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Rushbearing Festival

image: Rushbearing girlimage: Rushbearing cartIn the 16th and 17th centuries rushes were often used for flooring in churches over the winter, because they are aromatic and provided good insulation when they dried out.  Each year, the old, rotten rushes were thrown out and new ones were taken to the churches in carts. Over the years this gradually turned into a celebration and holiday involving revelry, music and morris dancing.

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival

A sixteen feet high, two-wheeled, decorated and thatched Rushcart (pictured right), is pulled by 60 local men in panama hats, white shirts, black trousers and clogs. They are accompanied by music and five or six teams of morris dancers.

A team of women take turns in sitting on top of the cart.

The procession stops on route to present token rushes to churches, to perform a mumming play and to dance outside pubs. On Sunday the procession goes to Ripponden to present rushes and join the village fete.

Photo on left is from the Rushbearing Ceremonies held in Grasmere. The rushes are carried on a special linen sheet, held by six girls (the Rush Maidens), dressed in green.





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