Two rare and seemingly unrecorded early football broadsides. NOTICE Is Hereby Given... [with] NOTICE. The Alnwick Improvement Act imposing a Fine on Persons playing Foot-ball...
Publisher: Printed by J Graham, Alnwick;
Date of Publication: 1828
Stock Code: 5783
Two broadsides on wove paper, each approximately 22.5 x 18.5 cm. Faint historic creases from folding and a little associated offsetting, otherwise both clean and crisp. Unsurprisingly previously unrecorded these two rare ephemeral survivors are striking for having been printed on exactly the same day in 1828 in Alnwick, only 17 miles from the village of Ulgham in Northumberland (noted as possibly the earliest reference to the game of football, in 1280), and for shedding light on the early origins of “The Beautiful Game” in England. Any football ephemera from the 19th century is rare indeed and anything predating the establishment of the game in the 1860’s almost unheard of.
The development of the game of football in England is long and convoluted but its stems from two distinct sources, Shrove Tuesday matches and the English Public School system, the former having much earlier roots. The first documented club to bear in the title a reference to being a 'football club' were called "The Foot-Ball Club" who were located in Edinburgh during the period 1824–41. The modern rules of the game continued to be codified over the following forty years, being fully established in December 1863.
The Shrove Tuesday match is still played every year at Alnwick, as it has been reputedly for over 700 years, but in 1828 the townsfolk were eventually successful in their repeated attempts to have the game removed from the town centre “in consequence of the danger arising of playing foot-ball in the streets” as the Duke presented a nearby field for the playing of the game to the town. These broadsides records the movement of the game from town to field after nearly 400 years of tradition. From this date onwards the Duke (or his representative) throws a ball from the castle to the players below, and his Northumbrian Piper leads a procession over the Lion Bridge to The Pastures on the opposite side of the Aln, where the game takes place. In the old days, the game was reputedly played with a Scotsman’s head...
The first account in England involving a game kicking a ball (almost certainly football) was at Ulgham in Northumberland (only 17 miles away from Alnwick) in 1280, in which a player was killed; the first reference to a game actually called football was in 1314 in the City of London, when Edward II issued a decree banning the game. In the late fifteenth century the first written description of a game was recorded at Cawston in Nottinghamshire. In the early days, violence was a constant problem as well as damage to property and this caused repeated demands, particularly from civic dignitaries and business owners, for the sport to be banned. In many cases throughout England these demands were successful and in only a handful of places Shrove Tuesday ball games still take place. Alnwick is one of them and it survived because the Duke was prepared to donate a field for the sport outside the town centre, keeping the game away from the shops and businesses that were adversely affected by it.
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