It’s a tradition that had died out at the turn of the millennium but has been revived again in recent years.
The Whitworth Rushcart celebrations hark back to an ancient era where rushes were cut and collected to be strewn on the bare earth or stone flagged church floors to insulate the building during the harsh winters.
During the 1970s and 80s, the Friday evening Rushcart was the highlight of the Whitworth Fair Week. But it passed into history at the start of the 21st century, finally being reinstated five years ago on Sunday afternoons.
Only three other Northern towns have Rushcart celebrations – Sowerby Bridge, Littleborough and Saddleworth – but theirs are subtly different.
What is unique to Whitworth is the cart: it’s the only one that’s covered in heather, locally grown, and in full bloom.
So, what is a Rushcart? It can be best described as a Cenotaph-type construction placed on a cart, pulled by a group of waist-coated men and shrouded in fragrant heather.
Heather is collected by the Whitworth Rushcart Men from the moors above Darwen before the event. The rushcarts in other areas are strewn with rushes or pieces of cloth.
The Rushcart celebration takes place on the second Sunday of September, beginning at 1pm from North Street car park. The full postcode is 0L12 8DP.
From there, it will travel north up the A671 Market Street arriving at Whitworth Civic Hall approximately 20 minutes later.
Among the procession are traditional morris dance troupes, rappers and tribal dance troupes, including the nationally-renowned Britannia Coconutters of Bacup. They will be joined by Thwaites Brewery’s Shire horses.
For just over three hours, the Civic Hall’s car park will be cordoned off for stalls, entertainments, rides and performances from morris dancing troupes and the Whitworth Vale and Healey Youth Band.
The Rushcart men will then return to the Band Club on Market Street to perform songs at a traditional music session. A church service will take place where ceremonial rushbolts are presented to the church in commemoration of the event’s origins.
Not your average Sunday.
By Helen Carter
What: Whitworth Rushcart Procession and Celebrations
When: September 8, 2013, from 1pm
Where: North Street car park, Whitworth, OL12 8RE to the Civic Hall, Market Street, OL12 8DP
More info: contact Karen Douglas at email@example.com