The Royal Shrovetide Football Game is a survival of medieval street football that takes place every year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. It is played between Up’ards, traditionally those from north of the river, and Down’ards, from south of the river. The game is played throughout the streets, alleyways, in the river and the park lake between goals three miles apart.
The ball is usually carried around in a large group of players (the hug), but there are occasional breakaways. A player scoring a goal keeps the ball but, if no goal is scored, the ball is returned to the “turner up” who starts the game by throwing the ball into the crowd of players.
On two occasions the ball has been ‘turned up’ by a Prince of Wales in 1928 and 2003.
The Shrovetide Football game was not always popular with everyone in the Town. In the mid-1800s, some of the more ‘respectable’ inhabitants thought that the large quantities of alcohol consumed and the obstruction of the streets , brought the game into disrepute.
Led by Francis Wright (see separate entry) attempts were made to stop the game from starting in its traditional place in the Market Place. From 1863, the starting point moved to its current location in Shaw Croft. The game now starts from a purpose-built brick plinth in a public car park, which is cleared for the two days of the game, but was then private land owned by the Landlord of the Green Man.
More information on Shrovetide Football can be found on the Our Ashbourne website.
A walk around the heritage sites in Ashbourne, including the ‘Turn Up’ steps, can be found in Ashbourne Treasures Town Heritage Trail, which can be obtained from the Visitor Information Centre in Town Hall Yard of the Market Place.