The Penwith Papers

Penzance: Beating the Bounds of the Extended Borough of 1934

During the eighty years that followed the revival painted by J T Blight, further Beating the Bounds ceremonies were carried out within the old borough. As far as we know, these all followed the 1854 pattern, although after 1867 the assemblies would have been in the new Guild Hall, part of the Public Buildings usually known as St. John's Hall.

Beating the Bounds is a tradition, and a consciously revived tradition at that. Why would any element of it be changed, merely because the 20th century had arrived? A very good reason would be required before any revision was called for. And so - despite the Great War, and the introduction of motor cars, electricity and radio broadcasts - it is not until we wind forward to 1934 that we see any major change to the ceremony. And this was, indeed, for good reason.

Under the County of Cornwall Review Order (1934), the boundaries of certain boroughs in Cornwall were extended. The boundaries of Penzance were very much enlarged to include a large part of Gulval, bringing into the borough the churchtown of that parish. There was more incursion into Madron but the churchtown remained outside so that, strangely, the mother church of Penzance was not within the new borough boundaries. Newlyn and Mousehole had been within Paul Urban District Council and this local government area had now been completely taken over by Penzance. Only Marazion, proudly conscious of its charter of 1595, resisted incorporation into its more powerful neighbour. It had lost a great deal to Penzance in the past, and was determined not to lose any more.

Whereas the 1614 boundary had been fixed as a circle radiating half a mile from the Market Cross, and had included all places within that area, the new boundaries followed roads, footpaths and long hedges. New boundary stones were set up of a uniform shape with an inscription, BOROUGH OF PENZANCE 1934. The exception is that at Tredavoe which has no visible inscription and is just a Penzance boundary stones map (photo: Linda Camidge)granite standing stone. All these survive at the present time (August 2017), although in most cases the inscriptions have faded. The most easterly is by the new Sainsbury's building (this was known as the Posses Lane stone). The others are at Trenow near Kenegie gate, Merry Meeting in the Bone Valley near Heamoor, Tregavara, Tredavoe, Sheffield, and finally Raginnis (Spaniard’s Point), on the footpath from Mousehole to Lamorna.

The boundary revisions had already generated some ill-feeling – and the story of the Rosebud is a reminder that there was more to come. Ballots were held, with turn-out in places high and results decisive – which is why the border of Penzance never extended further east than Long Rock. On one hand, settlements cherished their independence and autonomy; on the other hand, joining the new urban conglomerate of “Greater Penzance” could provide benefits; economies of scale, greater expertise. Similar arguments would be used 75 years later, when residents were again asked to vote on the structure of local government – this time on the replacement of the district councils with a unitary authority.

Given the controversy, it is unsurprising that, with the ink hardly dry on the order to extend the borough, the Council decided to beat the new bounds. The date set was the 1st November, not a good time of the year to visit seven perimeter stones in rural settings. This part of Cornwall had already had its share of wet weather, and typical November conditions of heavy going underfoot were to cause difficulties. At least Mr. S. G. Uren, the Borough Meteorologist, must have cleared the big day itself, as there is no mention of rain dampening the proceedings.

The mayoral party travelled in a private car, and the rest in the charabanc. The Mayor, the Mayoress, Town Clerk, and others who were so entitled, wore full regalia; five choirboys wearing white robes carried staves. These, and less elaborately costumed members of the party, assembled at the Public Buildings (St. John's Hall) where a large crowd, including many children, were watching.

The 2014 beating the bounds party and their trusty 1960 vintage Bedford charabanc

The first problem had already occurred; it was the custom, during the proceedings, to distribute bright, newly-minted pennies to be scrambled for. But, the Cornishman pointed out, to all intents and purposes no pennies were minted that year. This was not entirely accurate, as pennies of that date still exist, but there were so few minted that those which were coined are valuable. The distribution therefore had to be in half pennies, and people were entitled to two of these coins. 12 “old pennies” made a shilling, or 5p. Both pennies and half pennies were large and heavy coins –a handful of them would be very weighty compared to a few 10p and 20p pieces, which would have similar spending power today.

1934 Penny (courtesy Chard 1964 Ltd)At the ceremony, 2400 half pennies were distributed, with a total value of £5 - a respectable weekly wage in those days - and all paid for by the Mayoress.

As the coins were thrown out and scrambled for by the crowd, the party set off along the road to the Green Market, and then down Market Jew Street to Chyandour where they noted the 1687 boundary stone. But it was further on, at Posses Lane, that the first bumping took place. Posses Lane is the lane that leads from Gulval churchtown to the level crossing and bridge over the railway, but the stone itself is some distance to the east and is parallel to the eastern boundary of the old Heliport field (now the site of the Sainsbury’s Park and Ride). The road and the hedges around were crowded with people who no doubt hoped for coins, as well as the opportunity to witness an historic ceremony. Councillor S.R. Vere was seized on both sides and was the first to have his head bumped, “not too severely”, on the stone. Why was Councillor Vere chosen to be thus honoured? Could it be connected with a controversy earlier in the year, when he had been accused of leaking confidential information to potentially interested parties? The white robed choirboys beat the stone with their staves, and one of their number was also bumped; we may hope that they were treated at least as gently as the councillor.

