Brentor parish has announced a plan to hold a Beating of the Bounds in 2018. Planning is currently in the early stages but appropriate permissions have been gained from the relevant land owners and, in keeping with tradition, the perambulation will be held on Rogation Sunday, 6th May, 2018.
Many of the parish’s boundaries date from Saxon times and incorporate parts of what were known as Liddaton and Lamerton to become Brentor in the 1800s. In 1987 land was gained from Mary Tavy along West Blackdown but lost to Lydford on the north-east side. The parish boasts five old inscribed boundstones on the current boundary, to which a further nine ‘millennium’ boundstones were added in 2000, notably along the newly defined border with Mary Tavy.
The current boundary measures some 14 miles (22 km) and was last beaten in 1989. The proposed perambulation is thus long overdue and we hope to revive interest in this traditional feature of parish life. Watch out for more details!
The following information is reproduced from a Souvenir Booklet that is being printed to commemorate the 2018 Beating of the Bounds perambulation. The booklet, written by Steve Mason, has kindly been funded by Brentor Parish Council. All photos by Steve Mason.
ORIGINS OF THE CUSTOM
In England the custom of Beating the Bounds dates from Anglo-Saxon times and is mentioned in laws of Alfred the Great and Æthelstan. It is thought to have been derived from the Roman Terminalia, a festival celebrated on 22 February in honour of Terminus, the god of landmarks. Also known as Gangdays, from the old English term ‘going a-ganging’ meaning going or walking, the ceremony was usually held on Rogation Days during Ascension Week, typically on Rogation Sunday. A ‘parish ale’, or feast, was often held after a perambulation which assured its popularity. During Henry VIII’s reign this had become an excuse for such great revelry that one cleric was caused to declare ‘These solemne and accustomable processions and supplications be nowe growen into a right foule and detestable abuse’.
The ceremony had an important practical purpose in that checking the boundaries prevented encroachment from neighbours. Sometimes boundary markers would be moved, or lines obscured, and in days when maps were rare, a folk memory of the true extent of the parish was necessary to maintain the integrity of its borders. Parish boundary markers would be beaten with boughs of birch or willow and young children whipped, violently bumped on boundary stones or even thrown into bounding watercourses to ensure they remembered the extent of their lands! A religious aspect was also involved which is reflected in the rogation, where the accompanying clergy beseech (rogare) the divine blessing upon the parish lands for the ensuing harvest. Often Psalms 103 and 104 were recited and the priest would make such pronouncements as ‘Cursed is he who transgresseth the bounds or doles of his neighbour’.
2018 BEATING THE BOUNDS
Brentor’s current boundary measures some 12.5 miles (20km) in circumference, much of which dates from Saxon times and incorporates parts of what were known as Liddaton and Lamerton to become Brentor in the 1800s. In 1987 land was gained from Mary Tavy along West Blackdown but lost to Lydford on the north-east side.
The parish boasts five old inscribed boundstones on the current boundary to which a further nine ‘millennium’ boundstones were added in 2000, mainly along the newly defined border with Mary Tavy. Two further old inscribed stones mark the former boundary with Lydford in addition to a relatively new addition near Prescombe Corner replacing an old one destroyed by troops during WW2.
With changing times, improved transport and a growing awareness of the outside world the tradition of Beating the Bounds generally lapsed in the middle of the 19th century, although in recent times it has seen a revival in many parishes. We last beat our boundary in Brentor in 1989.
The day’s events will start at 9.00am with participants assembling at the village hall and registering their names before an inaugural speech and blessing by Rev Chris Hardwick The perambulation itself will be split into two sections offering the flexibility to participate in either the morning section, the afternoon section or the whole route.
The morning section of 6.5 miles (10.5km) will start from the village hall at 9.15am and terminate at the lunch stop in West Liddaton at 12.30am. Parking is available so those wishing to leave at this point can return via pre-parked vehicles, and those wishing to join at this point can leave their vehicles there for collection later. The afternoon section of 6 miles (9.5km) will start at 1.30pm and finish back at the village hall at 5.00pm.
From the village hall the route follows the road downhill to join the boundary with Mary Tavy at Furzleigh marked by the first of the millennium boundstones inscribed B/2000 and MT. Thence it follows the boundary along the road rising to a boundstone adjacent to Wortha Farm. Although on the parish boundary and boldly inscribed with the letter B, this stone is not a parish boundstone but one marking the former Buller Estate. From there the route descends beside the wall of Blacknor Park to the millennium boundstone inscribed B and MT beside the disused railway track at Smallacombe Bottom.
