Football's finest! Queen Victoria jubilee ball from Ashbourne Shrovetide 1897 up for auction

Posted on 17/07/2019 in Press Coverage

Football fans are drumming their fingers as they eagerly await the start of the football season but at least I have something to occupy my thoughts pre-season – sporting finds.

Right now, two magnificent Ashbourne Shrovetide footballs are taking pride of place in the saleroom together with a programme from 1928 when His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales, turned up the ball at the famous annual event.

They are part of a fascinating collection of Shrovetide memorabilia due to go under the hammer on July 27. We are selling a host of ephemera relating to the game including programmes, books, old postcards, luncheon invitations and more.

Taking pride of place is a Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee ball from 1897 - the year the royal reached the milestone of 60 years on the throne. The ball was goaled by the late James ‘Tug’ Bradley who lived on The Terrace, Mayfield. Also up for auction is a ball turned up by the late George Bradley, a former member of the Shrovetide committee, in 1970.

The ball made 122 years inevitably draws your attention. It’s a slightly different shape to today’s Shrovetide balls, though still bigger than a normal football.

Decoration is simple compared to the artistic beauty the balls are renowned for today but, nevertheless, it’s rustically attractive. The paint is quite cracked but emblazoned on one side is ‘Ball goaled by J Bradley’ while the other side states, ‘Britons Never Shall Be Slaves’.

However, according to an Ashbourne newspaper cutting being sold with the ball, confusion has reigned over who actually goaled it. The 1997 cutting tells us that The Ashbourne News of 1897 attributed the goaling of the ball to Charles Hill. However, old Ashburnians recalled being shown the ball by a victorious Tug Bradley. Plus, of course, his name is on the ball.

This causes a dilemma. It’s possible a reporter made a mistake but, as newspaper reports form the basis of Ashbourne’s Shrovetide roll of honour, an amend cannot be done lightly. Goaling and turning up the ball at Shrovetide are immense honours that achieve important status among families in the town.

The fact that an old newspaper cutting reveals all this, underlines to me yet again the vastly important role local papers play in documenting social history.

We may live in a digital world but, decades down the line, it’s newspaper cuttings randomly kept by family members, along with hand-written letters and diaries, that enlighten us.

On the theme of the importance of printed products, a fascinating item in the collection is a souvenir programme honouring the visit of Edward, Prince of Wales, to the area in 1928. As well as turning up the ball at Ashbourne Shrovetide, he visited Derby.

The centre pages, showing the prince’s ‘Derby Route’, was sponsored by the Grand Theatre, which offered twice nightly shows featuring the ‘latest and greatest London successes’.

We find out that the prince had lunch with Derby’s Mayor, Councillor Arthur Sturgess, and visited both Rolls-Royce and Derby’s loco works. Royal visits haven’t changed that much, really.

There are adverts for wireless sets, lights, bells and telephones as well as holidays. G & A Pegg of Green Lane, Derby, were advertising cruise ship holidays for £15. Meanwhile, Amos Wright, based in the Market Place, was operating as a ‘migration agent’ and offering cruise ship holidays to Norway for 17 guineas. Oh, and a good place to get cooked ham was in Werburgh Street.

Ham and cruise ship holiday are still in demand 91 years later - and royal visits are as popular as ever.

The programme includes an article describing the qualities of ‘Our Popular Prince’ and says: “If a vote could be taken as to who is the most popular person throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain today the result would be the easiest thing in the world to forecast. High and low, rich and poor, men and women in every walk of life would plump for HRH The Prince of Wales.”

The piece then, a little oddly, goes on to compare the visit to that of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 but soon swings back to effusive praise for Prince Edward: “One big reason why the prince is admired and loved by all of us is because he is the kind of man a fellow would choose as his best pal, the kind of man any girl would choose for her sweetheart, the kind of man any mother would be proud to own as her son.”

Though well-loved, in 1936 Edward, by then King, caused a constitutional crisis by proposing to Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. When he knew he could not marry Wallis and remain on the throne, he abdicated. With a reign of 326 days, Edward is one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in British history.

The Ashbourne Shrovetide balls and memorabilia will be sold at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, on July 27. Estimates to be announced later. To find out more, email [email protected]. Entries are invited until August 2 for our August 22 Football in Focus and Sports Memorabilia Auction. To arrange a free valuation, email [email protected] or call 01283 733988. Free valuations are available at Hansons’ Etwall Auction Centre on Wednesdays, 5-7pm, Fridays, 10am-4pm, and Saturdays, 9am-noon.