The parish church would also have held such an event – the perambulation of the parish boundaries - and the vicar would have had an interest in the position of the boundaries themselves. They tended to occur during the three Rogation Days, the fast days preceding Ascension.
From early Christian times the Rogation Days had been a time for intercessions for the fruits of the earth. This was a Christian Blessing laid upon the earlier pagan fertility rites. A faithful congregation would process out of the church as the parish priest recited the litany and sprinkled holy water.
After the Reformation the original intention was forgotten or forbidden but the practice continued with a different emphasis when the vicar joined officials and perambulated or “Beat the Bounds”. This intention of perpetuating the memory of the parish boundaries, the area within which the incumbent was responsible for the “cure of souls” and from which he drew his tithe incomes.
Prior to the advent of maps, knowledge of the boundary was very important to the burgesses of Llantrisant and the parish “perambulation of the bounds” was not connected to the borough’s own beating the bounds. Within the boundary of the ancient borough of Llantrisant they could enforce their commercial and trading rights and other privileges granted by the Charter of 1346.
Yet even then they are referred to them as “ancient liberties” which means that both the rights and the boundaries were much older than 1346. They could have been defined sometime since 1246 when the town was constituted as a separate administrative unit and given its hundred court. The first reference of which was found in 1307.
The first definition of the Ancient Boundary of Llantrisant is recorded in the Confirmation Charter of October 20th 1424. Granted by Richard Beuchamp, Earl of Warwick and Lord le Despenser, Lord of Glamorgan and Morgan, it recites and confirms four earlier Charters.
The Charter states: “And the boundaries of their liberties are these: from the land called Lloyncrun in the east, to the king’s highway leading from the said town to the district of Glynrothne, and from the road which leads from the field called Brinruth to the ford called Ridponthelik in the west; from the land of Madoc ap Cadogan Dorthu in the north to the demesne land of our manor of Cloune in the south; from the demesne land of our same manor in the east to the land of Rees ap Oweyn and his associates in the west; and from a ditch called Klavyth Gwylkyn vachan in the north to a ford called Ridgolyn in the south, together with one acre of land and meadow which lies by itself beside the highway leading from Brinurth to Coubrugge”.
The survey of the town and borough of Llantrisant was held at Cardiff Castle on August 13th 1630 and included a detailed description of the boundary of the borough in its contents. This defined version has remained ever since as beating the bounds. The copy was transcribed by Thomas Truman in 1781 with another copy made in 1851 by John Evans
Between 1743 and 1873 there are a number of Court Leet presentments relating to the “perambulations of the ancient boundary.”
In May 1781 the Courts Leet presentment stated that a survey of the boundary was “much wanted and the Boundaries of the same to be viewed..” The entry of May 19th said: “We the Grand Jury do present that a Copy of the Borough Survey is much wanted and the Boundaries of the same to be viewed, therefore we desire that application by the Portreeve be made for the Survey and the same to be copied if need be and we think that a Guinea out of the Town Stock ought to be expended to treat the Jury for their trouble and attendance and we do appoint Thursday the 24th Instant for that purpose.”
In 10 October 1794 a further presentment stated, “We also present that it is expedient and necessary to walk the limits of this Corporation, and do fix on Old Michaelmas Day next for that purpose.”
An extract from the Court Leet Presentments further stated: “It having been presented and resolved by the Grand Jury at the last Court Leet held in the Guildhall of the Borough that the limits and bounds of the said Borough should be walked and marked by the Corporation of the said Borough, therefore, in pursuance of the Presentment and Resolution we, Robert Rickards (Portreeve), Thomas David (Alderman), Thomas John (Alderman), Evan Jones (Alderman), Zorobabel Thomas (Alderman) and John Jones (Alderman) together with sundry Burgesses of the said Borough have on the 10th day of October 1794 walked and marked the limits and bounds of the said Borough”.
The Corporation minutes showed the costs of “cakes and ales in walking the Boundaries of the Corporation” coming to 8s 7d
We can only assume another took place in 1802 but there is no record of it, however seven years later on 13 May 1809 there is a record the boundary walk taking place. On 20 September 1826 the Courts Leet jury “present that the Boundaries of his Borough be Perambulated at the first Convenient opportunity”.
The Boundaries were finally defined in a map made by Lt Dawson of the Ordnance Survey and this is referred to in a 1832 Report on Municipal Corporations in England and Wales: “The Limits of the Borough of Llantrissent are well ascertained by perambulations made from time to time. They are accurately described the map which accompanies the Boundary Report on the Cardiff District of Boroughs…. I cannot see any reason for disturbing the present boundary, which is amply sufficient for the Town, and the surrounding Hamlets are essentially agricultural, very few, comparitively of their inhabitants being employed in the Collieries. I recommend that the Boundary of the Borough shall be the Boundary of the ancient Borough of Llantrissent.”
