"Sowerby Bridge, Norland and Triangle -Rushbearing" Top 5 Page for this destination Sowerby Bridge by suvanki
Sowerby Bridge Travel Guide: 56 reviews and 333 photos
Sowerby Bridge, as its name suggests, originated around a crossing over the Calder and Ryburn rivers, back in medieval times. These bridges would probably have been crude wooden structures. The earliest recording of a stone bridge is from 1526.
In the early 18th Century Daniel Defoe wrote of his passing over a 'Stately stone bridge of several great arches' in Sowerby Bridge.
The name of Sowerby, probably originates from the Old Norse word - Saur-by, meaning Farmstead on sour ground!
Apparently, prior to the era of the Industrial Revolution, the low lying town was a marshy bog, inhabited mainly by insects -
Villagers built their cottages and farms on the higher hilly ground, where cattle and sheep rearing and weaving of the readily available sheeps wool, brought in some income.
These cottage industries contributed to West Yorkshires dominance in the worldwide manufacture and trade of textiles, carpets and clothing, and brought some prosperity to the town
With the Industrial Revolution, huge mills, powered by the water from the nearby rivers,were built, and increased production of textiles etc manifold. The once marshy valley bottom became the main centre of work and subsequently, the former home workers, who couldn't compete with such large scale production, moved down into the town to take employment in the mills.
Roads, Railways and canals were constructed, opening up access to and from the rapidly expanding town. The road between Sowerby Bridge and Rochdale was one of the first in the country to be 'turnpiked' - a system where tolls were paid by those travelling along the route.
The Calder and Hebble canal, and the later opening of the Rochdale canal in 1804 enabled transportation to Manchester and Hull, improving nationwide and International commerce.
Sowerby Bridges prosperity continued through into the 1960's. However foreign competition in the clothing industry caused a rapid decline in the late 70's - 80's, with mills being forced to close. With unemployment forcing the mill workers to 'tighten their belts' or move away to find work elsewhere, other businesses suffered . (Between 1971 and 1988 a quarter of Sowerby Bridges shops and half of all its food shops closed)
As with many former Industrial towns and cities that have faced decline, regeneration is happening in the tourism and leisure industry, along with funding and grants for small businesses. The Rochdale canal, which closed in 1952, has been renovated and re-opened for recreational craft, with canalside pubs and restaurants attracting visitors. Many of the Mills have been restored and converted into accommodation for locals and visitors, restaurants and shops etc. The Sowerby Bridge Mills complex (established 1778 - 92) is now a centre for small businesses.
The first weekend in September each year sees the towns thronging with locals and visitors.
The Rushbearing Festival is the main event in Sowerby Bridges calendar, each year, it brings in more visitors to enjoy this colourful event, and therefore, an increase in income for the town.
Traditionally, rushes were used to cover the earthen or rough stone flooring of churches in West Yorkshire, Lancashire , Cumbria and part of Cheshire. As they became trodden down, or rotted, new layers were added. At the end of summer, the rushes were all removed, and replaced with a fresh carpeting.
After being gathered from the local riverbanks, the rushes were transported by wooden cart to be distributed around the churches. In the 17th century, this activity developed into a special festival, presumably co-inciding with the Harvest Festivals.
The focus of the festivities was the Rushcart. Teams of men built, loaded and pulled the cart along the route, each stage of the process accompanied by musicians, dancing and much quaffing of ale. Each cart had its own team of loyal supporters, which led to much rivalry. Drunken brawls were common. Some of the festivities lasted upto a week. Street markets, fairgrounds, entertainers, itinerant tradesmen arrived in the towns, adding to the lively and chaotic atmosphere.
The clergy, outraged by such ungodly behaviour sought to prevent the rushbearers entering the churches, which sometimes led to vandalism of the churches and violence towards the men of the cloth.
Although the need for rush flooring declined, the festival continued in many villages. The building of the Rushcarts was mainly abandoned by the end of the 18th century, with intermittent revivals during the beginning of the 20th century.
In 1977, as part of Queen Elizabeth 2nds Silver Jubilee Celebrations, the decision was made to resurrect the Rushbearing Ceremony as a one day, one off Festival. Token rushes would be given to the local churches. This day was so successful, that it has now become an annual 2 day Festival held on the first weekend in September.
As part of Ricky52's Halifax Fish Chips and Mushy Peas VT meet, we arrived in Sowerby Bridge on the Saturday afternoon, just in time to see the Rushbearing procession. It was quite a spectacle, as the first musicians appeared- The Peace Artistes, leading an assortment of teams of Mummers, Longsword dancers, Morris men, All Female dance groups. These were followed by the hi-light of the festivities, a team of about 30 men were pulling a cart, laden with rushes, then sitting above this on a saddle was a young girl (she was sat 16ft above ground level!) Following the cart was a further team of local men 'stabilising' the cart. This looked precarious enough on flat ground-later I was to see the cart sweep down a steep cobbled street and take a sharp turn right - not an easy manouvre, especially when wearing clogs, and being fuelled by several pints of ale!
My vantage point onto the procession was from the church yard of The Parish Church of Christ Church. This was one of the churches where a token bundle of rushes was to be presented. So I had a close view of this part of the Festivities. After watching a demonstration of Longsword dancing (by a team from Grenoside Sheffield, a few miles from my home) I went along to watch the rest of the dancers and entertainment. I particularly enjoyed the madness of the Bradshaw Mummers, and also the costumes and blacked up faces of Clerical Error, who hail from the Welsh Borders, and perform with gusto. (Ooooh - I wanted to be one of their gang!)
We spent a few hours in Sowerby, before we moved on to see the Scarecrows at Norland (just making our coach before the Heavens opened).
We returned to see the end of the procession on Sunday in Triangle. It was disappointing not to see the spectacle of the cart descending down Saw Hill, but we got to see some dance performances, before the procession headed for its final destination of St. Bartholomew's Church in nearby Ripponden.
For all information regarding Rushbearing, including Saturday and Sundays routes and Timetable, Dancers etc appearing, photos and Historical factsCLICK HERE
3rd-5th September 2010 Ricky52 organised Pork Pie and Mushy Peas VT meet, which was another great weekend!
What are you doing the weekend of 1st-3rd September 2012? Rickys organising Rushbearing and Scarecrows Festival VT meet
- Pros:English Folk Tradition at its best. A Northern Town
- Cons:Be prepared for t' Yorkshire Rain!
- In a nutshell:Don't forget your camera!!!
Now, I must admit, that when I heard that our 2010 Halifax VT was going to be 'Pork Pie and Mushy peas' I was a bit... more travel advice
During the Rushbearing Festival, the local Pubs, Take-Aways and Cafes etc are kept very busy. A Great boost to the... more travel advice
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