The party then went up to a point on Eastern Lane, which is the road that leads from Gulval Churchtown to Ludgvan. Curiously, the boundary was marked there not by a stone but a wooden post, which now seems to have disappeared. Here, the head of Councillor

P. N. Snowden was “bumped” by Canon Carr and the Town Clerk, and there was a further distribution of coins.

Councillor T.H. Rodda was the chosen victim at the next boundary stone, which is on the road from Gulval Cross to Nancledra, and near the very attractive thatched house at Trenow. For a reason not specified, bumping this councillor proved a “herculean task” and those responsible were relieved at only having to do this once. This was the most north-easterly boundary, and the party then went on to Merry Meeting at the beginning of the Bone Valley to the north of Heamoor. The best preserved of the stones remains there today and the inscription remains clear. Councillor C.B. White was bumped here.

So far, the party had remained intact and they all arrived at Tregavarah, where the stone stands at Dennis Place (where the footpath leading down from the St Just road meets the road into the village from the west). Tregavarah is a village where the Trewidden Bolithos had great influence, and many of those employed on the estate lived there. During the Second World War a German bomb would fall on the Methodist chapel, completely destroying it. But on November 1st 1934 the village witnessed a smaller piece of bad luck, when the charabanc and most of the councillors became detached from the Mayor's car.

The charabanc may have followed the road through the village towards Trewidden Farm, or driven through the gate towards the house, but got stuck in the November mud. It then found nowhere to turn and had to reverse all the way back to the St Just road, which would have been no mean task for such a vehicle in those days. The driver may not have known the way to Tredavoe, the next call, although it would have been reasonable to expect that some of those on board the charabanc had knowledge of the by-ways thereabouts. In 1934 the roads were not so well metalled as they are today and a track, passable in the summer though not in winter, may not have appealed to the driver or the passengers – for all of whom getting stuck once would have seemed quite sufficient.

Luckily the Mayor, the Mayoress, the Town Clerk, Canon Carr and some others managed to continue the journey in their rather crowded private car, and they eventually reached Tredavoe. Reaching the boundary stone here, which was near the Newlyn football field, would have involved some walking. There were no councillors available, as they were all still in the lost charabanc, so a native of the village was “commandeered” to be bumped by the small but select mayoral party. His feelings are not recorded: perhaps he was very proud of this honour, and found the robed figures very impressive. Or he may have been resentful, or amused, or simply have wondered why they were making so much fuss about such a small stone. As the Town Crier was also travelling with the lost charabanc, Canon Carr had to deputise for him and he would have lacked the colourful robes that the Crier would have worn. The costumed staff bearers were also left behind; this part of the ceremony cannot have been the most visually exciting.

Having duly proclaimed and blessed the Tredavoe stone, the party then moved on to Sheffield where the marker was up a muddy lane. A lone councillor had turned up, W.C. Brighton, and he was the one to be the victim. Perhaps he had abandoned the charabanc and made his own way to Penzance Borough boundary stone at Raginnis (photo: Humphrey Bolton, http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3197720)Sheffield - or he may have been the only person on that ill-fated vehicle who knew where Sheffield was. At any rate, the stone would not have been far to walk from the road, so perhaps the dignitaries left the car for the last part of the journey. The ceremony was duly carried out, with Canon Carr acting as Town Crier as he was to do at the most westerly boundary, Raginnis or Point Spaniard. Here the car would definitely have been left behind since the boundary stone is on a muddy footpath. The place name may show a connection with the Spanish raid of 1595 which did so much damage to Mousehole, Newlyn and Penzance.

At Mousehole the party was once more complete, and although there was no boundary stone the ceremony was still performed before a large and enthusiastic crowd. This was the largest crowd of the day and there were shouts for Alderman Tregenza, who was popular and of a well known Mousehole family; he was also to be the next Mayor of the enlarged Borough of Penzance. He was bumped, definitely, but upon what is not revealed. The party were near the War Memorial, but it would have been disrespectful to have used that for such a purpose. There was some concern, as the Cornishman put it, for Alderman Tregenza's well being though it was not explained why. One wonders how dangerous the ceremony was - and perhaps it should not be even thought that extra violence might have been applied to any of the councillors. The children scrambled for coins but the Mayoress “with kindly consideration” made certain that babies in arms received the shiny half pennies by handing them out to the parents from the car, a kindness extended to elderly persons who managed to get to the vehicle.

As at Mousehole, there was no stone at Newlyn - but the bridge was the place where Councillor B.S. Simons, “appropriately enough”, received the honours. The crowd was big and “expectant”, but there was no comment on their enthusiasm which might not have been as great as at Mousehole. Already, Newlyn was less than enamoured with its incorporation into its larger neighbour and traditional rival, but the ceremony passed off peacefully and the bridge was not – on this occasion - the scene of violent protest.

