Ashbourne Shrovetide Football (Derbyshire Medieval Football)


According to historical sources, Roman Legions played their British counterparts in a game of Football on Shrove Tuesday in Derby in 217 AD, with the Britons winning. It is hard to believe that Ancient Britons, still Celtic, and before the arrival of both Ango-Saxon tribes in England, and also before the arrival of Christianity played a game on a day associated with Lent in the Christian calendar.

Maybe the game was played and later Christian legend ascribed it to Shrove Tuesday, or it was warfare which the Britons won, and was thus later made out to be a Football game by Christian scribes. Nevertheless, whether it was warfare or Football the Celtic Britons won that day.

It is interesting to note the game was played in Derby, given that this is the name given to local rivalries in English and Scottish Soccer (e.g. Liverpool v Everton, Manchester United v Manchester City), and that a game known as Shrovetide Football is still played in Derbyshire to this day, in Ashbourne, with no rules and the same Medieval mob aspect to the game as the other Medieval British Football games.


217 ADBrittaniaRoman Empire
Derbyshire Shrovetide Football [References: 1-2]



[1] Professional Football Researchers Association (2011) “A Freendly Kinde of Fight: The Origins of Football to 1633 The Early History of Professional Football. pg. 6-7. PFRA Publications. Connecticut.


[2] BBC (2020) The Strange Game of Shrovetide Football [Internet] Availble from: [Accessed 9 September 2020]


Thanks to Richard Mulcahy and Derek Walsh.

About this document

Researched, compiled and written by Enda Mulcahy for the

Eirball | Irish North American and World Sports Archive

Last Updated: 9 September 2020

(c) Copyright Enda Mulcahy and Eirball 2020

You are free to copy this document in whole or part provided that proper acknowledgement is given to the authors. All Rights Reserved.

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