We were really pleased to welcome the team responsible for the leather football used in the famous Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Tuesday Football game.
Part of the tradition of these events is the making and painting of the special leather football. Terry is passing on his knowledge to the next generation and they visited the store last November to speak with Peter and Jackie.
There were lots of comparisons between the sort of vegetable tanned leather used for Shrovetide Football and modern Premier Division balls.
Shrovetide veg didn't change significantly until the 1970's. Balls that Stanley Matthews and Jeff Astle played with were traditional veg leather which absorbed water like the proverbial sponge in winter conditions.
It is certain that heading water heavy balls caused complicated medical injuries for players. Ironically Shrovetide footballs still have to increase in weight during the game, as the ball spends time in the local river.
Both types of balls are decorated on their surface, usually with commercial adverts. The Shrovetide balls are hand painted whereas modern balls (no longer leather) are digitally printed.
Why no longer leather? Primarily because of the weight gain/ performance, It seems English ball manufacturers didn't seem to think dementia would become an issue or that saving the ball in the air would catch on. Rather than solve the issues with leather science they made the switch to synthetic materials.
What is Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football?
Unlike a conventional football match, Shrovetide Football is much longer than a regular football match and is played over two eight-hour periods. The goals are three miles apart and there are very few rules. The ball is rarely kicked but instead moves through a giant 'hug'. There is no set pitch: the game is played throughout the entire town, so shops and businesses board up their windows in preparation!Played in the Derbyshire town of Ashbourne every Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday (around mid to late February), this exciting and dramatic game is thought to be one of the oldest forms of football in the world.
When did it begin?
The game has been played almost every year since at least 1667, although its exact origins are unknown because records were destroyed in a fire.
It's the biggest highlight in any Ashburnian's calendar - and Shrovetide Football was even played in the First World War by soldiers in France who originated from the town.
Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football got its royal title after Edward VIII, who was then Prince of Wales, opened the game in 1928.
What sort of ball is used for Ashbourne Shrovetide Football?
Shrovetide Football is played using a specially prepared, hand-sewn, hand painted leather ball. It is larger than a football and filled with cork chippings (to help it float in the river).
Weighing around 4lbs, the ball is carefully hand-painted to a design chosen by the local person picked to ‘turn up’ the ball at the start of the match. If the ball is goaled, then it will become the proud possession of the person who has goaled it.
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