A history of Royal Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne

By Kay Hartley

February 13, 2018 means one thing to most people – Pancake Day.

However, to the people of Ashbourne it means something completely different.

Royal Shrovetide Football has kicked off for its 12th year as we know it now.


Photo by Laura Alifanaite 

“In terms of Medieval events this is up there with the best,” said James, who travelled from London to witness the madness for himself for the first time.

Shrovetide is a football game played over six miles of the town of Ashbourne, North Derbyshire.

The game is played with two teams the Up’ards and the Down’ards. Players are divided into teams based on which side of the River Henmore they were born on.

People who are not from the town are welcome to play too.

The game is said to have been around since the 12th century however, records of the earliest games were lost in a fire in the 1890s.

Legend has it that the original ball was a severed head.  Now the leather ball is handmade by a Ashbourne craftsman.

“It’s a tradition, and deserves more media coverage,” said Jane, 47 who has lived in Ashbourne her entire life.

The game begins at Shawcroft car park where the ball is “turned up” by a person of importance in the area.

There are three plinths built for the game, two being the goals based at Sturston and Clifton and the central plinth where the game begins.

Acts of violence are frowned upon and there is only one rule which is simply that the players must not murder their opponents.


Photo by Laura Alifanaite.

Article by Kay Hartley.