ONE of the most historic events in the calendar in Warrington will return this summer.

Lymm Rushbearing was re-born in the early 1970s (having probably died out in the early years of the century, possibly during the First World War) and for the last several years has been held on the second Sunday in August, although it has over the years been held on other days. For many years in the twentieth century Rushbearing Monday was a local bank holiday.

Ormerod’s late Victorian history of Cheshire refers to the festival taking place in many communities on or near to the feast of the parish’s patron saint – hence Lymm’s tradition of having the festival during the summer holiday period and close to the feast of the Assumption of Saint Mary.

A painting of the Lymm Dance and Rushbearing from 1840

A painting of the Lymm Dance and Rushbearing from 1840

Although the carrying of fresh rushes to church (normally on a horse-drawn cart) was a central feature, and the replacement of the old rushes upon the earthen church floor a very practical necessity in former days, this gathering of locals also involved festivities including not only the procession and Morris dancing but also sports, fairground stalls, and very full public houses.

Ormerod refers to garlands carried in the procession and later 'placed in the rector’s, or principal chancel, and the others in the subordinate ones belonging to the several manor-houses of the parish, and they are frequently ornamented by the young ladies at the respective mansions'.

That tradition continues today in part by carrying garlands in the procession.

In 1869 it was reported in the Warrington Guardian that there were various village sports on a Monday in connection with the rushbearing but the actual procession had been on Saturday when “ the rush cart was drawn through the streets of the township by four grey horses, decorated with flags, and bells were suspended round their necks. The cart was preceded by a man (sic), containing a band playing popular tunes. A great crowd collected round the cart at different parts of the district. The usual collection of shows, rifle galleries, standings and other things requisite for a country fair were located in the vicinity of The Cross. A fire occurred at one of the “peep shows” but was speedily extinguished by the bystanders”! (Lymm’s grey horses were well-known and a Lymm Grey is a person of an established local family, normally at least third generation born in Lymm).

The procession includes Morris men, people carrying Rushbearing garlands and rushes, the chairman of the parish council and councillors, the May Queen and various local groups.

This year it will take place on August 8.

Organisers Chris Limb said; "It is medieval in its origins and Lymm is one of a very small number of communities which have maintained this lovely tradition. This is what makes communities unique.

"In recent years a combination of restrictions upon the route and fees has stopped walking on the roads, but we keep the history alive. We even held a very restricted gathering in the car park of St Marys last year. This year (subject to unforeseen restrictions) we shall meet at the Lower Dam at 4pm and then walk along The Dingle accompanied by Morris dancers and music. We shall then meet up again at St Mary's for more dancing before a short service at about 4.30pm."