Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 2/Whalley Rushbearing

WHALLEY RUSH-BEARING.

Dr Whitaker, in his history of the parish, says this was a high festival at Whalley. In the old churchwardens' accounts there are annual charges for dressing and cleaning the church, churchyard, &c., for this occasion. It is curious, however, to observe that even in 1617 the old festivals were beginning to decline. The "Journal" says "much less solemnity than formerly." Canon Raines adds:—It was specially provided in the "Book of Sports" that women should have leave to carry rushes to the church for the decoration of the same according to their ancient custom. The old churchwardens' accounts have entirely perished from carelessness; but in those after 1700 laudable attention appears to have been paid to the cleansing of the church, and there are regular entries every year as follows:—"Paid for dressing the church against St James's Day, five shillings." The rushes were brought on the rush-cart by the north gate into the church free of expense. Garlands were suspended in the church and on the top of the steeple. It is about seventy years since the floor of Whalley Church was strewed with rushes; and after the occasion for its use ceased, the rush-cart door disappeared, though the festival itself was kept up, and the morris-dancers played their parts in it for more than seventy years afterwards. For fifty years, on the 5th August, the village was crowded like a fair, booths were erected, and horse-races and other rustic sports attracted numbers of people from the surrounding country. But the festival gradually declined, and within the last two years [before 1848] St James's Day, the rush-cart, and the festival, have altogether ceased in Whalley. St James's Day, old style, would be on the 6th August, and the rush-bearing day, the 5th August, would therefore be the Eve of St James'.