As across the country we celebrate Shrove Tuesday by eating pancakes, some towns still hold community celebrations known as “mob football” games, a tradition dating back as far as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out in the 19th century after the passing of the Highway Act 1835 which banned playing football on public highways, however, a number of towns have maintained the tradition, including Sedgefield in County Durham. Locally it is known as the Ball Game.
According to tradition, the parish clerk is obliged to furnish a football on Shrove Tuesday, which he throws into the market place, where it is contested for by the mechanics against the agriculturists of the town and neighbourhood. More recently, however, it is a secret group of local residents who organise the game, provide the ball and choose who will start the game off.
The ball is made from leather and its maker is a secret for fear of persecution. At 1.00 p.m, it is passed three times through a bull ring in the centre of the village. The object of the game used to be to "ally" the ball at two goals at either end of ... read more