button to main menu  Gents Mag 1823 part 2 p.173

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Gentleman's Magazine 1823 part 2 p.173

  rush bearing

Rush Bearing, Ambleside

On the 26th and 27th of July, the antient custom of Rush-bearing took place at Ambleside in Westmoreland. About seven o'clock on the Saturday evening, young girls, to the number of about forty, formed the procession to the Church, preceded by a band of music. Each of the girls bore in her hands the usual rush-bearings, the origin and signifacnce of which has so long puzzled the researches of all our Antiquaries. These elegant little trophies were disposed in the church round the pulpit, reading-desks, pews, &c. and had a really beautiful and imposing effect. They thus remained during the Sunday till the service was finished in the afternoon, when a similar procession was formed to convey these trophies home again. We understand that formerly in some parts of Lancashire a similar ceremony prevailed, under the same designation, in which the rush-bearinsg were made in the form of females, with a fanciful rosette for the head; and on looking at those at Ambleside, some faint resemblance to the female form may be traced in the outline. At least, they nearly all possessed the flowing outline of a petticoat. No satisfactory explanation of this ceremony has ever yet been given: the attempt at one is, that it is remnant of an antient custom, which formerly prevailed, of strewing the church floors with rushes to preserve the feet from damp; but we cannot conceive what resemblance there is between the practice of strewing the church with rushes, and the trophies which are now carried, and which have been carried from time immemorial. We should rather incline to refer its origin to the days of heathenism, as a representative of some offering to their gods. Whatever may have been its origin, we are happy to see that the darkening and desolating spirit of puritanism has not yet destroyed this little innocent festivity, along with morris dances, wassail bowls, and May-poles: and we trust that the Gentlemen of Windermere and Grasmere will long preserve this last relick of the days that are gone.
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-- Ambleside Rushbearing 1823

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