FOR residents in one North-East town, Shrove Tuesday is less about pancakes and more about a historic ball game.

The annual ball game, in Sedgefield, County Durham, is believed to date back to the 13th century when St Edmund’s Church was completed and the stonemason challenged the townsfolk to a celebratory game of football, a time when health and safety was not a priority.

But that is not the case today, with hopeful players being discouraged from meeting as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Sedgefield Ball Game is played from 1pm to 4pm, kicked off by a 'village elder', but the ball goes missing in between when players trade in blood and sweat for pints. The one aim of the game to kick the ball, often resulting in people wrestling each other where ever the ball lands.

To win, a player must pass the ball through the bull ring at the end of the game.

While its organisation is shrouded in secrecy, despite always being well attended, organisers were quick to call off this year's event.

Instead, The Northern Echo looks back at the Sedgefield Ball Game through the years.

The Northern Echo: Sedgefield ball game in 1967. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society Sedgefield ball game in 1967. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society

The Northern Echo: Snow weather did not put off players in 1954. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society Snow weather did not put off players in 1954. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society

The Northern Echo: The ball game in the 1920s. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society The ball game in the 1920s. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society

The Northern Echo: A busy town centre during the 1911 game. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society A busy town centre during the 1911 game. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society

The Northern Echo: The 1998 game. Picture: Stuart BoultonThe 1998 game. Picture: Stuart Boulton

The Northern Echo: The Shrove Tuesday Ball Game, Sedgefield. Picture: Stuart BoultonThe Shrove Tuesday Ball Game, Sedgefield. Picture: Stuart Boulton

The Northern Echo: Climbing a tree during the 1975 game. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society Climbing a tree during the 1975 game. Picture: Sedgefield Local History Society

The Northern Echo: The crowd of "players" swirl across the green and down the main street. Picture: Craig Connor/North News The crowd of "players" swirl across the green and down the main street. Picture: Craig Connor/North News

The Northern Echo: Raising the ball in the air, 1997. Picture: Ian WeirRaising the ball in the air, 1997. Picture: Ian Weir

The Northern Echo: The 2002 game. Picture: Stuart Boulton The 2002 game. Picture: Stuart Boulton

The Northern Echo: The ball game in 1997. Picture: Ian WeirThe ball game in 1997. Picture: Ian Weir

The Northern Echo: The only aim of the game is to kick the ball, with this picture taken during the 1892 eventThe only aim of the game is to kick the ball, with this picture taken during the 1892 event

The Northern Echo: A snapshot of the Sedgefield Ball Game in 1998 where one man sees success A snapshot of the Sedgefield Ball Game in 1998 where one man sees success

The Northern Echo: Sedgefield residents determined to kick the ball, taken during the 1960 eventSedgefield residents determined to kick the ball, taken during the 1960 event

The Northern Echo: Crowds pile on each other to get the ball in 2014. Picture: Stuart Boulton Crowds pile on each other to get the ball in 2014. Picture: Stuart Boulton