There is a historic game taking place in a few weeks, which will bring the businesses and inhabitants of Ashbourne to a stand still for 2 days.
Work will be halted, streets closed and shops boarded up to make way for the famous ball that is to be carried.
For those that are familiar with this tradition, you will automatically understand what I am on about.
For those of you who don’t, welcome to The Royal Shrovetide Football Game.
Shrovetide occurs annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and has been played in Ashbourne for the last 900 years (however the exact origins are unknown due to the earliest records being destroyed in a fire).
The ball is thrown up in the centre of town marking the middle of the two goals. These are set 3 miles apart. The team to score the most goals over the 2 days wins for the year.
There is no limit to players or rules as to who can and can’t play, and there are minimal rules as to where the ball can’t go.
There are two teams that play, the Up’Ards and the Down’Ards. Up’Ards are those town members born on the North of the Henmore Brook. And the Down’Ards are born on the South.
There is no limit to the number of players, and the aim is to get the ball to their team’s goal.
The teams carry the ball (as best they can) towards their goal; however a ‘hug’ (like a rugby scrum) is formed around the ball preventing much movement.
The ball is rarely kicked however if it does get loose from the hug, it does move and it moves quickly!
Goaling the Ball
The Goaling of the ball takes place at the 2 goals, Clifton Mill for the Down’Ards and Sturston Mill for the Up’Ards.
Even though the Mills themselves are no longer standing, Mill Stones have been left in their place upon which the ball is tapped 3 times by a selected player and a goal is scored for that team.
The ball is ‘thrown up’ into the crowd on the 2 days at 2pm, if the ball is Goaled before 5pm, a fresh ball is thrown. If it is Goaled after 5pm the day comes to an end. Play ends at 10pm if no balls are Goaled.
The ball that is used is neither a football or a rugby ball as the game suggests but a special ball, made of leather and hand painted especially for the occasion. Is it larger than a standard football and is filled with Cork to help it float when it goes into the ponds or rivers throughout the Ashbourne Area.
Balls that are goaled are repainted for the team player who goaled them to keep, with their name and the date.
Balls that are not goaled are repainted and given to the dignitary that threw it up into the crowd.
The Rules (all 6 of them)
1) Committing Murder or manslaughter is prohibited. Unnecessary violence is frowned upon.
2) The ball may not be carried by a motorised vehicle
3) The ball may not be hidden in a bag, coat or rucksack etc.
4) Cemeteries, Churchyards and the town memorial gardens are strictly out of bounds.
5) Playing after 10pm is forbidden
6) To score a goal the ball must be tapped 3 times on the area of the goal.
Many travel down to Ashbourne for the 2 days of play to observe and even play.
If you decide to join, come prepared for any weather, be prepared for the crowds – there will be a lot of people and make sure you know what the game is about. It can move fast.
All of us at SuitsMen will be out following that famous ball, and if you are too, here are some items to help you with the 8 hours of watching and playing.
Our selection of thermal underwear is a must, you will get cold. But it’s worth it.
Our selection of socks is large, and we will find the perfect sock for you. To keep your feet warm whilst you are stood amongst the mud or snow unless you decide to join the ball in the river.
We hope you have a fantastic 2 days watching out beloved tradition and if you want any more information or have any questions about any of our products or even about Shrovetide itself please contact us on 01335 361287 or email us here. We are happy to help in any way we can.
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Shrovetide – The Event not to Miss