Oxford

Oxford congregation to 'beat the bounds' of parish

Boundary beaters outside the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford
Image caption Boundary beaters mark the stones around the parish with willow sticks

The congregation of a church in the centre of Oxford is inviting people to help it "beat the bounds" of its parish.

The annual tradition of marking the boundary stones by beating them with willow sticks dates back to the 15th Century, and possibly Saxon times.

The city rectorm, the Very Reverend Bob Wilkes from the St Michael At The North Gate church, said it was "great fun".

"People come from other countries especially to witness it," he added.

At 0950 BST on Thursday after a community service, people will begin to process around the centre of the city armed with their sticks.

Unusual locations

They then bang each of the boundary stones along the parish lines while chanting, "Mark! Mark! Mark!"

Image caption The boundary beaters even mark their stones in the storeroom of Zara

Because large areas of the city have been built over, the entourage must visit some unusual locations, including the storeroom of the clothes shop Zara and one still visible in the floor of the Oxford branch of Marks and Spencer.

At each stop prayers are said for those who live and work in the city centre.

Mr Wilkes said: "St Michael At The North Gate is the city church of Oxford and this is one of the key points on our calendar.

"The procession takes in all aspects of modern life in the city - retail, transport, learning, entertainment, government and, of course, the life of the church."

The event ends at 1200 BST at the Needle's Eye stone above the doorway of Lincoln College which then provides the congregation with a free lunch.

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