11.1 Boundaries
Boundaries between fields and communities form the ancient social topographical scaffold of the countryside.  In the days before maps, these compartments were established and maintained by a process known as perambulation.  This term refers to the actual process of marking out these important land divisions, a description that was written down for future reference, and also describes the actual actual process of reinforcing ownership. For village boundaries, the latter was an annual ceremony organised by the parish officers to ensure that all the inhabitants knew the limits of their homeland in relation to the lands of adjacent communities.  This ceremony was also known as 'beating the bounds', and was attended by customary events, such as upending children of the community, at particular features used as markers.
Parish boundaries still snake across the British countryside, following hedgerows, roads, footpaths, streams and rivers.  Often they cut across the landscape with no apparent reference to the lie of the land or to features of the human landscape.  They create a pattern of considerable complexity and raise numerous questions. Why does a boundary which has been following a particular stream suddenly swing away to follow lanes and hedgerows for a couple of miles before rejoining the stream? Why was a Roman road used to mark the limits of parishes in one area but totally ignored by the boundaries a few miles further on? Why do parishes vary so much in shape and size between different parts of the country?
As represented by dotted lines on the Ordnance Survey maps, parish boundaries are some of the most durable legacies from Anglo-Saxon England.  The Hundred boundaries defined groups of parishes that represent civil estates of Saxon times.  As a medieval network, the village boundaries formed an invisible web which knit families into communities and divided communities one from another. These boundaries also divided the landscape of local administration, which was both ecclesiastical and civil.  The former defined the church in which people could be baptised and buried and to which they had to pay tithes and other dues.  At the level of civil administration they dictated the official to whom they were responsible for payment of taxes and rates.  Therefore, boundaries of parishes and other units of local administration mattered greatly to past generations. Before the local government reforms of the nineteenth century, the parochial basis of poor relief and many charities and schools were centred on the parish in which a person was born. 
Today, most inhabitants would not be aware of where their village ended and another began.  However, parish boundaries still form the basis of the political divisions for county and district, and those created to define the voting arrangements for the British and European constituencies.  In this modern context the old Hundred divisions take on a contemporary significance.
Today, some footpaths follow the ancient parish boundaries and allow walkers to follow these footmarks of villagers of ancient times.  An ancillary footpath network was a system of roads and footpaths used by villagers to attend their local manorial court. Now, the sites of some of these courts are farmsteads off the main roads, and it is possible to follow in the steps of named individuals who's attendance at the court was recorded in the medieval court rolls.
Angus Winchester
See also 'Hundred Lines'  in the library section ofwww.otohydra.org.uk