William Westall

Author:
Date published: 07/02/2013
© Newbury Weekly News

Article published in The Newbury Weekly NewsNov 26 1869

 

BEATING THE BOUNDS.

    The ceremony of beating the bounds of the borough of Newbury took place according to announcement on Friday last.  The Corporation and members of the Court Leet assembled at nine o’clockat the Mansion House, marching from thence to Speenhamland, headed by the Newbury brass- band playing its inspiring strains, and attracting a large number of town’s people.  The Charity boys also joined the procession, and were equipped with sticks and flags.  Among those in attendance we noticed the Mayor (R.A. Ryott Esq.), Aldermen Flint, Hickman, Jackson, Councillors Lucas, Fidler, Absalom, Blacket, &c.; Leet Jury and officials – Messrs. Foster (Foreman), Boyer, Burgess, Comyns, Clark, Edmonds, Hughes, Judd, Long, Mason, Packer,  E. Robinson, Sanders, J. Flint, Wintle, &c.  Mr. Beckhuson attended as deputy-steward, and carried the parish map, which was constantly in requisition during the day whenever a moot point had to be decided.  The man engaged to beat the bounds, to scale the roofs of houses, and wade through the water when required, was William Westall, a plumber’s labourer, employed by Mr. Biddis, and, as far as we were able to judge, did his work thoroughly.

    The boundary of the parish at the Speenhamland end of the town runs between the premises of Messrs. Bundock and Scott and Mr. Henry Seymour;  and the task of rendering this pretty clear to the spectators having been established, the work of following the boundary to the Marsh – which itself is not an easily accomplished task – was left to the man who was engaged specially for that purpose, and one or two of the more active of the officials, whilst the boys and the great body of the spectators were instructed to gain the Marsh by the nearest public footpath – namely, Parr’s-yard.  Here, however, an obstruction existed.  A chain extended across the yard about half-way down, and the gate at the bottom, abutting upon the Marsh, was securely locked, and a guard stationed there, who informed the crowd that the footpath was private and that if they insisted on a right of way, let them do it properly, and set the lawyers at work.  The crowd, to whom the locked gate was particularly obnoxious, seemed to think it was too simple a case for the gentlemen of the long robe, and intimated pretty clearly the sort of treatment they would adopt.  The keeper of the gate stuck to his post resolutely;  but, changing his tactics, began to argue with the crowd.  “You can see,” he said “this is not a public road;  it is so narrow – why it’s no more than twenty inches wide.”  The besiegers, however, failed to see the conclusiveness of the argument, that because a road is narrow, it must necessarily be private;  and being in no disposition to parley, they averred, “Private or not we mean to have the gate down.”  “If you pull this gate down,” retorted the staunch defender, you’ll have the house down.”  Some wag in the crowd gave rather an ominous, but rough and ready answer, “Then if you wants to be safe, you had better come out of it pretty quick, because we means to have it down,” an observation which was received with ringing applause.  Several officials now came up, but their coaxing and persuasion were to no purpose.  A chisel was called for;  but that being too small, a bar was demanded, which was triumphantly handed to the man deputed to carry out the work of destruction.  The sight of the crowbar did what everything previously had failed to do, and

 

 

