History of the Whitworth Rushcart

Rush Bearing - what is it all about?

The strewing of rushes on house and church floors largely died out in the early 1800s. The purpose of the rushes was to provide warmth for the earthen and flag floors. They were replaced occasionally, with little thought given to cleanliness. Sometimes the house rushes were changed regularly, but more often they could be left for years "As to the floors, they are usually made of clay, covered with rushes that grow in the fens, which are so slightly removed now and then that the lower part remains sometimes for twenty years together, and in it a collection of filthyness not to be named". Erasmus at the time of Henry VIII. From William the Conquerer to Elizabeth the First, the palace floors were covered by rushes.
In churches seats were not provided until the fifteenth century, wooden floors were rare, kneeling was very uncomfortable and since only the gentry could afford cushions, rushes were used as a floor covering. It is in this context that a custom arose for the replacement of rushes strewn on church floors. In Lancashire the rush replacement developed alongside of the wakes religious celebrations or the feast of dedication of the church, becoming a festival and an excuse for singing, drinking and dancing - and fighting. A parish party!