Ashbourne Shrovetide Football

Shrovetide Football is an ancient game played every year in a town in Derbyshire. It is played by the residents of the town and surrounding villages.

The specially painted ball filed with cork shavings is ‘turned up’  (thrown into the crowd) from a podium on Shawcroft at 2pm each day.

The two teams Up’ards born north of the Henmore Brook and the Down’ards, born to the south, aim to get the ball to their goal. Down’ards to Clifton Mill and Up’ards to Sturston Mill.

The rules are few:

  1. No play in the cemetaries, graveyards and the memorial gardens. Or private gardens.
  2. The ball cannot go into a wheeled vehicle or backpack.
  3. No murder.

A goal is scored by hitting the ball onto the relevant mill stone three times.  Amazingly there is no ‘umpire’ or referee or linesman at each gaol all day.

A member of the ‘Shrovetide committee’ goes to each goal at 4.45pm and at 9.45pm and waits there to check if a goal is scored before 5pm – in which case a new ball is turned up. Or 10pm when play ceases.

At all other times the word of the scorer is accepted, as they are invariably  viewed by many others. But as the town always want a second ball, it is important to know if the first goal scored – as it was for the this year on both days – was  before 5pm.

The ball spends most of the day in the centre of the ‘hug’ like a rugby hug. But the team members wear no identifying features. Everyone just knows who is on which team.

The serious Players want to get the ball and hug into the river to reduce the numbers and increase their chances of success. In addition to players in the hug, each team has runners ready to make a break for their mill, if the opportunity arises.

The town shops close each afternoon, and have boards across the front as a precaution to  the stop the windows being damaged if the hug passes by giving the town a look of a place under siege to outsiders. But to locals. It’s just ‘Shrovetide’.  “Where’s the ball…?”

When a goal  is scored the scorer and the ball return to the Green Man Hotel, to great applause and the waiting committee. And a new ball is then thrown up from Shawcroft.

Shawcroft 2pm March 9th 2011


For a great photo from 2010:,in-pictures,picoftheday,picture-of-the-day-ashbourne-shrovetide-no-rules-football-match-up-ards-down-ards


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