When: 20th & 21st August 2016
Where: Saddleworth, Greater Manchester
What is it?
This year’s Saddleworth Rushcart will take place over the weekend of Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st 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 also died out for a while, but it was revived in 1975 by the Saddleworth Morris Men and is now a popular annual event.
Saddleworth Rushcart is a type of 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.
Rushbearing ceremonies vary from place to place, but they usually involve dressing up, parading through the streets, and enjoying plenty of entertainment and merriment. The Saddleworth Rushcart is no exception.
Since its revival, the Saddleworth Rushcart has been constructed next to the Commercial Inn. The cart is made from locally cut rushes and built into a tall structure. On the Friday night there is usually music and merriment in the local pubs.
Then on Saturday the completed Rushcart is 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 lucky person who gets to sit on top of the Rushcart as it is paraded through the streets.
On the Sunday the Rushcart is pulled up the hill to St. Chad’s Church in Uppermill for the Rushcart Service. Here the rushes are spread out on the church floor as they would have been when the ceremony first took place. The rest of the Sunday is usually filled with traditional entertainment including dancing, and fun competitions such as gurning, wrestling and clog stepping.
The Saddleworth Rushcart is one of the few traditional ceremonies that is still celebrated today. There are a few other ceremonies, such as the Ambleside Rushbearing Ceremony in Cumbria, which still take place annually.