Play Button
Back to Blogs

Before there were Maps, there was 'Beating the Bounds'

April 12, 2022

Edward Villiers Rippingille began his career as a portrait artist but soon found that his talents were best utilised in the creation of whimsical genre pieces. Rippingville first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1819 and continued to do so throughout his lifetime, becoming known for capturing community events, such as the one featured here.

Beating the bounds is a tradition that can be traced back to the medieval period. At this time, land was divided into parishes and the clergy and church wardens held the responsibility for its upkeep and management. It was up to the Church to ensure that its parishioners knew the local boundary lines and, before maps became commonplace, this had to be kept as a mental record. Such information was vital as it determined where the town’s livestock could be grazed, what land could be tilled and where the local jurisdiction ended. A yearly practice was thus devised in which the community would come together to walk the parish and take note of the dividing lines.

Usually taking place during Rogation days (the three days directly before Ascension Thursday) or on Ascension Day itself, the inhabitants would gather alongside the clergy and proceed around the boundaries, blessing the land, singing songs and reading homilies. Partaking in the event became a measure of good spirit and those seen as abstaining were thought to be lacking a neighbourly disposition.

However, for certain members, the day would not have rendered fond memories. It was the duty of the older generation to instil the knowledge of the boundaries in the younger and a belief that pain enforced memory often led to some less than agreeable methods being used. Young boys were made to carry thin rods of willow or ash and they were charged with beating the boundary markers in order to help make a mental note of where they lay. However, it was not uncommon for the rods to be turned on the boys themselves, with a quick whipping aiding to remind them of specific spots. Some communities chose to utilise the land itself and became more creative. At streams, boys had their heads rudely dunked under the water, they were pushed into patches of stinging nettles and forced to run wildly along walls so as they would fall prey to the menacing bramble patches on either side. Some records even note that at stone markers, the boys may be lifted, turned upside down and bashed against the rock.

Although the tradition was banned by Oliver Cromwell, beating the bounds made a resurgence during the Victorian era and scenes such as this would have been an expected sight in the weeks following Easter. True to the nature of genre painting, Rippingille expertly captures this important day and pleasantly conveys the varying characters of a local community. Our eyes are assaulted with activity and our minds dart playfully to take in each individual, from the miserly woman who skulks away from the festivities to the boys apprehensively waiting with their rods and the young women eagerly looking on.

Lot 113, in 'The Library Collection' Auction, 26th April.

Explore this lot

Share this article

Post a Comment

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Written by:
Read more from
Recent Articles from

Recent Articles

Leading Lots in Important Irish Art Sale
November 30, 2023

Leading Lots in Important Irish Art Sale

Continue Reading
Through the Eyes of Indy Parsons
November 30, 2023

Through the Eyes of Indy Parsons

Irish author, recipe creator and lifestyle influencer, Indy Parsons, selects her favourite pieces from our upcoming Fine Jewellery & Watches auction

Continue Reading
The Louis Vuitton Travel Trunk - A Hallmark of Travelling in Style
November 13, 2023

The Louis Vuitton Travel Trunk - A Hallmark of Travelling in Style

Continue Reading
Patrick Pye - A Personal Collection : Online Pictures Sale
November 10, 2023

Patrick Pye - A Personal Collection : Online Pictures Sale

Continue Reading
Mid-Century Modern Auction
November 1, 2023

Mid-Century Modern Auction

Continue Reading
Highlights of the 'Country House Collection' Sale
October 12, 2023

Highlights of the 'Country House Collection' Sale

Continue Reading
Jack Butler Yeats' 'Sligo Quay' Leads Irish Art Sale
September 29, 2023

Jack Butler Yeats' 'Sligo Quay' Leads Irish Art Sale

Continue Reading
Important Irish Furniture: The 'Blessington Commode' at Townley Hall
September 29, 2023

Important Irish Furniture: The 'Blessington Commode' at Townley Hall

Continue Reading
Best-sellers List: Norah O'Kelly in our Irish Art Sale
September 29, 2023

Best-sellers List: Norah O'Kelly in our Irish Art Sale

Continue Reading
Highlight of the 'Fine Jewellery & Watches Auction'
September 14, 2023

Highlight of the 'Fine Jewellery & Watches Auction'

Continue Reading
Through the Eyes of Athena McAlpine
September 8, 2023

Through the Eyes of Athena McAlpine

Continue Reading
At Home Sale Starts Off The Autumn Auction Calendar
August 24, 2023

At Home Sale Starts Off The Autumn Auction Calendar

Continue Reading
The House of Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac
May 24, 2023

The House of Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac

Continue Reading
Through the Eyes of Sarah Greene
April 28, 2023

Through the Eyes of Sarah Greene

Cork-born Irish actress, Sarah Greene, selects her favourite pieces from our upcoming Fine Jewellery & Watches auction

Continue Reading
How a Swedish artist came to paint an Ottoman Admiral...
April 3, 2023

How a Swedish artist came to paint an Ottoman Admiral...

