Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football

To understand the context of this post please read The Danelaw in Derbyshire.

The traditional game of Shrovetide football is played in Ashbourne every Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.  There are two sides, uppards and downards; uppards are those born on the north side of the Henmore Brook and downards those born on the south side.  The goals are about three miles apart at the mills of Clifton and Sturston, Clifton is downstream from Ashbourne and Sturston upstream.  The number of players on each side is unlimited and the objective is to carry the ball to the opposing mill and bang the ball three times against the mill wheel.  Play starts at 2pm each day and finishes at 10pm.

The division of the sides into uppards and downards clearly mirrors the division of Ashbourne in the Danelaw period.  The uppards are the Anglo-Saxons and the downards are the Vikings.  The aim of the uppards (Anglo-Saxons) is to score at Sturston mill.  The placename Sturston is believed to be a hybrid name – a Viking personal name + tun which is Old English for settlement.  So the Anglo-Saxons are attemting to score at the Viking mill.  The downards (Vikings) are attempting to score at the Clifton mill which has a placename that is purely Anglo-Saxon.

The earliest reference to Shrovetide football at Ashbourne is from the 17th century but ball games have mentioned earlier in the historical record and it is possible that the game at Ashbourne is based upon rivalries that have existed since the 9th or 10th centuries.

Next fixture

Ashbourne Angles v Compton Vikings 2pm Shrove Tuesday 2021 (Covid-19 permitting)

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