ONE of Oxford’s most cherished traditions took place quietly today without the usual crowds it would attract.

Various locations in the city centre were ‘beat’ by members of Oxford’s oldest church, St Michael at the North Gate Church, keeping up a tradition dating back 600 years.

Prayers were read by Reverend Anthony Buckley at locations as diverse as Boots, Brasenose College and Broad Street – all part of Beating the Bounds.

Taking place 49 days after Easter Sunday, on Ascension Day, Beating the Bounds dates back to when parish boundaries were more significant than they are today.

Mr Buckley marked the boundary stones by drawing a cross with chalk, and then with a willow wand, the church warden shouted ‘mark, mark, mark’.

Although there was none of the usual crowds that would gather for the event, Mr Buckley said it was important to maintain the tradition, which dates back to 1428.

He said: “I really enjoy chatting to people, and what is lovely, is to think that all aspects of the city are covered in Beating the Bounds, including refuse and all the shops.

“Normally we would go inside the shops as some of the bounds are inside.”

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Indeed, some of the stones are not as accessible these days, with stones situated in a cabinet next to the tills at Marks & Spencer, a store room at TK Maxx, and at the back of Wagamama.

Mr Buckley was taking part in his third Beating the Bounds, his latter two disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, he is looking forward to Beating the Bounds, and other Oxford traditions such as May Morning, returning better than ever next year.

“One thing we appreciate usually is the welcome we get from traders,” he said.

“Next year, we feel there’ll be a real thankfulness and appreciation for these traditions.”

Other aspects of the tradition were also abandoned this year.

Usually, there would be lunch at Lincoln College and coffee at Brasenose College, however neither of these took place.

Beating the stones with Mr Buckley was church warden Penelope Warner, who estimated this was her 20th Beating the Bounds.

She said: “I love the fact you’re partaking in a ceremony that’s been going for 600 years, and you’re part of that history.

“It’s about going into all the nooks and crannies, and making that journey with everybody – it’s a real celebration of Ascension Day.”

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In order to make the morning more accessible for people this year, church administrator Myriam Frenkel recorded live on Twitter from the boundary stones.

She said: “We wanted to do something that people could still interact with.

“It’s bittersweet though as usually many people would join in, and there’s that sense of going around as a big group.

“There’s something that’s quite special about doing that.”

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