The Wall Game

New & Lingwood have provided the uniforms for Eton college since 1865. The school retains a close relationship with the clothier, not only during the boys tenure at the college, but even after they have exited its gates, with many still choosing to have their shirts made by the house throughout their adult life.

The tradition within the school is one British culture is renowned for, yet it not only incorporates academia but also extends to sporting inventions. You see England is filled with stories of creating cult sports, most notably Rugby. Where – rumour has it – 16 year old student William Webb Ellis caught the ball and ran towards the opponents goal line rather than catching and kicking the ball, as it was done back then. I make the comparison to rugby purely to add some context to the lesser known sport of The Eton Wall Game. 

circa 1948: Boys from Eton College prepare for the Wall Game against the Oppidans, on St Andrews Day. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Established at Eton College, the peculiar and slightly left-field sport bears some resemblance to Rugby union, with its hands-on ball style. Played on a 5 metre wide and 110 metres long ‘Furrow’ the game takes place next to a curved brick wall built in 1717, naturally entitled ‘The Wall’. This is a focal feature of the game and provides the perfect viewing platform for spectators. It is not really known when the first game was played but the first recorded outing was in 1766. Played between the King Scholars (collegers) and the Oppidans ( the rest of the school). 

The format consists of a series of scrum-esque sequences called a ‘Bully’, comprised of six of the ten players on each side, who battle it out to reach a special area known as the ‘Calx’.  

This is were the game gets interesting. The attacking team must then raise the ball off the ground and against the wall. Upon doing so they must shout “Got it!” to which the umpire will reply “Shy!” – they will then be awarded a ‘shy’ worth of a point. Easy. They are then able to score a goal which comes in the form of a garden door at one end and a tree at the other. This you would think is simple. Yet the last goal recorded was on St Andrew’s day in 1909 – proving that even the most simple of outcomes can be challenging.


Combative yet skillful the game itself involves relative amount physicality. Core strength, consistent application and universal awareness are all traits players need. Temperament is also a key characteristic. As teams move closer to their goal it becomes imperative to focus not only on surviving but also making history; the aim of all sportsmen.


Photography courtesy of New & Lingwood

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