Ascension Day, which fell on the 13th May this
year, is marked at Brasenose College with two long-standing traditions.
Firstly, the Beating of the Bounds ceremony passed through Brasenose during the
morning of Ascension Day. This rite has its ancient origins in the days before
maps were commonplace, when it was important for property owners to establish
and maintain the boundaries to their land. A custom developed whereby the
bounds of land were periodically walked, and boundary stones struck to ‘mark'
these bounds. The boundaries of the parishes of the churches of St. Michael at
the Northgate and St. Mary the Virgin (also known as the ‘University Church')
pass through Brasenose College and on Ascension Day groups from both parishes
visit and mark the boundary stones located on certain walls of the college by
marking them with the year in chalk and beating them with willow sticks. It is
said that, in days gone by, children would be punished if they were unable to identify
parish boundaries, and the beating with sticks tradition evolved from the wish
to exact an annual revenge on boundary markers. The brief ceremony was led by
our Chaplain, the Reverend Graeme Richardson, and was well-attended by students,
staff and visitors. Both church groups are served sweets or cakes in the College.
At lunch time on Ascension Day each year, Brasenose College
members are permitted to enter Lincoln College via a connecting door between
the two colleges. The door is opened for five minutes and it is the only time
during the year that this door is unlocked. Brasenose members are served an ale
by Lincoln College, which is traditionally flavoured with ground ivy, handpicked
by the Lincoln College butler in local woods, to discourage Brasenose members
from taking liberties with the kind hospitality by requesting more than one
pint. Opinions on the origin of this tradition vary, but the two most popular
explanations are that, centuries ago, either a Brasenose member was pursued by
a mob from the town and murdered because Lincoln students refused to open their
gates to him, or that a Lincoln member killed a Brasenose man in a duel. Either
way, Lincoln College's penitence is gratefully received by Brasenose members
and a large number of students took part in this year's event.