The Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival is one of only a few instances of this particular English tradition still being celebrated annually.
Rushbearing itself dates back several centuries to the time when church floors consisted of little more than stone flags or beaten earth and rushes were used as a winter covering. Each year, in late summer, the old and rotten rushes were cleared out and new ones taken to the churches in carts. Human nature being what it is, this annual custom developed into an excuse for celebration involving revelry, music, dancing and much drinking of strong ales.
Over the course of the weekend, our own festival sees the progress of the rushbearing procession around 7 towns and villages visiting many churches and local hostelries along the way. The focal point of the procession is the sixteen feet high, two-wheeled, handsomely decorated and thatched rushcart. A team of young ladies take turns to ride on top of the cart as it is pulled by sixty local men dressed in Panama hats, white shirts, black trousers and clogs. Accompanying them are a group of supporters in Edwardian dress along with some of the region’s finest musicians and Morris Dancing teams to provide entertainment for the crowds.
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of our first event back in 1977 and we have planned a weekend of entertainment appropriate to celebrating this landmark.