Beating the Bounds returns to Southwick

Last year's walkers at Hazelholt Bottom, on Southwick's northernmost boundary
Last year's walkers at Hazelholt Bottom, on Southwick's northernmost boundary

The ancient custom of Beating the Bounds will be re-enacted in Southwick on Rogation Sunday.

The Southwick Society is hosting the guided walk into history on May 1, starting at its Manor Cottage Heritage Centre, in Southwick Street.

The Kingston Lane boundary of Southwick, 100 years ago - and the trees still survive today

The Kingston Lane boundary of Southwick, 100 years ago - and the trees still survive today

Led by Nigel Divers, society secretary and local historian, the walk follows as closely as practicable the ancient boundaries of Southwick.

It is a circular route, taking in Albion Street, Kingston Lane, the South Downs and the footpath back to Southwick Canal.

Rogation days are Christian days of prayer and fasting, often observed with processions. The major rogation is always on April 25, with minor rogations on the Monday to Wednesday before Ascension Thursday.

A common feature of Rogation days in former times was the ceremony of beating the bounds.

Nigel’s father, Captain Basil Divers, revived the custom in Southwick in the 1970s when he was chairman of Southwick Urban District Council.

After the demise of the council, Southwick Society continued the custom but not every year.

“We revived this custom last year. It proved to be very popular and this has encouraged us to do it again this year,” said Mr Divers.

“It will be a walk into Southwick’s history and a reminder of some of the town’s hidden gems.

“Many people think of Southwick as only residential and industrial, they do not realise how much of the area is part of the beautiful South Downs National Park.

“Beating the Bounds began in Saxon times to help people to remember and recognise the extent of their communities and it can still help us to appreciate our heritage today.”

The walk starts at 2pm and is expected to last about three-and-a-half hours, depending on the composition of the group. It follows public paths, roads and open access land on the Downs, taking in places in the town and countryside.

Along the way, Mr Divers will tell the history of some of the boundary sites, like the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ ancient Sarsen Stone once built in to the churchyard wall and now a marker on the Downs.

Learn of the old coach road across the Downs, the Romano-British settlement at Thundersbarrow, the 19th century shipyards and D-Day preparations.

Find out about some famous people from the town, including John Pell, the mathematician who invented the division sign, and Clara Butt, the seaman’s daughter who became a world-famous singer, Dame of the British Empire and the first person to sing Land of Hope and Glory.

There is no charge for taking part but donations are invited towards the cost of looking after Manor Cottage.

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