Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 3/Clitheroe Sports and Pastimes


"Village wakes," says Mr Wright, "rush-bearings, and other rude customs of antiquity, continue to be observed in this locality; besides the practice of dressing up two figures as the king and queen, something in the Guy Fawkes costume, and carrying them round the borough boundaries. The very objectionable custom of lifting or heaving is not yet extinct at Clitheroe; and, reprehensible in all ages, it must be doubly so when simplicity characterises the religious observances of so many Christian sects." Another writer thus describes these practices in 1784:—

"Lifting was originally designed to represent our Saviour's resurrection. The men lift the women on Easter Monday, and the women the men on Tuesday. One or more take hold of each leg, and one or more of each arm, near the body, and lift the person up into a horizontal position three times. It is a rude, indecent, and dangerous diversion, practised chiefly by the lower class of people. Our magistrates constantly prohibit it by the bellman, but it subsists at the end of the town; and the women have of late years converted it into a money job. I believe it is chiefly confined to these northern counties."

The lifters, however, have both ancient and high authority for the custom. They justify themselves by quoting the scriptural passage—"And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me;" and from the Liber Contrarotularis Hospicii, 17 Edward I., it appears that Edward Longshanks was lifted from his bed on Easter Tuesday by a party of ladies of the bedchamber. The writer has witnessed the process of lifting at Bowdon, near Manchester, within the last half dozen years, and he is informed that the ceremony is still continued. In 1774 fourpence was paid to the sexton at Eccles for "warning people against lifting at Easter."