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Sue Prince Artist

The Story Behind the Painting of Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football: Goals three miles apart, a steaming hug barrelling through Georgian streets with boarded windows, cars being crushed by the crowds…what is this?
Shrovetide Football

Right Manfully by Sue Prince 2017

On Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday every year Ashbourne’s Royal Shrovetide Football takes place with its astonishing bustle and energy crammed in the Georgian streets of this lovely English market town.  For two days, from 2pm to 10pm,  every year the streets become a football pitch with goals three miles apart. So windows are boarded up and businesses closed- except for the pubs and chippies!
Read more on Visit Peak District

A Year of Preparation

Ashbourne folk spend the year preparing for this grand event; families having Best Packed  Rucksacks competitions, fund raising and supporting the players while the men train and strategize.  On the day children act as runners and watchers, carrying messages and intelligence back and forth.  Notable people are invited to ‘turn up’ the ball starting the game off: Prince Charles, Brian Clough and Sir Stanley Matthews among many other men.

You can always find the whereabouts of the decorative leather ball by looking for the steam rising from the ‘hug’; the tightly packed group fighting for possession, inching forwards and backwards in the jammed packed crowds.  Suddenly the ball will break out and, more often than not, head for the freezing river, where the steaming cloud tracks progress again.


The pride in Shrovetide is a given in Ashbourne, therefore everyone, including new comers have a place; Up’ards being born north of the River Henmore and Down’ards those born south of the river.

Research shows that communities with a traditional ‘lord of misrule’ festival are more cohesive places with fewer social problems than others.  That certainly proved to be true during the Covid 19 pandemic where no-one in Ashbourne was left without support and care.

Other examples are the Bull Run in Pamplona and Holi; the Indian festival of colour.

The Place

Artists, musicians and writers respond to the places they find themselves, from Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave to Constable’s The Hay Wain our culture is full of astonishing interpretations of place.  As a folk artist I tell stories of people and their places, whether it be landscape paintings, urban environments or birds-eye-view maps, I depict the human impact on our world.

Shrovetide Football

Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football by Sue Prince 2018

Click here to see prints of this painting

The story of the painting of Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football

Shrovetide was a fantastic event to paint; the way it takes over the whole town, the crush of people, the watery goals, the formal dinner that starts the whole thing.  And of course the Shrovetide song, lustily belted out by all who know the words!

Shrovetide Football

A section of the Ashbourne Treasures community folk art by Sue Prince and 170 local people 2017

The Shrovetide Song

There’s a town still plays this glorious game
Tho’ tis but a little spot.
And year by year the contest’s fought
From the field that’s called Shaw Croft.
Then friend meets friend in friendly strife
The leather for to gain,
‘And they play the game right manfully,
In snow, sunshine or rain.

‘Tis a glorious game, deny it who can
That tries the pluck of an Englishman.

For loyal the Game shall ever be
No matter when or where,
And treat that Game as ought but the free,
Is more than the boldest dare.
Though the up’s and down’s of its chequered life
May the ball still ever roll,
Until by fair and gallant strife
We’ve reached the treasur’d goal.

‘Tis a glorious game, deny it who can
That tries the pluck of an Englishman

Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football Jigsaw Puzzle

Click here for a beautifully boxed 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of Sue’s painting