When: 22nd – 24th August 2014
Where: Saddleworth, Greater Manchester
What is it?
This year the 40th Saddleworth Rushcart takes place between 22nd and 24th August.
The ceremony is thought to date back to around the 1800s, although most Rushcart ceremonies in the North West died out by the early 20th century. The Saddleworth Rushcart was no exception but it was revived in 1975 by the Saddleworth Morris Men and is now a popular annual event.
The Saddleworth Rushcart is a rushbearing ceremony. These were common in times before churches had proper seating for its parishioners. The floors of churches were covered with rushes in order to make them more comfortable. Once a year the worn out rushes would be replaced with new ones and this annual chore was turned into a celebratory event, creating a traditional custom which people have followed year after year. Ceremonies vary from place to place, but rushbearing usually involves dressing up, parades, entertainment and merriment. The Saddleworth Rushcart is no exception.
Since its revival the Saddleworth Rushcart has been constructed next to the Commercial Inn from rushes cut locally and built into a tall structure. This year on the Friday night there will be music and merriment in the local pubs.
Then on Saturday 23rd August the completed Rushcart will be pulled around the villages of Saddleworth with morris dance performances taking place throughout the day. Every year a new banner is attached to the Rushcart, designed by that year’s ‘jockey’. The jockey is the person who sits on top of the Rushcart as it is paraded through the streets.
On Sunday 24th August the Rushcart will be pulled up the hill to St. Chad’s Church in Uppermill for the Rushcart Service. Here the rushes will be spread out on the church floor as they would have been when the ceremony first took place. The rest of the Sunday will be filled with traditional entertainment including dance and fun competitions such as gurning, wrestling and clog stepping.
The Saddleworth Rushcart is one of the few traditional ceremonies that is still celebrated. There are a few other ceremonies, such as the Ambleside Rushbearing Ceremony in Cumbria, which still take place annually.