Shrovetide football match in Alnwick cancelled for first time in 20 years

Alnwick’s traditional Shrovetide football match has been cancelled for the first time in 20 years.

Saturday, 23rd January 2021, 7:00 am

The annual match played out on The Pastures beneath Alnwick Castle was last called off due to foot-and-mouth disease in 2001.

However, organisers have reluctantly taken the decision to cancel this year’s match between the parishes of St Michael’s and St Paul’s because of Covid-19.

Committee secretary Archie Jenkins said: “With regret, the Alnwick Shrovetide Football Committee unanimously agreed to cancel the 2021 game taking the health and safety of everyone involved into consideration during the current pandemic.”

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Goalmouth action from the 2020 Shrovetide game in Alnwick. Picture: Jane Coltman

They had retained slight hopes that the tradition could carry on with safety restrictions in place while Northumberland was in Tier 3 restrictions but a decision to cancel became clear once it moved into Tier 4 and then lockdown.

The match was first recorded in 1762.

Since 1828, when the fixture moved to The Pastures, 192 matches have taken place with 38 cancellations.

Games in the 19th Century were cancelled for several reasons including bereavements at Alnwick Castle and a falling out between the town’s Freemen.

The First World War saw the cancellation between 1915-19. During 1919 the field of play was still occupied by the Alnwick Camp buildings.

The Second World War and its aftermath saw the cancellation between 1940 and 1951.

All other cancellations were due to weather conditions.

The following descriptions were described in the press or minutes – 1873 ‘great storm’, 1955 ‘adverse weather’, 1962 ‘unfavourable weather, 1963 ‘the year of the snow’, 1966 and 1969 simply ‘weather’ and in 1972 ‘continuous rain and gales all morning made it impossible to gain access to erect the tent’.

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

In 1858, instead of being played between the unmarried and married freemen, the match was first contested between St Michael’s and St Paul’s.

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

St Michael’s secured bragging right last year with a 2-0 win thanks to ‘hales’ from Andy Flannigan and Lee Pattinson

Next year’s fixture will take place on Tuesday, March 1.

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