Ashbourne is host to one of the oldest football games in England and dates back to the 12th Century.
The game is played over two days on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, starting each day at 2.00 pm and lasting until 10.00 pm. If the goal is scored (goaled) before 5.00 pm a new ball is released and play restarts from the town centre, otherwise play ends for the day. The ball can be kicked, thrown or carried. However, the rules state that you cannot hide the ball under clothing or be carried on any transport! It generally moves through the town in a series of hugs, like a giant scrum in rugby, made up of dozens if not hundreds of people.
The two teams that play the game are called Up’Ards (People born North of the Brook) and Down’Ards (People born South of the Brook).There are two goal posts 3 miles apart, one at Sturston Mill the other at Clifton Mill The actual process of 'goaling' a ball requires a player to hit it against the mill stone three successive times.
The game is played through the town with no limit on number of players or playing. Thus shops in the town are boarded up during the game, and people are encouraged to park their cars away from the main streets. The game is started from a special plinth in the town centre where the ball is thrown to the players.
The game has been known as Royal since the then Prince of Wales turned-up in 1928. He received a bloody nose for his efforts. The game received 'Royal Assent' for a second time in 2003, when the game was once again started by the Prince of Wales, in this instance HRH Prince Charles. On this occasion, the Prince threw the ball into play from a raised plinth. It is traditional for the dignitary of the day to be carried aloft from the old restaurant at The Green Man, down the stone stairs and into the Shawcroft to the plinth