Ripponden 1842

The best accounts of what used to take place at our local rushbearings are those of the 1842 event at Ripponden. The cart built with rushes from Flat Head Hills was first pulled to the Blue Ball Inn, Soyland, then as far as the Derby Inn, Rishworth and ending up at Ripponden where the rushes were strewn down the aisle of the church. An unknown writer in 1891 under the heading Notes and Queries on rush-bearing tells us.

August was formerly the month of rushbearing, and some parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire kept them up until a very recent date. Now to begin with Ripponden. It will be just 49 years ago since the last genuine celebrations on St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24th. Of course the lads made a week of it, and rare fun they had. For weeks before the fair young men of the village and of the hillsides were busy cutting and gathering rushes, which they leashed and plaited and packed in a cart provided by some friendly farmer for the occasion. After the rushes were packed the work of decorating began. The cottages and farmhouses were requisitioned for trinkets, ornaments, flowers - natural and artificial -scarves, ribbons, etc. and willing and nimble fingers fastened them to the rushes in the cart. To the cart were attached ropes, which were from twenty to thirty yards long and to these thick cross ropes, painted as chains were fastened.

To these cross ropes were harnessed nimble and stalwart men dressed in the most fantastic style, something after the manner of clown and harlequin in the Christmas pantomime! and as they drew the cart along the lanes and roads they sang and shouted, lifting the lashed ropes to which they were harnessed, above their heads in perfect time and measure. They stopped at the houses of the well-to-do people, and the public houses and sang and played in front thereof for largesse, beer and spirits. Hundreds of people of both sexes lined the route, and many joined in the sports and singing. In great humor these carnivals began and ended; but in some districts where rival carts were manned, a free fight mostly ended the weeks amusements. On the last celebration at Ripponden which I witnessed myself, the cart was loaded and decorated at Fielding's farm (Kittle Snaat) Soyland, and started from there at noon. The driver was William Heap (Bill et Daubers) and by his side sat George Berry (Hoity), who scraped furiously on an old fiddle. Both these are now dead, Heap only very recently. Both were very prowd of the part they took in the Rushbearing of 1842. There used to be plenty of fun at those occasions, even in this village and from all I can gather of this one it seems to be fine and jolly, and most of the people had what the Americans call "A good time of it." (1)

The celebrations were carried on the next day and Mr. S. Mellor, one of the spectators recalls that:

"the fair concluded on the last Sunday in August which was known as the big Sunday in that locality, and invariably marked by the most lively proceedings. Scores of catch penny stalls were erected, together with fruit stalls and gingerbread stalls, in roadways leading to the church and even part way down the slope approaching that place of worship. Both on weekdays and on Sunday the fair was in full swing." (3)

References

  1. Halifax Guardian Aug. 15th 1891.
  2. Early 19th C. Rushcart, 'Rush-bearing' by Alfred Burton 1891.
  3. Halifax Courier Jan. 24th 1914.