London Beating the Bounds

Where: London at All Hallows by the Tower and the Tower of London
When: Ascension Day All Hallows every year and Tower & Battle every 3 years
Time: All Hallows 4pm onwards, service 6 pm, Battle 6.45pm approx




Most Ascension Day customs are associated with marking church parish boundaries, but one in London marks the boundaries of the Liberty of the Tower of London. The adjoining boundaries of All Hallows by the Tower and of the Tower of London are both marked, the All Hallows boundary marking taking place annually while the Tower happens just every third year. At All Hallows, the marking begins at 4pm and the Beating  Party have to take to the water in order to reach one of their boundary marks which happens to be mid-Stream in the Thames. After the perambulation there’s evensong back at the church followed by a battle with their neighbours from the Tower party at around 7pm. This harks back to  real boundary disputes in earlier times, which resulted  in a pitched battle in 1698, though todays event is less confrontational! At the Tower,beginning with a short service in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, a procession forms including the Yeomen Warders in state dress, the Gaoler armed with his axe and children bearing willow wands. They march around the 31 markers around the Tower, and the children hit each one with their wands, given plenty of encouragement by the Chief Yeoman Warder calling “Whack it,boys, whack it!” Once the walk is complete, the procession enters the Tower by the East Gate, the National Anthem is sung and refreshements are given to the participants.

Helpful Hints

Ascension Day is always on a Thursday – it’s the fortieth day after Easter and so varies in date from year to year because Easter is a moveable feast. The All Hallows ceremony happens every year while the Tower of London ceremony and the Battle only happen every 3 years, not annually, and the next one is 2020.

In 2018 the All Hallows Beating will be on Thursday 10th May.

Click here for the All Hallows by the Tower website:

Click here for the Tower website :

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