things) that the said churchwardens had already in their hands, monies belonging to the said parish to the amount of £55 which, with the addition of £50, a legacy given by the said William Yerbury, made up the sum of £105. with which they had contracted for the purchase of the premises after mentioned; It is witnessed, that as well for the complete fulfilling of the decise of the said sum of £50, as also for settling the remainder of the profits, of the said premises so purchased as aforesaid, they the said William Crabbe and others, did declare, that the therein recited grant and release of the said meadow or pasture ground called Leys, containing 3½ acres, more or less, in Road aforesaid and Woolverton, and abutting upon the highway leading from Road to Scutch Bridge, on the north side, and upon a ground called Green Meere, in the south field of Road aforesaid, on the south side, was made to them, upon trust that the annual sum of 50s. should for ever thereafter be paid out of the rents of the said premises to the churchwardens and overseers of the said parish of Road to the intent that they should yearly dispose of the said 50s. according to the direction of the said William Yerbury in his will, and that the residue of the said rents and profits should be paid to the churchwardens and overseers of Road, and their successors, in trust for the poor inhabitants of the said parish,  These two sums of 20s. and 50s. are distributed in bread to the amount of 10s. weekly on the seven Fridays of Lent.  A sixpenny loaf is given to each of twenty families.

According to the statement of the churchwarden of the parish, it is in the recollection of several of the parishioners that a rent-charge of 8s. per annum, issuing out of certain house in Road, formerly in the possession of Mr. Quance was payable to the parish. It is not known how this rent-charge arose. It has not been paid for many years; a person of the name of Quance used formerly to bring the amount in bread to the church, and distribute it to the poor at his discretion. This person appears to have sold part of the property to a dissenting congregation for their chapel, and he engaged to enumerate them for this rent-charge, leaving the residue of the property charged to descend to his daughter, who paid the money for some years till she became a pauper, and received parish relief herself, from which time the payment was discontinued. A Mr. John Wheeler, a millwright, of Road, bought this property of the daughter, then a widow of the name of Moore, and has always refused to pay this charge, on a pretence that the parish has lost its right by not insisting on the payment.

Extract (spelling mistakes included) from the minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting [Assembly] held on 28th of March 1895:

One item he [the chairman, Mr R P H Batten Pooll] specially wished to bring before the notice of those present, and through them to the village in general, namely, the Parish Charities. Misrepresentations as to their origin and amount had at various times been circulated, and he therefore, took the opportunity of thanking Mr. Penrose for obtaining a copy of the charities from the Commissioners, which, with the title deeds now lying on the table, would prove that the poor of Road had been honorably dealt with, and were, and had been, duly receiving their full benefits. He begged to read the following extract from the deeds, the originals of which any person present could read for themselves.

About 1700, one William Yerbury, by his Will, left £50 to procure a rent charge of 50s/- a year, and directed this sum to be paid by sums of 10s/-, every Friday for five weeks in Lent, to be distributed in bread among the poor of the parish of Road for ever. In 1702 the Churchwardens and Overseers of the parish, having in their hands Yerburys bequest, and other parish moneys amounting to £55, with this sum of £105, purchased the peice of land called the Poor Ground.

By deed of Declaration of Trust, dated 19th March 1702, (which deed is in the possession of Mr Batten Pooll) the said piece of land was formally vested in the Churchwardens and Overseers of the parish for the time being upon the following trusts, namely, to pay out of the rents and profits 50s/-, every year in Lent bread (as above mentioned) and to apply the residue for the benefit of the poor inhabitants of the parish. These trusts were, it is presumed, acted upon until the year 1838, at which time the parish had become much impoverished, probably owing to the decay of the cloth trade, and amongst other things money was required to assist some of the inhabitants to emigrate. The vestry books of the time contain various entries to this effect. This being apparently the state of affairs throughout the country, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1835, (5 and 6 William IV., c69) for the express purpose of enabling parish authorities, subject to the approval of the Poor Law Commissioners and the local Boards of Guardians, to sell and convey parish land and property, and apply the proceeds for the relief of the poor (section 3).

In 1839, the late Mr. Thomas Pooll, of Road (Uncle and predecessor in title of Mr Batten Pooll) agreed to purchase the poor ground of the parish authorities, under the above Act, for £349 [(] an amount much in excess of the real value of the land), subject to the annual payment of 50/- for the Lent bread, which, having been devised in perpetuity, could not be relinquished. The deed of conveyance from the Guardians, Churchwardens, and Overseers of the parish to the said Thomas Pooll is in the possession of Mr. Batten Pooll, and is dated the 12th February, 1839. It is duly executed by the parish officials, sealed by the Frome Guardians, and approved and counter-sealed by the Poor Law Commissioners in London.  The Vestry books of the time contain entries showing how the purchase money was dealt with.

From this date the rents and profits were received by Mr Thomas Pooll (deceased), and since by Mr. Batten-Pooll, his devisee, and 50s/- charge has been punctually paid. The Chairman further announced he had had a copy of the original deeds prepared at his own expense, and would now hand them over to the Parish Council for safe custody with their other papers.