Thence along the Brinsabach Farm track to the ford at Batten’s Steps, crossing the River Burn over a wooden foot bridge. The boundary is then followed up the farm track to another millennium boundstone inscribed B and MT adjacent to Brinsabach Farm.
The route then proceeds along the farm track running roughly parallel to the boundary which ascends to the edge of the airfield and then WSW to the Lydford/Tavistock Road. On reaching the South Brentor road the route turns left and crosses the boundary marked by an old boundstone inscribed B and L (Lamerton) in the western verge of the lane before turning right onto the Lydford/Tavistock Road. Thence N along the road to cross the boundary again at the old boundstone adjacent to Moorlands.
This impressive stone was erected by the Tavistock Turnpike Trust when it took over the road and is inscribed LAMER/TON and BREN/TOR on appropriate sides.
The route continues along the road to a gateway providing access to Heathfield Plantation, access to which is not permitted to dogs due to the presence of cattle. Dog owners will therefore be led along the road to the old boundstone in Week road inscribed B and M (Milton Abbot) and to another similar one opposite the reservoir before waiting for the main party to catch up in the tor car park.
Meanwhile, the main party will follow the boundary along the southern flank of Heathfield Plantation to The Beacon where the meeting of the parishes of Brentor, Milton Abbot and Lamerton is marked by a modern, triangular boundstone inscribed B, MA and L. Thence NE through the plantation to the Week road and on to the tor car park to facilitate a short loo stop.
Heathfield Plantation is the only part of the perambulation where cattle are likely to be encountered and those apprehensive of such contact may wish to join with the dog owners and omit this section.
From the car park the route returns to the Week road which is followed generally NNW down to the bridge beside the old ford and then up to Liddaton Down, roughly paralleling the boundary which runs further E and N. A left turn facilitates following the boundary W along the Chillaton road until it turns N to gain the River Lyd below West Liddaton. This corner is marked by a millennium boundstone inscribed B and MA. The route backtracks to Liddaton Down then descends generally N via road and bridlepath to the lunch stop at The Homestead in West Liddaton.
After lunch the route follows the roads generally ENE via Liddaton Green and Broadpark railway bridge to cross the boundary at Lipscliffe Ford, marked by a millennium boundstone inscribed B and C (Coryton). The farm track is then followed NE along the N side of the River Lyd past Brandis Wood and along the foot of Longham Down, paralleling the boundary along the Lyd valley. The track is briefly left to cross a feeder stream to the Lyd over a makeshift foot-bridge before rejoining it and proceeding ESE through the foot of Lydford Forest to visit Lydford Forest bridge over the Lyd which marks the boundary.
The track is then followed generally ESE to its termination and thence through the remains of tin streaming works to enter National Trust (NT) property at the foot of Whitelady Falls. The boundary then leads up the falls and the route ascends the narrow zig-zag path alongside them and under the old railway line to emerge into the Trust’s car park where a short loo break will be held. This stepped path is very steep and some walkers may prefer to take the wide track back along the river, past the horizontal mine shaft cut into the side of the valley, and thence a more gentle ascent to the car park to re-group. All participants are reminded to keep to the designated paths as directed by our marshals and NT staff while on NT property.
From the car park the route crosses the Lydford road and proceeds along the bridlepath to the open moor, turning left and descending to the boundary marked by a millennium boundstone inscribed B, MT and L (Lydford) at the ford below Hall Farm.
This stands close to the remains of an old clapper bridge which was formerly regarded as a boundary marker.
From there the boundary is followed SW along the track at the foot of Black Down passing millennium boundstones inscribed B and MT either side of Burn Cottage and a third at West Blackdown, the latter having the additional inscription 2000 below the B. Finally the road is followed to Furzleigh and thence back up to the village hall where a welcoming medieval themed ‘parish ale’ supper awaits!
0900 Assemble at village hall for registration
0910 Inaugural speech and blessing by vicar
0915 Commence walk
1000 Batten’s Steps bridge crossing
1100 The Beacon
1125 – 1130 Tor car park loo break
1230 – 1330 Lunch break at West Liddaton
1400 Lipscliffe Ford
1515 Whitelady Falls
1530 – 1545 Lydford Gorge car park refreshments and loo break
1635 West Blackdown
1700 Village hall for certificate and medieval meal
Please ensure you register your name at the start of the event so that the organisers can prepare your Certificate of Participation in time for presentation at the end of the walk.