the guardian of the gate and the protector of the private road, who had all along been inexorable, now relented at the sight of this formidable instrument, and promised to fetch the key, the gate being unlocked amid the derisive cheers of the spectators, who, if it had not been for the interposition of more law-abiding dispositions, would in all probability have made an attempt at removing the obnoxious gate.  The defence of the Parr’s-yard gate, and its surrender in the interests of discretion rather than valour, formed one of the most exciting incidents of the day.  The pent-up company of bound-beaters were now enabled, by the removal of the chain and the opening of the gate, to emerge into the Marsh.  The parish boundary, however, runs at the back of Magdala-terrace, otherwise the borough limits are co-extensive with those of the Marsh on the north and east sides.  Before proceeding, a word or two was said with reference to the turnstile and the width of the new road.  From the outfall of the sewer to the hatch, the stream was traversed by Westall;  and on arriving at the river Kennett, Mr. John Flint was kind enough to offer to convey across the Mayor and the Foreman of the Court Leet, and row for a punt to ferry across the remainder of the officials, leaving the hangers-on to go round by the bridge.  The river was safely crossed;  but the Foreman, owing to a hole on the bank, narrowly escaped immersion, being saved this catastrophe by the prompt assistance of one or two of his friends.  The basin in the wharf had also to be crossed, and a short walk over piles of timber, and through a narrow defile of premises, led to Back-lane, and on through Mr. Skinner’s garden to St. Mary’s-hill, opposite the road to the station, several buildings having to be crossed by the way.  The house adjoining the railway bridge was also entered by the lower window, the parties coming out by the side-door down the shrubbery, over the line, and across the wall into Mr. Graham’s garden.  Here a halt was made and the jury entertained, refreshment also being provided for the followers and the boys.  Thus invigorated, the boundary-beaters continued through East-fields, past the workhouse, and on to Monkey-lane, where a halt was made, and the names of the leet jury called.  The misty rain which prevailed at the start had ceased, the clouds had rolled away, and the sun shone out brightly, making November appear almost as pleasant as May.  This delightful change in the weather, and the forced pace at which the leaders of the party walked, had its effect in promoting physical circulation, and most seemed glad at the opportunity of breathing leisurely and wiping the perspiration from their brow.  Those laden with overcoats expressed their regret at not having left them behind, but consoled themselves with lighting the fragrant weed, and indulging in mutual gratulation at having such a delightfully fine day.  The lane was traversed nearly as far as Greenham-common, when the party abruptly deviated over the pailings into Sandleford-park, almost at the edge of which stands a boundary tree, against which the old-fashioned and never-to-be-forgotten practice of bumping the softest part of the boys’ bodies was observed, the victims of this interesting proceeding on the present occasion being James Pearce, George Parrott, Jesse Breeze, Frederic Smith, and Matthew Rosier.  The boys were informed that now they had acquired their freedom, but in what this freedom consisted, or whether it merely meant an immunity from all such pains and penalties in the future, did not appear very clear.  Several bystanders, as the ceremony was proceeding, recounted similar personal experiences as having occurred seven, 14 and 21 years ago – and in some instances the reminiscences were alleged to be of a

 

 

painful nature, the “tender mercies” of a by-gone day, in this respect, being less considerate than the present.  A little further stood another boundary tree on which was cut a cross.  Close at hand was a retreat in which was disposed a portion of the old stone work which came from Newbury Church at its restoration, and among other objects of interest the old font was pointed out, which a gentleman thoughtfully apostrophised – “ Out of this font I was christened, and, I make no doubt, many others who are here to-day were also christened from it.”  The whole was prettily arranged and planted with ferns.  Three ponds were passed, namely, Higher-pond, Fish Garden-pond, and Brown’s-pond, - the latter of which was an ornamental piece of water well-known to skaters – one or two more trees notched, and after a circuitous walk leaving the Priory at some distance, Newtown water was reached, where Mr. Withers was waiting with an abundant supply of bread and cheese and beer, and milk for the boys, the whole of which in due time was demolished, and then, in observance of another old practice, the 100th Psalm was sung to the Old Hundredth tune, Mr. Packer announcing the hymn in true clerkly style, and pitching the tune as correctly as any accomplished precentor.  Cheers were given at the close, which though they seemed somewhat incongruous were, we were assured, strictly according to usage.  They served at least one purpose of giving a turn to those who might have been unable to sing.  While halting there old Stephen Justice, who is 74 years of age, told us it was the seventh time he had been round with the beaters, and that he came to-day as he said it would probably be his last opportunity.

