Royal Shrovetide 'mystery' ball sells at auction

1897 ball Image copyright Hansons
Image caption The 1897 ball will be kept in Ashbourne following the sale

A ball used in a "legendary" Shrovetide football match in 1897 has been sold at auction.

The traditional Royal Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, sees two sides compete to move a ball to posts at two ends of the town.

However, it remains a "mystery" as to who actually "goaled" the ball in Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee year.

The ball had been in a private collection and fetched £3,800. It will be kept at the town's heritage centre.

The strange game of Shrovetide football

The honour of goaling the 122-year-old ball was given to Mayfield villager James "Tug" Bradley, whose name is written on the ball along with the words "Britons never shall be slaves".

But there has been some debate over the accolade.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ashbourne's Royal Shrovetide Football match has taken place for centuries

"Confusion still exists over who actually goaled it," said auctioneer Charles Hanson.

"The Ashbourne News of 1897 attributed [it] to Charles Hill, though this could have been a reporter's error. It all adds to the mystery of what is a remarkable historical item that's played its part in a legendary game."

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Image copyright Hansons
Image caption The lot also included a ball from 1970 and a programme from 1928
Image copyright Hansons
Image caption A postcard shows the Ashbourne Shrovetide football match in about 1910

The ball was secured by Shrovetide committee member Michael Betteridge, from Ashbourne, and funded by "very generous donations".

The lot also included a ball from 1970 and a programme from 1928 when the Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VIII, turned up the ball at the event.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hand-painted balls from previous editions of the match can be seen on display above the bar at The Wheel Inn before the game

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