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 as the annual Rushbearing Festival takes place - Sowerby Bridge's largest and most prestigious event

It is a custom that dates back centuries, when 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 would also provide a pleasant scent in the buildings.

The festival was revived in 1977 at the time of the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations and has steadily grown 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 to 16 feet in the air.

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

Over the two days the rushcart, accompanied by Morris dancers and musicians covers nine miles visiting several villages (and hostelries!) along the way until it arrives at St Bartholomew's Church in 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