Scoring the Hales
is the name of a large scale shrovetide football
match played yearly in Alnwick
. Once a street contest, it has now moved to a field named The Pasture across the River Aln
from Alnwick Castle
. The match involves about 150 men on either side and is a contest between the parishes of St Michael and St Paul. The goals are decorated with greenery and stand about 400 yards apart. Legend has it that it was never a ball but a scotsmans head that was kicked about
The original game started with the ball being sent over the Barbican
of the Castle to the crowd assembled below. It was then kicked through the streets of the town. Occasionally the game went towards Bondgate Tower
and from there to the pastures. In consequence of danger arising from kicking the ball through the town the game within the town was discontinued in 1825 and has since been confined to the pastures.
Nowadays the ball is fetched from the castle in procession, preceded by the Duke of Northumberland
's piper. The game is won by whichever team is first to score 2 "hales" or goals, after which the ball is carried to the river and thrown in. Whoever manages to get it out at the far side of the river is allowed to keep the ball, but they have to swim the River Aln to get it.