Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Sowerby Bridge rushbearing, 2016

HALIF 042The practice of strewing rushes on the floors of churches can be traced back to the 15th century, but gradually died out probably during the 1800s.  It survives at a few places, notably at Grasmere and Ambleside in Cumbria, but the strewn rushes only remain in place for a short while and are not kept in place until they are replaced the following year.

In Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire a rushcart formed the focus for the rushbearing, though, by the mid 1800s it appears that in many of the places which held rushbearing festivals a cart was no longer prepared and the event had become simply a fair or fete.

HALIF 066Rushbearing was revived at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire in 1906 ‘as part of a celebration to mark 60 years of local government’, but this was a one-off event.  However, in 1977 a second revival took place, this time to mark the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and this revival has thrived for some 40 years.

On the first full weekend in September (Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th in 2016) a rushcart accompanied by morris dancers and bands process on lengthy routes around the town and surrounding villages, stopping at various points to provide displays of morris dancing, performances of mummers’ plays, and to present HALIF 088rushes at churches.  The rushes presented being two bunches, one of rushes (Juncus spp.) and the other of bulrushes (Typha latifolia).
Despite rain on Saturday the 2016 event proved to be enjoyable, and the organisers, cart attendants, dancers and musicians are all to be congratulated on their enthusiasm, energy and, above all, stamina.




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