Continue Reading
Irish Vernacular Auction featuring original furnishings from 'The Banshees of Inisherin'
March 24, 2023

Irish Vernacular Auction featuring original furnishings from 'The Banshees of Inisherin'

Continue Reading
Date night?
February 10, 2023

Date night?

Continue Reading
Orpen's Lover in Disguise
February 7, 2023

Orpen's Lover in Disguise

Yvonne Aupicq had met Orpen, we understand, while working as a nurse during the war. He had been admitted to hospital with a suspected case of scabies which ended up being a far more serious case of blood poisoning as he recounts in his wartime memoir ‘An Onlooker in France’. Their relationship continued after 1918 when Orpen was appointed as the official artist to The Paris Peace Conference. They relocated to capital and over the following decade he painted her numerous times, often nude as in Amiens 1914, or The Rape and Nude Girl Reading (1921). Working with her as his model during these early years after the war allowed Orpen an opportunity to re-fuel his creativity.

Continue Reading
What your drink says about you
December 16, 2022

What your drink says about you

Continue Reading
Colin Middleton's Slievenisky
November 29, 2022

Colin Middleton's Slievenisky

Continue Reading
The Curated Collection of Mahmut Balkir
November 8, 2022

The Curated Collection of Mahmut Balkir

Continue Reading
Turbulent Irish History lies at the forefront of our Country House Collection at Townley Hall
October 5, 2022

Turbulent Irish History lies at the forefront of our Country House Collection at Townley Hall

Continue Reading
Fisherman with Lobster, c.1937
September 21, 2022

Fisherman with Lobster, c.1937

Continue Reading
Through the Eyes of Lizzie Gore-Grimes
August 30, 2022

Through the Eyes of Lizzie Gore-Grimes

Editor-in-Chief of IMAGE Publications, Lizzie Gore-Grimes, selects her favourite pieces from our upcoming Fine Jewellery & Watches auction

Continue Reading
The Mystery Setting - A Van Cleef & Arpels Masterpiece Fetches €137,500 at Adam's
August 26, 2022

The Mystery Setting - A Van Cleef & Arpels Masterpiece Fetches €137,500 at Adam's

Our upcoming Fine Jewellery & Watches auction on September 13th features a prime example of Van Cleef & Arpel's renowned 'Mystery Setting'

Continue Reading
Vintage Posters from the Collection of John Rogers Online Sale
July 21, 2022

Vintage Posters from the Collection of John Rogers Online Sale

Continue Reading
Rediscovered Masterpieces by William Ashford PPRHA
May 18, 2022

Rediscovered Masterpieces by William Ashford PPRHA

Our June auction offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the great masterpieces of Irish art and icons of Dublin’s history.

Continue Reading
Job Vacancies
April 29, 2022

Job Vacancies

Continue Reading
A Fascinating Collection of Treasures in the upcoming Library Sale
April 23, 2022

A Fascinating Collection of Treasures in the upcoming Library Sale

Continue Reading
Let's Talk Wine - A Crowd Pleaser, The Perfect Gift & one for The Big Spender
April 21, 2022

Let's Talk Wine - A Crowd Pleaser, The Perfect Gift & one for The Big Spender

Georgia Chiesa selects some of her favourite lots in the upcoming Vintage Wine & Spirits Auction

Continue Reading
Dalmatians are a Fireman's Best Friend
April 20, 2022

Dalmatians are a Fireman's Best Friend

Continue Reading
Adam's to Hold Auction in Aid of Ukraine
April 5, 2022

Adam's to Hold Auction in Aid of Ukraine

Adam’s in conjunction with Suzanne MacDougald are proud to host an online timed auction of artworks to aid the Irish Red Cross’s humanitarian work in delivering vital services to millions of people impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. With no buyers premium 100% of the hammer price will go directly to the Irish Red Cross.

Continue Reading
Sunday Business Post covers A Leading Lot, Jack B. Yeats in Tonight's Important Irish Art Sale
March 30, 2022

Sunday Business Post covers A Leading Lot, Jack B. Yeats in Tonight's Important Irish Art Sale

Ros Drinkwater writes of Jack B Yeats' 'The Boat' in the Business Post:

Continue Reading
Roderic O'Conor Headlines the Irish Art Auction at Adam's Auctioneers
March 2, 2022

Roderic O'Conor Headlines the Irish Art Auction at Adam's Auctioneers

Continue Reading
A Fruitful Result for the At Home Auction
February 28, 2022

A Fruitful Result for the At Home Auction

With a consolidated result of €320,000,the At Home sale in Stephan’s Green, was a great success.

Continue Reading
Behind the Scenes of our 'At Home' Catalogue Shoot
February 17, 2022

Behind the Scenes of our 'At Home' Catalogue Shoot

Continue Reading
Welcome to the Adam’s Blog!
February 16, 2022

Welcome to the Adam’s Blog!

Continue Reading
See More