Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Grasmere rush-bearing 2015

Posted on by royvickery |

027The custom of rush-bearing dates back to the time when rushes were strewn on earthen floors.  At Grasmere, Cumbria, the custom was first recorded in 1680, and in its present form dates from the 1830s.

On the second Saturday in July (11 July in 2015) volunteers, mostly women and children, gather in St Oswald’s Church  and cover a number of traditional ‘bearings’ with rushes (Juncus spp.), while the entrances to the church are decorated with sheaves of reed (Phragmites australis).  The bearings are further decorated by having flowers added to them before being taken to the village school.

081At 3.30 p.m. an informal procession of people carrying the bearings, led by a young man carrying a cross covered in yellow chrysanthemums, leaves the school and moves through the village to Moss Parrock, the village green, where a brief stop is made and the rush-bearing hymn is sung, before progressing back to the church.  During this time the church floor is covered by a thick layer of rushes.  Once people have settled in the church, at 4.15, a short informal service is held, after which a variety of entertainments take place in the churchyard.  Tea and gingerbread is served, and the 115celebration concludes with ice creams being served ‘at the end of all activities’.

After the service the bearings are placed around the church and they and the rushes remain in place for a week before being removed.

According to the Rector of St Oswald’s two types of rushes are used:  a flexible one which is used for decorating the bearings, and a longer one which is strewn on the floor.


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