    While these proceedings were progressing a bevy of damsels were standing looking on with some amount of interest.  On the party begining to move they prudently retired, all except one who continued to remain in the direction which the “beaters” took.  The opportunity to one of the officials who was in advance of the party was too tempting to be “unimproved,” and as he passed performed an act of salutation to which the maiden, though she looked coyish and hastened to join her companions, did not indicate any sign of displeasure.  The interesting incident occurred so momentary and apparently without premeditation that only two or three were the privileged spectators.  The parish bounds for the next couple of miles lay in the direction of Wash-water, the water course being adhered to all the way.  Mr. Beech’s gardens were scarcely passed through than the hangers on of the party began to exhibit a little rough play.  One of the blue boys namedLawrencewas the first to get what was familiarly called a “ducking.”  The road for some distance lay through what we heard called the “Leashes,” a coppice of tall underwood, and in addition to the difficulty of engineering one’s way between the brambles there existed the peril of being quietly pushed into the stream.  Several narrow escapes have to be recorded.  A brushmaker, whose name, however, we forbear giving, came to grief just before reaching Wash-water, getting as thorough an immersion as it was possible.  It may be some satisfaction to him, however, to know that his persecutor, a blacksmith, got a damping subsequently as he was stepping into a boat at Northcroft, and as he was a heavy man it was nearly as much as the two persons in the boat could manage to fish him out.  A certain amount of license seems to be claimed on these occasions, for the position of a Court Leet official was not sufficient to deter an attempt at immersion, policemen were also threatened with a cold bath, and a conspiracy was in existence to perpetrate a similar indignity upon a

 

representative of the press.  We are glad, personally and for other reasons, that these attempts proved abortive.  The whole course of the stream from Newtown was walked by Westall through the water, and in one or two instances where a piece of cover formed an island, the boundaries were always determined by walking the outer portion of the stream, and including everything within the borough.

    At Wash-water the man swam under the bridge, from which point the course lay across some arable fields (formerly open common), along the edge of a coppice, and through a lane to Bunker’s-hill otherwise Burial-hill, so called from tradition appointing it as the place were [sic] the slain at the battle of Newbury were buried.  It is an artificial elevation and stands on the boundary of the parish.  According to practice provision was here made for a second distribution of bread and cheese and beer, and the band standing on the hill played the “National Anthem.”  The ancient custom was, however, to sing the 104th Psalm, but this has been abandoned of late years.  The Court Leet and officials then proceeded to the “Gun,” where a spread awaited them, the Foreman assigning as a reason that it would not do on these occasions to rely altogether onProvidence.  Whilst staying here a diversion was raised against one named Johnson, a notorious character, who was accused of taking bread and cheese away from some of the boys and striking a man with a stick on the head when it was mentioned to him.  The police were obliged to interpose, and Johnson, to avoid the violence of the crowd, ran for shelter into a cottage, but they succeeded in driving him from this, and threatened to throw him into the pond, into which, however, he prefered to run for protection, and whilst standing in it they splashed the water over him with their sticks.  A second time he was rescued from his tormentors, and was then sent on to Newbury, whilst the Leet Jury and their attendants returned to finish their task, taking the footpath over the fields, and coming out on the road against Enborne-farm, skirting the Bone-mill, crossing the railway and straight, as the crow flies, to the canal, where a boat and a punt, were in waiting, the latter, as it was being pulled across from the opposite side, was made to strike the bank with force, every one on board being thrown down, to their own great danger.  Of course the occurrence was not without design on the part of those pulling the ropes.  Mr. Smith’s fields were now traversed as far as where the boundary of Northcroft abuts upon the old river, which was crossed;  and it was here that the blacksmith came to grief.  The stream around Northcroft was traversed, passing the site of the proposed bathing-house, on through the lower part of Goldwell and the gardens which extend to the George and Dragon, reaching the spot from whence the start was made in the morning.  The people who followed emerged at the back of the Wesleyan Chapel, joining the already large concourse which had assembled at Speenhamland to salute the boundary-beaters.  A procession was then formed – the band first, followed by the flag (borne by Henry Cullum, who had carried the same throughout the day), the Mayor, Court Leet, and officials, and a large number of persons, who cheered and manifested an enthusiasm which is rarely witnessed in Newbury.  The band stopped to play before the Mayor’s residence and that of the Foreman, and from thence to the Market-place, where the Foreman of the Court Leet addressed a few words.  Cheers were given, and the assembly dispersed quietly and in good order.

    So far ended a public event which, occurring only once in seven years, carries with it some amount of importance.

            The Court Leet subsequently dined together at the Dolphin.

Sources:Newbury Weekly News 26 November 1869

Website designed and maintained by Paul Thompson on behalf of the Friends of Newtown Road Cemetery.

Administrator Login