The procession will be led by a ceremonial flag bearer and all participants are requested to please keep behind them. The walk will traverse a wide variety of terrain including public roads, private farmland, forestry plantations, National Trust land and open moorland, and will involve two narrow footbridge crossings. Participants are therefore required to wear suitable clothing, particularly footwear, including waterproofs.
Qualified First Aider Anna Percival will be on hand throughout the walk. Please let her, or any of the marshals, know of any problems.
Hot beverages will be provided at the lunch stop in West Liddaton. Otherwise, participants are responsible for providing their own food and drink throughout the day. Refreshments may be purchased from the National Trust café during the break at Lydford Gorge car park.
A safety briefing leaflet will included with the booklet and all participants are required to familiarise themselves with its contents. All participants taking part in the walk do so entirely at their own risk.
BRENTOR’S BOUNDARY MARKER STONES
Marker stones 1, 3, 4, 7,11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 are all ‘new’ millennium stones erected c. 2000.
2 Wortha, although on the parish boundary and inscribed ‘B’, marks the Buller Estate and is not a parish marker stone per se.
6 Moorlands erected by the Tavistock Turnpike Trust.
7 The Beacon is a relatively modern stone with a triangular cross-section marking the boundaries of three parishes.
Marker stones 15,16 and 17 mark the pre 1987 boundary and are not on the current parish boundary.
16 Higher Beardown unusually the inscribed ‘L’ is reversed.
17 Prescombe Corner is a modern stone of triangular cross-section erected as a replacement for the original which was destroyed by troops during WW2.
18 Willsworthy Gate erected by the Tavistock Turnpike Trust.
A FACET OF BRENTOR HISTORY
The following is an edited version of a manuscript written by the late Dennis Young in 1987 – the original is stored in the Brentor Living Archive.
The parish of Brentor as we know it today is a fusion of two parishes, Brentor and part of Lamerton. The tor stands on Brentor land which was held by Geoffrey (Gosifrid), two smallholders and three slaves. The Domesday entry for this land is Liddaton (Lideltona). Before 1241 Liddaton had passed from the Abbot into other hands. In 1228 however, a certain L’Archediakne granted the land back to the Abbey.
In early times it formed part of Lifton (Listone) Hundred, but between 1114 and 1120 it became part of the newly formed hundred of Tavistock (Tavistoke) created by Henry I to cover the estates held by the Abbey. This part of modern Brentor, the original part, stretched three miles and was a strip of land between Liddaton and Brinsabach, which strip effectively divided the parish of Lamerton into two parts. The outlier of this parish (or outlying northern part) later became known as North Brentor.
At the dissolution of the monastries in 1539, Liddaton was granted, subject to a rent charge, to John Russell, Knight, along with all the other Abbey lands plus many other estates, all later to be known collectively as the Bedford estates.
The church of St Michael de Rupe which crowns the tor was built by one Robert Gifford in about 1130 who, as Lord of the Manor of Lamerton, gave it to the Abbey along with some of the surrounding land together with about thirty acres of his land at Lamerton. St Michael’s became a chapelry of Tavistock. Around the church are the remains of a massive triple earthwork defence system dated by Lady Aileen Fox as being middle to late Iron Age.
Nearby, just a mile away on Week Farm (itself a very interesting Saxon settlement) within the area known as Heathfield are a range of burial mounds or tumuli, surveyed by the writer some years ago and apparently undisturbed. These tumuli belong to the Bronze Age and predate the earthworks by over a thousand years and the church by over two thousand. The site of one of the mounds is known as The Beacon and marks the boundary for the most south-westerly part of the parish. Historically, the site was used to position one of the Spanish Armada warning beacons, part of a network of fire signals to be ignited in the event of a seaborne attack.
Burnville Farm has an interesting history. It stands on land once part of the outlier of the parish of Lamerton. At the time of the Norman Conquest, Lamerton (Lambretona) was held by the Saxon thane Ordulf. In the Doomsday entry for this manor it is shown as being held by Roald L’Adobed (or Rhiwallon) from the King. On this period of history the outlier was mute and was probably not settled land, the nearest settlements being Liddaton (Lideltona), Willsworthy (Wyvelesworth Stondon), Lydford (Lideforda), Warne, Mary Tavy (Wagesfella) and Week (Wyk Dabernon).