We know that on 19 October 1840 these is a record of “Walking the Feen of the Corporation” and again on Monday 18 October 1847 from 10am. Finally an entry of 6 October 1854 stated: “The Jury recommend that the boundaries of the Corporation should be perambulated on Monday the 16th instant and that an application to be made to the Portreeve for three pounds from the funds of the Corporation towards the expense of the day.”
These are the last recorded occasions and they are all at intervals of seven years although evidence of the Court Leet suggests it was performed at irregular intervals of 13, 14, 15 or even 17 years at certain periods.
In his 1898 History of Llantrisant, the Clerk of the Town Trust Taliesin Morgan said the entire procession involved a “great deal of merriment” and took place in August or September. He also gave the impression that it was a custom that fell into disuse, stating, “One amusing old custom that was kept with great hilarity…” It was led by the Portreeve and Aldeman continued to “various points of note, where the whole of the company was regaled with refreshments, and to commemorate the event money, fruit and other articles were thrown into the river, or old pond, when some of the followers usually came in for a ducking.”
It may well have been the case that the “perambulations” stopped after 1854, only to be revived by the establishment of the new Llantrisant Town Trust. The first took place in 1901 and it has remained a custom to carry out a Beating the Bounds ever seven years since then, with the exception of 1946 where presumably it was either delayed due to World War II, or deliberately put back one year to coincide with the 600th anniversary of the Charter.
A newspaper of 5 October 1901 read: "The ancient custom of beating the bounds of the Parliamentary borough of Llantrisant was revived on Monday after an interval of 20 years. The freemen met at the old Town Hall at noon among those present being Mr Evan John, J.P., chairman of the Town Trust, the Rev. J. P. Hughes, vicar of Llantrisant Messrs Thomas Llewellyn. Pontyclun John Davies, Perth John Treharne, Abercynon Henry Williams and Lewis Ajax, Llantrisant, Mr Morgan Talbot, members of the Trust 1. John, Bute Estate agent Taliesin Morgan, secretary, and Gomer Morgan, surveyor, who carried an ordnance map and acted as guide to the company, which numbered close upon 300 men and boys, the oldest freeman present leading the way, carrying a silver mace.
"From Maenllwyd, near the Cross Inn Station, the freemen travelled along the common to Cymdda Each, where Mrs Evan John planted a sycamore tree to proclaim the rights of the freemen for all time. On the opposite side of the common another tree was planted by Mr John Davies. Porth. A diversion was caused at Talyfedw Farm, which stands on the boundary, two lads negotiating the roof, in pursuance of the custom.
"At certain points of the boundary bronze and silver coins were thrown into the brook, into which most of the boys rushed pell-mell. Not a few of the adult spectators were enticed to the bank, and pushed into the water by some of the old stagers, the victims accepting their ducking in good humour.
"At Talbot village the boundary passed through a wheelwright's shop and garden, and the vicar and Mr Gomer Morgan were appointed to go through as representatives of the freemen. Upon their return to the Town Hall- the company was addressed by Mr Taliesin Morgan. Many of the freemen subsequently sat round the festive board at the Cross Key's Hotel, Mr Samuel Evans, J.P., a member of the Trust, presiding. Letters expressing regret for absence were received from Sir David Evans, K.C.M.G., ex-Lord Mayor of London. and native of the ancient borough, Mr Godfrey Clark, J.P., Talygarn Mr Gwilym Treharne, Llantrisant House, and Councillor R. L. Phillips, Pontypridd. The toast of The Army and Navy was responded to by Sergeant D. Thomas, of the Prince of Wales's Light Horse, who had acted as guiding scout to Lord Methuen's column, and who recently returned to his home at Llantrisant, whilst Mr Taliesin Morgan dealt with the j rights and privileges of the ancient borough in responding to the toast of The Town Trust."
The original boundaries have been built over in several places with Freemen crossing streams, culverts a golf course and going through homes on their seven mile walk. At one time there was a custom of throwing coins into streams and ponds by the Freemen for the boys to dive or wade in to recover, returning wet and triumphant to the Castle Green.
Today Beating the Bounds is a wonderful occasion in Llantrisant with many thousands flocking to the old town to participate in the family event.
With thanks to J. Barry Davies, author of “The Five Hamlets of Llantrisant” and “The Freedom & Ancient Borough of Llantrisant”.