Derby

Teams share honours at Ashbourne's Shrovetide football

  • 22 February 2012
  • From the section Derby
Players during the Royal Shrovetide Football match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Image caption Despite being described as football, play resembles a huge rugby scrum

A Derbyshire town's annual Shrovetide event, which sees hundreds of people taking part in a football game, has ended with honours shared.

The Ashbourne Shrovetide event is thought to date back more than 1,000 years, although records are only available from 1890.

On Tuesday, thousands of people watched the first day's play, which ended with the Up'ards one game ahead.

But late on Wednesday, the Down'ards goaled to take the game.

A number of games take place across two days of play, each of which comes to an end when the ball is goaled by one of the teams.

International interest

The deputy leader of Derbyshire County Council, Simon Spencer, said: "It's a fantastic tradition. Everybody in the town looks forward to it year on year.

"It's well supported by everybody and long may it continue."

Hundreds of players for each side - called the Up'ards and Down'ards, depending on which side of River Henmore you were born - battle in the streets to get the hand-painted cork-filled ball to goals three miles apart.

The game is played over two days - Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday - and often lasts into the night.

Two people are given the "Shrovetide honour" of starting the game by throwing the ball into the waiting crowd.

Image caption A traditional Shrovetide lunch is laid on for about 500 people before the game

The game has attracted visitors and media from all over the world, including a television crew from Japan.

Ashbourne's deputy mayor Steve Bull threw the ball into the "hug" (scrum) from the Shaw Croft plinth to get the second-half under way.

Before the match, about 500 people sat down to a Shrovetide lunch at Ashbourne Leisure Centre.

Goals are mill wheels set in huge stone plinths on the banks of the Henmore Brook at the sites of two former mills.

To goal the ball, a player must stand in the Henmore and tap the ball three times against the wheel.

Doing so means you will be carried back into the town by your team shoulder-high and cheered by hundreds of spectators.

The game received royal assent in 1928 when the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, threw the ball.

Prince Charles started the game in 2003.

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