The Eakring Ball Game





A lost Easter mob football game

By R B Parish

Perhaps the most interesting and little known Easter custom in the county is recorded of it by Kelly (1844) notes that:                                              

“The feast or Eakring Ball Play is held on Easter Tuesday, and has no doubt derived its name from its being anciently a great meeting for a trial of skill in the game of football, which was formerly such a favourite amusement in this county.”                                                                      

Other mob football

Eakring is of course not unique and many are familiar with the Shrovetide street football which continues at Ashbourne (Derbyshire), Atherstone (Warwickshire) and although now ‘banished’ to the fields, that of Leicestershire’s Hallaton, No records survive of any other Nottinghamshire example, and there is only one surviving Easter football that of Workington in Cumbria.

The decline in the custom.

I have been unable to find more concerning the custom and when it fell out of favour. Certainly, the football game was at odds with the devout observation of the feast. This was emphasised by John Henry Browne who became the village vicar in 1792 who affixed a notice:                                                      

“This is to give notice that no bodey must play at fotbale nor mabels nor any other game of that kind on sundae for if they do they must be presented the next visitation”                                                                 

Whether this directly described the ball game is unclear as details are scant other than the VCH noting that it often resulted in the kicking of shins as well as balls! An advertisement in 1801 in the Nottingham Journal records at the time of the Napoleonic war notes:                                                  

“Feast postponed. Notice to public in consequence of the present scarcity and high price of every necessicity in life the inhabitants of the town of Eakring, in the county of Nottinghamshire, have come to the unanimous Resolution not to held the feast at Easter next as usual but postpone the same till Easter 1802 Eakring Feb 12 1801”     

When the custom declined is unclear but neither the feast nor the ball game continue today. Which is a sad note as it was clearly a unique event.

The author is compiling a book on Nottinghamshire calendar customs, any correspondence on the subject is welcome


This page was added by R B Parish on 28/03/2013.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.