ACCOUNT OF AMBLESIDE RUSHBEARING 1885


"As the church clock chimed 6.00 p.m. a band is heard in the distance, and soon there conies down the main street a procession of young children, boys and girls and carrying devices of wooden framework covered with mosses and flowers and rushes. Leading die procession is a sweet faced lassie of eleven or twelve years carrying the Churchwarden's rushbearing, a plain upright piece of wood covered entirely with green rushes gathered from the lake, then follows a bonnie blue eyed boy bearing a device in the shape of a harp whose strings are formed of white peeled rushes with the frame thickly adorned with white water lilies. Crosses of all kinds hung on moss clad staffs, every shape and device which the ingenuity and taste of the ladies of the parish could design appear borne by the long line of school children who form the procession. When at length the garlands have been brought into the Market Place a halt is made. Now the children are taking up their crosses, the band commences the first bars of a march, the procession moves onward towards the church. The children carry their offerings of flowers into the sacred edifice and the doors are locked to all others for a short time whilst the garlands are deposited in the chancel, aisle and windows. This done the congregation is admitted and joins in a short service consisting of prayer, hymn, and a brief address".

This description of the Ambleside Rushbearing of 1885 was published in The Queen of that year.

The Rushbearing festival is held annually in Ambleside and commemorates the days when the churches had earthen floors and rushes were put down to make a carpet for warmth and comfort Each year the old rushes were swept from the church and new ones cut from the lake and brought to the church and no doubt this heralded a get together of the village folk and became a happy day and a holiday.

The Rushbearing as we know it is a symbolic representation of this event and is now celebrated in only three places, Ambleside, Grasmere and Warcop in the north of the county. Our original church was the chapel of St Anne's on Chapel HOI and the festival was originally held on the last Saturday in July, the Saturday nearest to St Anne's day. Some years ago when the school holidays were altered and the date was changed to the first Saturday in July, the Saturday nearest to St Mary's day which is the new church in the village. The ceremony has changed little since the description of 1885. Unfortunately the older boys and girls will no longer participate which means the children now range from babies in prams ato eleven or twelve years old and the big bearings are carried by adults. The harp is no longer decorated with water lilies but with white daisies, not quite so effective and the art of making bearings for the children to cany is becoming a lost art Instead of wooden crosses covered with moss, rushes and flowers most of the children now just have small bunches of rushes decked with flowers. Whilst the small children still carry baskets now they atre often made by the florist Nevertheless the procession is still very beautiful and watched by hundreds of people each year.

The bearings are placed in the church after the procession and a children's' service follows. When the children come out of church they are traditionally presented with a slice of gingerbread.