Saddleworth Rushcart

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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Saddleworth Rushcart
    The village festival which, in most counties of England, takes place on the anniversary of the day when the parish church was consecrated, or on the day of the saint to whom it is dedicated, is kept here at a different time and in a different manner than in any other county I have lived in. At the approach of autumn, when rushes are in full length, certain days are set apart for the different towns and villages in the neighbourhood of Saddleworth, when all work is stopped, and everybody rejoices and makes merry. Some young men of the parish load a hand-cart with rushes, sometimes ten to twelve feet high and with these carts, which are often most gorgeously decorated with flags, ribbons, etc, sometimes with plate borrowed for the purpose from the wealthier parishioners, and preceded by fife and drum, they march in procession through the parish, stopping at almost every house, and after three hearty cheers for the inhabitants, ask either for a present of money or for some refreshments. The money collected is divided among those who loaded and decorated the rush-cart. This custom of gathering rushes is very old, and dates its origin from times when such luxuries as carpeted pews, with cushions and curtains, hot-water or gas pipes, were not known in our country churches. In those days, at the approach of winter, the young people collected the rushes and took them to the parish church, and covered the floor with them, to keep warm the feet of the good Christians whom the cold winter’s wind, and the long, dreary walk over the snow-covered Yorkshire moors, could not keep from attending matins or evensong. A good old neighbour of mine, seventy-eight years old, well remembers the time when six or eight rush-carts met at Saddleworth Church, and with their contents a warm (church) carpet was prepared for the coming winter. — N. and Q., 2d sen xii. 229.
    [Lancashire Legends (1873) by John Harland & T T Wilkinson]