Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football
Shrove Tuesday & Ash Wednesday

2 pm KO

Andy Savages 2010 video Here!

YouTube Film of 2009

YouTube film of 2008

Andy Savages 2008 Photos Here!

Andy Savages 2007 Photos Here!

Andy Savages 2006 Photos Here!

Andy's 2007 shrovetide movies here & here

And some more with some panorama shots from Andy Savage at Derby Photos 2005 - 2004 - 2002

DVD's of the Game

Email I received (Feb 2009)-

"Harry and I made some very popular VHS videos of Shrovetide during the 1990's and became very adapt at catching good shots and editing the highs and lows of the games, so that the travels of the ball could be followed round the town and beyond.

Since 2000 I have helped with some of the professional productions, trying to make sure they kept to the spirit of the game.
 I made a special effort in 2003 to get on record some of HRH Prince Charles' wonderfully thought out speech, and the early goal in daylight with the players tumbling down into the Henmore at Sturston and other coverage.  One of our regular supporters of the videos has since paid for it to be made onto DVD and I can make copies on request, and for the last 2 years of Shrovetide I have had my tapes transferred to DVD.
Our equipment is now out of date, same as us, and for some time I have been looking for a Shrovetide player or supporter to take over coverage, specially tailored for those with a special interest and wanting detailed coverage.   Without success until now, as most people want to get together with friends or play and follow the games.   This year I have met up with Danny Moon, a true Ashburnian and Shrovetider who is now keen to take on producing an annual DVD.   He now has a digital camera, with infra red for night shots, and together with a friend Geoff Dawson will be editing the coverage through a computer programme, which will give greatly improved pictures.
This year I will be collaborating and advising, and filming the Shrovetide Luncheons and any other antics which catch my eye from my infamous step ladder, and we plan to get the DVD's into Nigel's Butchers and one or two other outlets soon after the event.
This year there has been considerable outlay on new equipment, but Danny is keen to give as much as possible from sales to the Shrovetide Committee to help maintain the game for future years.
I can let you know how the production is progressing and when copies are available, and would much appreciate any mention of our DVD so that shrovetiders know we are back.
 The Shrovetide Twin Pack DVD will be available by Mail Order e mail
Yvonne and Harry Hithersay, Holm Oak, Radburne Common, Kirk Langley, Ashbourne, Derbys DE6 4LX
Tel. 01332 824742.

Previous Scorers & Turner Upers - Since 1891

Each year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, Ashbourne becomes a war zone! The majority of the ablebodied men, women and children take to the streets to play what is probally the largets football game in the world! - The two teams number in the hundreds, and the palying field is 3 miles long, 2 miles wide and has the town of Ashbourne in the middle!

Shops are boarded up, only an idiot (or an unsuspecting visitor!) would park his or her car anywhere in the town!

The origin of this game is lost in the mists of time, and it is thought to date from Elizabethan times. The earliest reference seems to be in a poam by Charles Cotton in 1683 :-

Burlesque upon the Great Frost

Two towns, that long that war had raged
Being at football now engaged
For honour, as both sides pretend,
Left the brave trial to be ended
Till the next thaw for they were frozen
On either part at least a dozen,
With a good handsome space between 'em
Like Rollerich stones, if you've seen 'em
And could no more run, kick, or trip ye
Than I can quaff off Aganippe.

Charles Cotton (1630-1687)

The game is played by those Ashburnians who were born on the north side of the Henmore river - the Up'ards, against those born on the south side - the Down'ards.

The kick-off or "turning up" of the specially made and painted ball takes place from a brick built plinth in the town centre at the Shawcroft carpark, by a local or national figure. (It was the then Prince of Wales - later Edward VII - who turned up the ball in 1928 and thus giving the game its "Royal" title.)
Our current Prince of Wales, HRH Prince Charles, turned the ball up in 2003. (Click here to download the speech he made in the Green Man prior to the start)

The game starts each day at 2 pm when the ball is "turned up" in the Shaw Croft Carpark (behind the supermarkets in the town centre). The game then lasts until 10 pm. If a goal is scored before 6 pm, then a new ball is "turned up" again and a new game started. If the goal is after 6 pm then the game ends for that day. Link to Andy Savage's interactive map of the "pitch"

The two goals are situated 3 miles apart - one at Sturston, and one at Clifton. The goals were originally the mill wheels at two local mills, the miles are long since gone, the goals now being two purpose built structures.

