Rushbearing Festival

Thatching the Cart

Green grow the rushes o!

Early in September, the hill top villages around Calderdale will echo to the sound of clogs and bells. This is when the annual Rushbearing Festival takes place, which is Sowerby Bridge's largest and most prestigious event.

It is a custom that dates back centuries. Cold stone floors were strewn with rushes or straw to provide insulation and to protect the knees of worshippers in churches. The newly cut rushes also provide a pleasant scent in the buildings.

The festival was revived in 1977 at the time of the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations. It has grown steadily since then.

Sixty men are required to pull the mitre-shaped rushcart, which weighs 18cwt when loaded with the rushes. They wear white shirts, black trousers, panama hats and clogs. The ten brake men behind the cart need rubber soled clogs in order to control the cart on the downhill stretches.

The modern cart was built in 1984 and on the insurance documents is listed as a "muck cart"! It is thatched with 500 bundles of plaited rushes and rises 16 feet into the air.

The festival commences at St John's Church (Warley), where the cart is blessed.

Over two days, the rushcart, accompanied by Morris dancers and musicians, covers nine miles. Visiting several villages (and hostelries!) along the way, it arrives at St Bartholomew's Church (Ripponden), on the Sunday afternoon.

The Cart Descends Windle Royd Lane

For a list of related material currently in stock in Calderdale Libraries, enter Rushbearing as a 'quick search' term in the Online library catalogue