In addition to the above 50/- per year, there was £1 annually received through the Beckington Charity Trustees [from the Webb charity], making a total of 70/-.  This year [1895] 280 4lb loaves had been secured from the bakers of Road for that sum, and distributed.

Letter to the Parish Clerk from the Charity Commission dated 17th October 1958:

County – Somerset.

Place – Rode

Charities – 1. Webb & Yerbury

                   2. Silcocks


In reply to your letter of 27th September, I have to point out that the administration of the Charities is a matter for the trustees and not for the Parish Council. It is appreciated that you act as correspondent of the trustees and I am to say that the benefits of the Charities numbered (1) above should be confined to poor persons residing within the area of the Ancient Parish of Rode (Road) as constituted in the years 1578 and 1705 when the Charities were founded. It is understood that Roadhill (Christ Church) is an Ecclesiastical Parish formed out of the Civil Parish of North Bradley and it would not appear that North Bradley was part of the Ancient Parish of Rode.

In respect of the Charity numbered (2) above, the relevant words in the testator’s Will proved the 22nd November 1899, are, as you are no doubt aware “to supply 4 of the oldest poor women and 4 of the oldest poor men in the Village Proper ……in apparel each”. The Commissioners cannot give an authoritative opinion on the subject but it would appear that the expression “Village Proper” used by the testator in his Will means so much of the village as was situated in the Civil Parish of Road in the County of Somerset, at the date of the Will.

In the census of 1901, Road Hill (Christ Church) is recorded as an Ecclesiastical Parish in the County of Wilts.

Silcocks Charity

Extract from the will of the late Mr. E. Silcocks, 22 November 1899:

I now give to my nephew Edward Silcocks and son of my brother Frederick Silcocks a life interest in the following property namely a field situated near Monkley Lane or Road Common Road in the county of Somerset one of which I purchased of Messrs. Skurrays and others containing about 4 acres and at his death to his male heir for ever subject to the following special conditions namely that a charge shall be on this particular ground of £4 per annum on the first day of August in every year to the overseers for the time being together with my heir-at-law jointly to supply 4 of the oldest poor women and 4 of the oldest poor men in the village proper on the 31st day of August in every year for ever the same persons to have it every year and when one die then another elected with 10/-d. worth of wearing apparel each for ever

Letter to the Parish Clerk from the Charity Commission dated 17th October 1958:

See article above

Letter to the Chairman of the Parish Council from the Charity Commission dated 1st October 1996:


Thank you for your letter of 19 September regarding the above Charity.

I am afraid that I can be of no help with the identification of the field. I have searched all our records for the Charity, but the field number was never mentioned, and, like you, we have relied in the past on the somewhat unusual terms of Mr. Silcocks’ will.

As far as Mr. Chatfield is concerned, I think it would be reasonable to approach him again and, if he repeats that the land has been given to his sister, he should be asked to provide evidence of that. Clearly, the fact that he was willing to pay up to this year casts doubt on his claim to have given the land away. One presumes that this may in fact be related to the proceedings between his wife and himself, as indeed might Mrs. Chatfield’s offer of payment.

Inflation has of course minimised the usefulness of this periodic charge, and I wonder whether the trustees might find it preferable to suggest to Mr. Chatfield that a one-off payment be made to end the charge once for all. I enclose a booklet on disposing of Charity land, most of which is irrelevant, but page 22 explains the procedure for ending such a periodic charge. A payment of £40 would achieve this. You will also see that where the payment is under £500, legal expenses have to be met by the landowner, and this includes costs incurred by the charity in proving legal title, if that were required. I would have thought that it would be in everyone’s interests to bring this charge to an end.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss the matter further, but if I do not hear from you within three months, I will assume the matter has been satisfactorily settled.

Response to the Charity Commission from the Parish Council dated 12th January 1998:

The Edward Silcocks Charity Reg. No. 239319

With reference to your letter dated 1st October 1996, we would like to inform you that the sum of £40.00 has been received and distributed to close the charity.

Bernard Tolman’s retirement as Chairman of the Parish Council

Front row – left to right

1 Rev. John Jones, 2 Mary Lowesby,, 3 Bernard Tolman, 4 Joan Sweet (Parish Clerk), 5 Wendy ?, 6 David Brunt (District Councillor), 7 ? Dickinson, 8 Paul Stacey

Mrs Sweet’s retirement as Clerk to the Parish Council

Front row – left to right

1 Mrs Barbara Wheeler, 2 Bernard Tolman, 3 Mrs Joan Sweet, 4 Mrs Lois Hughes

Middle row

1 Mrs Ann Ritchie, 2 Dr. George Ritchie, 3 Mrs Ann Edney, 4 Mrs Mary Lowesby, 5 Mr Sweet? 6 Geoffrey Jefferis-Jones

Back row

1 Keith Sharman, 2 David Jupp, 3 Peter Harris, 4 Paul Stacey, 5 Cdr. Bill Soames

Roderick Paul Stacey – always known as Paul

Born 14th January 1932. Died 23rd December 1998

[Photograph taken by Rowland Stacey September 1985]

27 February 2023
Last Updated
3 October 2023