New book chronicles the history of Alnwick Shrovetide football tradition

A Shrovetide tradition dating back to the 18th century will be eagerly contested again later this month.

Saturday, 22nd February 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Saturday, 22nd February 2020, 8:05 am
Temple Again by Archie Jenkins.

The Alnwick Shrovetide Football Match, now contested by the parishes of St Michael’s and St Paul’s, was first recorded in 1762.

The original game was played through the streets of the town, but this was discontinued in the 1820s.

Shrovetide committee secretary Archie Jenkins, who has written a history of the game, said: “It survived in Alnwick due to the third Duke of Northumberland providing a pitch in the North Demesne in 1828.

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The game is played in the town’s Pastures, in the shadow of Alnwick Castle. Picture by Michael Pearson.

“A Town Improvement Act in 1821 banned the game on the streets, but this was controversially ignored for six years.

“Instead of being played between the unmarried and married freemen, in 1858, as is the case today, the match was first contested between the parishes of St Michael’s and St Paul’s.”

Last year, St Michael’s took the bragging rights with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal – or hale – by Shrovetide veteran and St Michael’s captain Lee Pattinson, the fifth year running he has scored in the match.

The game attracted 77 players, including American students from St Cloud State University studying at Alnwick Castle, and more than 200 spectators.

This year’s match takes place on Tuesday, February 25.

Archie said: “The ball will be dropped from the Barbican at 2pm, hopefully by a member of the Percy family.

“Led by a piper, the players, spectators and committee will then march down The Peth to the match field at The Pastures.

“Last year’s winning hale scorer, Lee Pattinson, will then kick off at around 2.30pm.”

After the game the ball is carried to the River Aln and thrown in. Whoever manages to get it out at the far side of the river is allowed to keep the ball.

The fixture is one of only five Shrovetide festival games still played.

The game has only a few rules with the goals decorated with greenery and standing about 400 yards apart.

Archie’s book, Temple Again’, will be on sale on match day and available from the committee tent.