Having a ball in historic game

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SCORES of people turned out to honour a historic tradition that takes place every Shrove Tuesday.

Around 200 revellers took part in the annual Sedgefield ball game, upholding centuries of tradition since the medieval custom was first held more than 750 years ago.

The Shrove Tuesday Sedgefield ball game underway.

The Shrove Tuesday Sedgefield ball game underway.

Hardy battlers scrambled against each other during the event, which starts with a small ball being thrown into the market square and sees competitors race around until around 4pm with the overall aim of winning the ball.

The game started at 1pm at the bullring on the corner of High Street and Northend.

The ball was passed through the bullring and then thrown to the players who then battled for it in a fast and furious tussle until it was dunked into the water at the town goal.

Delivery driver Martin Lower, who got the ball back through the bullring to win the game got to keep the ball.

Originally contested by two teams, the tradesmen and the countrymen in the 13th Century, the game today is a free-for-all, with no boundaries or rules.

Shop shutters came down ahead of the madcap event and officers from Durham Police were on standby.

But police say there were largely no issues of concern during the event.

A respected village elder starts the game by passing the ball, made of hand-stitched leather, through the bull ring three times.

The honour of throwing the ball into the “ring” was given to 80-year-old Vera Iceton, from the village, who is well-known for her charity work in Sedgefield and who also ran her own hairdressing business.

Wayne Oliver, landlord of The Black Lion pub, in the village’s High Street, said the venue was packed out by people taking part in the game.

He added: “It was good-natured and there were no problems.

“It was heaving, as it is every year.”

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