Rushbearing Ceremonies in Cumbria

Rushbearing Ceremonies in the Lake District

Grasmere - The Rushbearing Ceremony.
The Rushbearing Ceremony at Grasmere (2007). Photo by Ann Bowker.

Originally the floors of Churches were simply of earth, covered in rushes, and it was commonplace to bury bodies of parishioners within the Church as well as in the Churchyard. In ancient times parishioners brought sweet smelling rushes at the feasts of dedication to strew within the Church, to purify the air and help insulate the worshippers from the cold. The festivity gained the name Rushbearing.
This practice stopped in the 1800’s, when the floors were flagged, but the ancient custom still continues in five Cumbrian Churches, where wild rushes and flowers are paraded round the village in procession, and ending in a rush strewn Church.
Today the ‘rushbearing’ is is a cross made of rushes or flowers and carried by the children of the parish. A procession is led by a band, followed by the clergy, and then the children of the village, and ends at the Church with hymns and prayers.
Traditionally the children of Grasmere and Ambleside are given a piece of Grasmere gingerbread if they have carried one of the rushes. Some of the festivals are accompanied by children’s sports.

Rushbearing ceremonies are held on or near to the Saints day at these churches
St Oswald’s Church Grasmere Formerly Saturday nearest St Oswald’s day (5th August). In 2018 it was 14 July
St Mary’s Church Ambleside First Saturday in July
St Columba’s Church Warcop 29th June (unless Sunday, then 28th Jun)
St Theobold’s Church Great Musgrave First Saturday in July
St Mary and St Michael’s Church Urswick. Sunday nearest St Michael’s day (Sep 29th) 


image of the rushbearing ceremony at Grasmere in the lake district.
The Rushbearing Ceremony at Grasmere (2007). Photo by Ann Bowker.

There is a mural in St Mary’s Church, Ambleside, created in 1944, depicting the Rushbearing ceremony, by Gordon Ransom, lecturer at The Royal College of Art. It is 26 feet long, and contains 62 figures in four scenes, representing inhabitants of Ambleside at that period.
A painting of the Grasmere rushbearing ceremony by Frank Bramley R.A., who lived in Grasmere, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1905, and purchased for the village in 1913. The picture is now in the care of the National Trust, and hangs in Grasmere Village Hall.
See details of the 2018 Ambleside Rushbearing
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