Published on 19.02.2023

Hopes of big a turnout at Alnwick’s traditional Shrove Tuesday football match

Organisers of next week’s Shrove Tuesday Football match are hoping for a bumper turn out as this year’s event takes place during the school half-term holiday.

There is no limit to the number of players in the teams representing the parishes of St Michael’s and St Paul’s, in the unique event, first recorded in 1762.

The game starts with the ball being thrown from the barbican of Alnwick Castle by the Duke of Northumberland or a member of his family. Originally the ball was then kicked through the streets of the town but since the 1820s the game has been played on the north demesne of the pastures after a piper-led procession of the committee, players and onlookers.

Committee member Gordon Castle said: “Any able-bodied resident can join in, declaring their side, St Paul’s or St Michaels, depending on their address. As it’s half-term there is no reason why more youngsters cannot participate.”

“It’s muddy and fast moving with awards for good play and hales, but it’s also great fun and part of Alnwick’s long history, ending with the traditional dash across the River Aln to retrieve the ball and become a celebrity! Do come and watch or play.”

The game is not like a standard game of football – the goals are decorated with greenery and stand about 400 yards apart and the match is won by whichever team is first to score two “hales” or goals.

Up to twenty ‘good play’ awards will be presented by the committee at the end of the game.

Persons resident outside Alnwick will be deemed a St. Paul’s player if residing to the west of the A1 and a St. Michael`s player if to the east of the A1.

The game is played in two periods of 30 minutes each; if the score is then even, a final period of 45 minutes shall be played. However, immediately a hale is confirmed by the
umpire a period is ended.

After the game the ball is carried to the river and thrown in. Whoever manages to get it out at the far side of the river is allowed to keep the ball, but they have to swim the River Aln to get it – no matter how bad the weather is!

So, are you up for some action on the biggest football pitch you will have ever played on?
Do you want to go down in history as the person who got the ball across the river?
Or do you just fancy watching one of England’s most historic Shrove Tuesday traditions?

If so, be at the barbican to Alnwick Castle next Tuesday at 1.45pm to watch the ball being thrown from the ramparts and then process down to the pastures for a 2.15 kick-off. Enjoy!

Action around a hale during Alnwick’s Shrove Tuesday Football match. Picture by Jane Coltman