A goal is scored by tapping the ball three times against a marker board attached to the stone goal plinth.

The rules are quite complex when it comes to scoring the goal - the actual person who scores is pre-chosen. When the ball reaches the goal, the game is paused and the ball is then handed to the member of that team who has been given the honour of actually gaoling the ball. Gaoling consists of knocking the ball against the goal stone.

Its a bit like cricket - difficult to explain - no doubt a native Ashburnian could explain them to you better then I can.

Needless to say - the pubs remain open all day during the game, all the shops and banks have wooden barriers up against their windows and some close for the day (looks like Beirut a bit). If you did not know about the game and you drove into Ashbourne - you would probably think that there is a major case of civil unrest going on!

If you visit Ashbourne on these days - be careful where you park your car!! If you find a street that has no parking restrictions but no cars parked there - think on, the locals know something you don't!! There's a reason why wildebeest go around in large herds!!

The Balls

The balls used for the Shrovetide games are made by Ashbourne man John Harrison. The ball is larger than a conventional football and, unlike its modern counterpart, is rarely kicked. The hand-sewn, leather balls are filled with Portuguese cork chippings (to help them float when they land in the River Henmore).

The balls are usually painted in a design relevant to the person turning up the ball. The balls are real works of art and take about a month to paint. If a ball is gaoled, then it will become the proud possession of the person who has gaoled it. If no-one goals it, then the person named on the ball gets to take it home.

The Anthem

The song was written for a concert in 1891 which was held in aid of funds to pay fines for playing the game in the street. It is now sung each day at the pre-game luncheon in the Green Man Royal Hotel.

Words to the song

There's a town still plays this glorious game
Tho' tis but a little spot.
And year by year the contest's fought
From the field that's called Shaw Croft.
Then friend meets friend in friendly strife
The leather for to gain,
'And they play the game right manfully,
In snow, sunshine or rain.


'Tis a glorious game, deny it who can
That tries the pluck of an Englishman.

For loyal the Game shall ever be
No matter when or where,
And treat that Game as ought but the free,
Is more than the boldest dare.
Though the up's and down's of its chequered life
May the ball still ever roll,
Until by fair and gallant strife
We've reached the treasur'd goal.


'Tis a glorious game, deny it who can
That tries the pluck of an Englishman.

Here are some photos of a previous match - these were kindly provided by the local newspaper - The Ashbourne News Telegraph please respect their copyright. Pic 1    Pic 2    Pic 3    Pic 4

Radio Derby - BBC Radio Derby's Shrovetide Pages
Wayne Burtons' Photos - 2003- many thanks to Wayne!
Todd O'Neils Photos - 2002 - many thanks to Todd!
Andy Savages Photosl - 2002 - many thanks to Andy!
Ashbourne News Telegraph Mini Site - They don't link to me!!
"Wild In The Streets"- Article on 2002 by Sports Illustrated (USA) Magazine
Other Towns Shrovetide games - We are not alone!
See old news reel films of previous Ashbourne games - Super Cool! - British Pathe Film archive (see comments below)

NB Further infomation about the British Pathe link above.
The British Pathe news film archive requires that you register - its free, the site uses pop-ups and Java (If you do not know what these are, then don't worry, you probally have them enabled anyway).

The "Preview" option just gives some text and some small still shots (in my case, some of these pop-ups are empty - probally my security settings are too high!).

To see the preview film itself, select "Download", this adds the film to your shopping basket - again do not worry - the previews downloads are free - no credit card info is required. BP will then send you an email of your "purchase" giving the links you need to click on to download or play the films.Also I have found that clicking on the links forces my Windows Media player to run and play the film with no option to save it, but I believe that after it has played it it will save it to your "media" directory. So instead I open RealPlayer (another free download) and copy & paste the link into that, it then downloads the film to my hard disk and I can play it at my leisure

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