Sowerby Bridge 1906

The opportunity for a civic celebration has never been one to be missed and in 1906 Sowerby Bridge celebrated 60 years of local government. As part of the event a grand procession was planned which included floats showing some aspects of one time, everyday life, which had disappeared over the previous 60 years, local comic bands and of course a rushcart. The cart evidently was of such interest as to warrant a mention in the local newspaper prior to the event.

Several gentlemen have been busy during the week constructing a rushcart, which will be drawn through the town by men properly garbed for the occasion. This will be a notable feature in the procession. It is many years since such a cart was seen in Sowerby Bridge - probably not since the rejoicings when the Corn Laws were repealed, in 1846. (1)

At that time there would certainly have been people who would remember the morris dancers from Barkisland, but there is no reference to morris dancers in any account of rushbearing in Ripponden or Sowerby Bridge; so whether it was because of some memory of the past or just an attempt to emulate similar events that caused the organisers to procure a team of morris dancers from Lancashire we shall never know. The team which they secured was from Horwich but even on the Friday before the event it was not certain which, if any, the team would be.

In connection with the rushcart, efforts are being made to secure a band of morris dancers. A difficulty has been experienced in obtaining men who know this fine Old English Dance. They are to be found chiefly in Lancashire and Cheshire, and seem to be mostly engaged for a similar celebration to our own at Rochdale to-morrow. However, failing these, the rushcart itself will be interesting. The other features of the celebration are set out in the official programme, which will be on sale this afternoon. (2)

The rush cart may have been built at or near to the canal basin for a photograph shows the rushcart pullers, lined up along the wharf ready to leave. The procession probably started officially at West End or at the market place and from there went down the main street and up to Crow Wood, but what is certain is its popularity, resulting in spectators 6 -12 deep lining the route, and we are told.

What appeared to be the most popular features of the procession, however, were a set of morris dancers from Leyland near Preston, and a rush cart with a man seated on top playing a fiddle. The cart had been built by Mr. Wm. Schofield (outfitter) and Mr. Albert Wood who were both in the procession as drivers of the twenty or thirty men. The morris dancers were a set of fine active young men and at once established themselves as prime favourites. They are champions of England, having taken first prize two years in succession at a contest which is held annually. They enjoyed them-selves very much and they have written this week (through their secretary) thanking the public of Sowerby Bridge for the reception they had, and intimating that they would like to come again. (3)

Morris dancers were seen again in Sowerby Bridge on special occasions but not the rushcart, at least not for many years until the 1977 revival. The name however remained and some people continued to call the Summer holiday the "rushbearing" up until it was changed from August to July to conform with Halifax Wakes and by 1970 those who even remembered the name were few, causing even the remotest link with this one time popular custom to be almost completely lost.

References

  1. Sowerby Bridge Chronicle Fri. Sept. 7th 1906.
  2. Sowerby Bridge Chronicle Fri. Sept. 7th 1906.
  3. Sowerby Bridge Chronicle Fri. Sept. 7th 1906.