In 1992, the Mayor of Ivybridge, Tom Maddock, successfully resurrected the ancient tradition of ‘Beating the Bounds’. Residents of the town were required to walk around the perimeter of the parish, hitting the ground with sticks along the way as was done in times gone by. This participative event proved to be a real success with the children of the town. Following on from this youthful enthusiasm towards local history, Tom began to look for new ideas to engage the community. He decided to approach neighbouring Ermington with a view to creating a ceremony at the Ivy Bridge since this had proved to be the focal point during the boundary walk. Within the special ceremony the residents of Ivybridge would be asked to pay a fee from the residents of Ermington for the continued use of the old Ivy Bridge and cross the River Erme. The fee would consist of a fat duck from the river, a ream of paper from Stowford Paper Mill and a single red rose.
On May 22nd 1993, Tom Maddock recalled the day as being ‘a little dull and wet’. However, despite the inclement weather, all the local school children attended, suitably dressed for the occasion. Certificates of appreciation were handed out, signed by the Town Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
The first Bridge Ceremony followed on from ‘Beating the Bounds’. The bridge was blocked by a gate festooned in flowers and foliage. A procession of Ivybridge residents paraded to the bridge from Victoria Park to be confronted by the obstruction on the bridge. On the other side were residents of Ermington Parish. A brief dialogue between the two followed:
Ermington: Stop! You cannot cross the bridge.
Ivybridge: Why not?
Ermington: Because Lord Peverell of Ermington says so.
Ivybridge: Remove the gate because we want to go to the village green.
Ermington: Then you must pay a token fee first.
Ivybridge: How much is that?
Ermington: One fat duck from the river Erme, some new paper from the mill and a red rose.
Ivybridge: Very well, we will pay the fee and you must sign the book.
Once the exchange of the duck, ream of paper and red rose occurred, the gate was removed and the residents of Ivybridge were permitted to cross the bridge. All those who helped to organise the ceremony were then asked to sign the ‘Book’, amid much joviality, recording the event for posterity.
Following its resounding success, the Bridge Ceremony was planned every year and still forms part of the local event calendar.