The Mayor's car and the charabanc made a stately drive along the Promenade and they reached the Bathing Pool, designed by Capt. Latham, the Borough Engineer. The Pool may well have been almost complete prior to its opening in May 1935, as the civic party was able to visit the site before the ceremony. A great deal of demolition had taken place, clearing properties in what the Cornishman called “the squalid Battery Square” – a similar enterprise to the improving works the Council had in mind for Newlyn. Members of the civic party were all very impressed with what they saw, as they walked around the parapet surrounding the pool and were watched by crowds of people outside.

Large numbers gathered for the ceremony, including many children who “seemed to spring up from the ground”. Again, there was no boundary stone to mark the most southerly point to which Penzance itself extended. However, they now had to get on with the business of further bumping. Alderman Thomas was to be the last official victim, but he was not the last person to be thus treated. There was a loud call from the crowd for the Mayor himself to be dealt with by colleagues on the Council and this was done amid “hilarious laughter and cheers from the crowd above”. If this was not enough for the crowd, the Mayoress also submitted amid even greater cheering. One wonders about what had happened previously, when the Cornishman comment that “the act was carried out more gracefully and decorously than those which had preceded it” raises interesting questions.

It only remained for the rest of the coins to be given out, and after one last scramble for the half pennies the proceedings came to an end.

1934- 1974

In 1974 the bounds of the extended borough were beaten for the last time, since in that year Penzance was absorbed within Penwith District Council. For some time the 1934 boundary seemed irrelevant, although Penwith District itself had a rather short life and recent (in 2017) developments have given the Town Council, which represents the same area as the 1934 enlarged borough, greater responsibility. Yet for many residents, “real Penzance” is still the old borough, as set down in the charter of 1614. It remains to be seen how (and indeed whether) the centenary of the 1934 enlarged borough will be commemorated. But the passing of 400 years since the establishment of the original incorporated borough of Penzance, with its circular boundary set exactly half a mile from the Market House, was certainly celebrated. There was a major exhibition, special events – and, as a permanent memorial of the anniversary, new boundary stones were set up where necessary to mark the limits of the old borough.

THE REPLACEMENT OF THE BOUNDARY STONE AT WHERRYTOWN

PLHG member Cedric Appleby, Recorder Penzance OCS, takes up the story in his own words:

As part of the Penzance 400 celebrations it was decided to place a new boundary stone at Wherrytown as the 1687 stone had been lost. An order was placed with Long Rock Memorials for a stone which would be inscribed as the two surviving stones which are at St. Clare and Chyandour.

We had to decide where that boundary stone might have been. The circular line was shown on the 6” OS map of 1908 and at Wherrytown it passed through two rows of houses which were on both sides of the road from Newlyn to Penzance. The difficulty was that all these houses were destroyed in the great storm of 1962 and were replaced by flats and other structures. The exact position of the most south westerly point could not be fixed on any identifiable structure shown on this map. However, the Wherry Rocks were there and could be seen at the lowest tides. So I went down and stood opposite these rocks and visually lined the most south westerly point on the on the boundary line with that part of the rocks which was directly opposite that point.

Simon Glasson the Penzance Town Clerk and the Principal Administrator, Teresa Fogarty, invited me to come down to Wherrytown to find a suitable site for the the stone and agreed to put it on a small plot of grass against the wall near steps leading up to the walk way close to the sea.

The actual date of the granting of borough status to Penzance was 9th May 1614 and this was the day on which the stone was dedicated, exactly 400 years later, not at Wherrytown, but at St. Clare cricket ground and very close to one of the existing 1687 stones. The service of dedication was led by the Revd. Julyan Drew but representatives of the churches and faith groups gave their blessing to the stone which was eventually erected on the Wherrytown site to be unveiled by His Royal

Beating the new boundary stone at Wherrytown.

Highness, Prince Richard of Gloucester on the 28th May. Members of the Penzance Old Cornwall Society were very much in evidence both at the reception at Penlee House which preceded the unveiling ceremony and the unveiling itself. In conversation the Duke showed interest in the work of Old Cornwall.

The Duke of Gloucester unveiled the stone with the assistance of Cedric Appleby, Recorder of Penzance Old Cornwall Society. Felicity Edwards, Retiring President of the Society, was present as was Pauline Hope, a key member. The 2014 Mayor and Mayoress of Penzance, David and Sue Nebesnuick, are both members of the Society.

Notes 

The current value of 1934 penny coin varies between £4 and £60 depending on condition. The top value for a 1935 penny is only £20 http://www.answers.com accessed 18 8 2017. The modern equivalent of a penny in terms of spending power is about 17p according to https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/results.asp#mid accessed 18 8 2017

Sources

Main account of the 1934 ceremony, Cornishman Thursday 8th November 1934, page 4

For the controversy surrounding Councillor Vere, see especially Cornishman Thursday 16th August 1934, page 3

For the 2014 ceremony, see http://www.penzancetowncouncil.co.uk/assets/file/Beating%20of%20the%20Bounds%20in%20Penzance.pdf (accessed 20 8 2017)

Except where otherwise stated all pictures are taken from the above account of the 2014 ceremony and are by kind permission of Fiona Thomas-Lambourne.




The Penwith Papers:



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