No-holds-barred Shrovetide football kicks off in Alnwick

Action from Alnwick's Shrovetide football match last year. Picture by Jason Sumner
Action from Alnwick's Shrovetide football match last year. Picture by Jason Sumner

No-holds-barred action, few rules and a watery finish – it’s Shrovetide football time again.

Alnwick’s annual ancient game kicks off on Tuesday, an annual sporting spectactle played out between the parishes of St Michael and St Paul on the Pastures in the shadow of Alnwick Castle.

The tradition will begin at 2pm, when the ball is dropped from Alnwick Castle’s Barbican.

Led by the Duke’s piper, the players and spectators then march down The Peth to the furlong-long match field.

The game is played in two periods of 30 minutes each. If the score is then even, a final period of 45 minutes is played.

A period is ended once a goal, known as a hale, is scored.

The first team to score two hales is declared the winner.

Prizes are awarded to the scorers of the hales and in recognition of good play.

After the game, the ball is kicked into the River Aln, prompting a mad scramble in the water to reach it first and carry it to the opposite bank.

St Michael’s won the bragging rights in last year’s Shrovetide game, beating St Paul’s 2-0.

Shrovetide veteran Steven Temple was the man who emerged from the chilly water with the ball.

The match is a historic one, with the first recorded game played through the streets of Alnwick in 1762.

It was in the 1820s that the Duke of Northumberland agreed to take the Alnwick game off the streets by providing a venue in The Pastures.