In 1100, Roald L’Adobed entered religion and his group of estates, including Lamerton, vested in the crown and were granted to William Gifford. The Giffords held the manor for over 150 years. The outlying part of this manor however, was not granted to William Gifford but to Plympton Priory. The date of this gift is not known but it was before 1156 and it was not mentioned in the disposal of Roald’s lands so was possibly given to the Prior by Roald himself, the Doomsday holder of Lamerton.
Later, in a confirmatory charter signed by Henry II and dated to about 1155 confirming the estates held by the Prior of Plympton, we find the following:
(225) The whole land of Watrifalla (Waterfall in Brentor parish) and
(226) Langstan (Langstone Manor in Brentor parish) and
(227) Wuddemanneswella with the Furze Brake (Woodsmanswell in Brentor parish) and
(228) Rughadona (Rowden in Brentor parish)
These lands are the ⅓ part of Lamerton (the whole outlier) and recorded at the Dissolution as being worth £9-11-2d and being part of the Manor of the Waterfall. Also listed is a shilling’s worth of land at Brent (part of Brentor parish). Although granted to one Arthur Champernowne at the Dissolution, they were later divided and did not remain in one person’s hands as was the fate of Tavistock Abbey possessions.
The outlier boundaries are typically Saxon and cover an area stretching from the River Lyd, starting at the ford near Lipscliffe, following the river upstream past the waterfall and Lydford Bridge at the other end of the gorge, under the viaduct, then turning south-east up the feeder stream and across the A386 to Willsworthy Camp, then westwards to another feeder stream following it down past Hall Farm and the clapper bridge to near the Manor Hotel [Mucky Duck Inn].
Here the boundary turns back on itself to the River Burn following it downstream to meet with the Liddaton lands at Brinsabach. From there the outlier boundary follows the feeder stream to Holyeat, turning north-east to skirt the tor, then north-west past the Brentor Inn to skirt Rowden and join a nearby feeder stream at its head and then following the stream down past Burcombe to rejoin the River Lyd at the ford. These feeder streams, chosen all those centuries ago as boundary markers, are still flowing today.
In Benjamin Donn’s Survey of Devon – 1765, Burnville is shown as East Longstone, and Langstone Manor as West Longstone, where the Herring family is listed as being in residence. Also in this survey, Burn Lane, surrounded by Burnville land, is shown as a settlement or hamlet. The late Freddie Wrench of Burn Lane once told the writer he was convinced of the truth of this and that the verges and strips of land fringing the lane held many ‘hovels’, the homes of the labouring class. Such primitive shelters, made of cob, wattle and daub and thatched with branches and turves, would leave no trace, apart from some possible sherds or artefacts.
For many years the Herring family held Langstone and its lands. In 1873, Phillip Herring is listed in Return of the Owners Land as holding 474 acres of land in Devon, approximately the combined acreage of both Burnville and Langstone. The land on which Burn Lane House now stands was first leased (three lives lease) and then purchased from the Herring family. So the tie with Burnville land is significant. The Brentor Inn used to be called the Herring Arms.
The Ward family (Ward and Chowen, D Ward and Son) purchased Burnville in 1907 and in 1944 sold the whole estate to the Church Commissioners for £15,500, as did the owners of Langstone Manor, the latter remaining as sitting tenants. In recent years the Commissioners have been selling land, including Burnville, Langstone, Week, Burns Hall etc in order to release money for other investments. It is interesting to note that the Russell family, the Bedfords, along with others, still own the sole rights for the extraction of minerals on Burnville land.
John Bodman, the previous owner of Burnville, who bought the estate from the Church Commissioners, told the writer in the 1960s, at the time the University of Belfast was conducting a ‘dig’ at Lydford for remains of the Saxon settlement, that they would find more Saxon history on his land than they ever would at Lydford!
Up to the last war, Burnville employed many men and horses. The house is a listed late Georgian or Regency building and replaced the earlier farmhouse, which still exists close by, now sadly neglected and showing its years.
In the 1880s, many parishes were realigned and the Lamerton outlier fused with Brentor to form the parish we know today. We are very shortly  to change our boundaries once again taking in the area known as West Blackdown from Mary Tavy and loosing all that land to the north and east of the clapper bridge to Lydford.
It would seem that the history pages of Brentor are once again being turned with the sale of both Tavistock Abbey and Plympton Priory lands. It is always sad when land changes hands. We can never really claim outright ownership, only perhaps act as trustees for our allotted span. The land goes on and with it the love, toil, memories, hopes and aspirations of the previous owners, tenants and farm workers over the centuries.