Grasmere turns out for 400-year-old rushbearing festival

The Westmorland Gazette: This youngster gets into the spirit of the rushbearing. Pic by Allan Bovill This youngster gets into the spirit of the rushbearing. Pic by Allan Bovill

HUNDREDS of people turned out for the annual Grasmere Rushbearing procession on Saturday.

Led by Blast Furness Band, the procession wound its way through the village to St Oswald’s Parish Church for a short service.

The 400-year-old ceremony was attended by around 600 people.

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After the service there was a performance from Kendal Concert Band, the younger children had music sessions on the Rectory lawn while the older children made gingerbread houses.

The Rev Cameron Butland said: “It was a fantastic day and being fortunate with the weather meant we could do everything that was planned.”

Also available was the rushbearing gingerbread cake made once a year by the Grasmere Gingerbread shop.

The tradition dates back to when church floors were made of earth and it was common to bury the bodies of parishioners within the church as well as the churchyard.

Parishioners strew sweet-smelling rushes on the church floor to purify the air and help insulate worshippers from the cold.

The practice began to die out in the 1800s when the floors were flagged and there was no need for rushes, but St Oswald’s is one of five Cumbrian churches where it still continues.

Today the ‘rushbearing’ is a cross made of rushes or flowers and carried by the children of the parish.

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