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Rugby, Warwickshire

Historical Description

Rugby, a market-town, the head of a poor-law union, petty-sessional division, and county court district, and a parish in Warwickshire. The town stands near the river Avon and the Oxford Canal, 3 miles W of Watling Street, on the Warwickshire boundary, 5½ SE of the Fosse Way, 11½ E by S of Coventry, 15 NE of Leamington, 29¼ ESE of Birmingham, and 82½ from London. It has a station on the L. & N.W.R. and M.R., and a head post office. Rugby was known at Domesday as Rocheberie and afterwards as Rokeby. It is supposed from barrows and earthworks which were formerly in its immediate vicinity to date from the ancient British times. It appears first on record in the time of Edward the Confessor. A small castle appears to have been erected in the time of Stephen and to have been demolished in that of Henry IL It was occupied by a force under Oliver Cromwell in March, 1645, and witnessed the transit of William III. in 1691 on his way to take command of the army in Ireland. Rugby came into prominent notice in the 18th century in connection with a great grammar school founded at it in 1567, and acquired increasing importance from its position in reference to railways after the railway period. It has since-undergone much extension and improvement, and contains a larger proportion of resident clergy and gentry than most towns of its size; it is well paved, well drained, and well supplied with water. It is governed by an urban district council of fifteen members, and is a seat of petty sessions and county courts.

The grammar school was founded by Lawrence Sheriff, a citizen of London and a servant to Queen Elizabeth; had an endowment in London which rose in value during the 18th century from £116 to £5000 a year. It stood originally on ground now occupied by almshouses opposite the parish church, and was rebuilt on another site on the S side of the town about 1750, and was again largely rebuilt in 1809. The school buildings form a cloistered quadrangle in the Tudor style. The chapel is a detached building, was erected in 1820, and was almost entirely rebuilt in 1867. It contains monuments to former headmasters, Drs James, Wooll, and, Arnold, a fine effigy by Boehm of Dean Stanley and other memorials, stained glass windows to the memory of old Engbeians who fell in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, and a fine E window from a monastery in Flanders, said to be by Albert Diher, which was purchased in the time of Dr Arnold. At the tercentenary in 1867 a gymnasium, pavilion, and other improvements were commenced, and since then have been added the art museum and the Temple reading-room, a detached building adjacent to the School Close, a swimming bath, an observatory, additional classrooms, a workshop, and additional racquet and fives courts. The school became one of the most famous of English public schools during the head-mastership of Dr Arnold (1828-42). He was succeeded by Dr Tait, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, who held the appointment till 1850, when Dr Gouldburn succeeded him. Dr Temple, afterwards Bishop of London, became headmaster in 1857, Dr Hayman in 1869, Dr Jex Blake in 1874, and Dr Percival, afterwards Bishop of Hereford, from 1887 to 1895. He was succeeded by the Rev. H. James, B.D. The school is now attended by about 500 scholars. Ten scholarships from £20 to £100, tenable as long as a boy remains at the school, and seven exhibitions from £30 to £60, tenable for four years at the universities, are awarded every year. Rugby numbers among its past pupils Parkhurst, Cave, General Abercromby, the antiquary Bray, Dr Butler, and many other distinguished men.

St Andrew's Church was originally a chapel of ease to. Clifton-upon-Dunsmore, and became a parish church at the separation of Rugby from Clifton in the time of Henry III. It was almost entirely rebuilt by Butterfield in 1879, and consists of chancel, nave, transepts, two N aisles, S aisles, N and S porches, and a lofty square tower. A tower, spire, and, vestries were added in 1895. The nave of the old building now forms a N aisle, called the Monltrie aisle in memory of a late rector. It contains a fine reredos of alabaster and marble, and some monuments. Trinity Church is a chapel of ease to St Andrew's, was built in 1854, and is a cruciform structure in the Early English style, with central tower. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, and has a side chapel decorated by Bodley. St Matthew's Church was built in 1841 for a district which was constituted a separate ecclesiastical parish in that year, and is in the Early English style. The Roman Catholic chapel was built in 1847 by Pugin, and was enlarged in 1864 by his son. It has a tower and spire 200 feet in height. A Roman Catholic convent and college adjoin the chapel. There are Baptist, Congregational, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels. The public cemetery was formed in 1862, comprises about 7 acres, and has two chapels in the Early Geometric style.

The town-hall was built in 1857-58 at a cost of about £6500, has a main entrance in the High Street, includes an assembly-room 77 feet by 32, rooms for the public courts and for other purposes, and has at the back a covered market-hall. The railway station stands about half a mile N of the town, and is traversed daily by over 100 trains. The Free Public Library was opened in 1891 to replace the Rugby Literary Institute. A cattle market, occupying an area of about 6 acres near the railway station, was formed in 1878. The hospital of St Cross was opened in 1884. There are almshouses founded by Richard Elborow, Lawrence Sheriff, and Miss Butler, a provident dispensary, and a workhouse. A corn market is held on every Monday, a butter and poultry market on every Saturday, fairs on the last Monday of Jan., 17 Feb., the last Monday of March, the Tuesday before Easter, the last Monday of April, 15 May, the last Monday of June, the last Monday of July, 21 Aug., the Monday before 29 Sept., the last Wednesday of Sept., the Monday before 27 Oct., the Monday before 19 Nov., 22 Nov., the second Monday of Dec., and the Monday after Christmas. The town and the parish are regarded as mutually conterminate. Acreage, 1671; population, 11,262; of the ecclesiastical parish of St Andrew, 8106; of the ecclesiastical parish of St Matthew. 3156. The living of St Andrew is a rectory, united with the chapelry of Trinity, and the living of St Matthew is a vicarage, in the diocese of Worcester; net value of the former, £700 with residence; of the latter, £320 with residence. Patron of the former, the Earl of Craven.

Rugby Parliamentary Division, or South-Eastern Warwickshire, was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 49,737. The division includes the following:- Burton Dassett and Kington-Avon Dassett, Burton Dassett, Farnborough, Mollington, Ratley, Shotteswell, Warmington, Butlers Marston, Cbadshunt, Combrook, Compton Veraey, Gaydon, Kineton, Lighthorne, Oxhill, Pillerton Hersey, Fillerton Priors, Radway, Tysoe; Kenilworth (except the parishes of Lillington and Milverton)-Ashow, Baginton, Bubbenhall, Cubbington, Guy's Cliffe, Kenilworth, Leamington Priors, Leek Wootton, Offchurch, Radford Semele, Stoneleigh, Whitnash; Rugby-Bilton, Bourton-on-Dunsmore, Brownsover, Church Lawford, Churchover, Clifton-upon-Dunsmore, Cosford, Dunchurch, Frankton, Hillmorton, Kings Newnham, Little Lawford, Long Lawford, Newbold-on-Avon, Newton and Biggin, Princethorpe, Rugby, Ryton-upon-Dunsmore, Stretton-upon-Dunsmore, Thurlaston, Willoughby, Wolston; Southam-Birdingbury, Bishops Itchington, Chapel Ascote, Eathorpe, Fenny Compton, Grandborough, Harbury, Hodnell, Hunningham, Ladbrooke, Leamington Hastings, Long Itchington, Lower Radbourn, Lower Shuckburgh, Marton, Napton-on-the Hill, Priors Hardwick, Priors Marton, Southam, Stockton, Ufton, Upper Radbourn, Upper Shuckburgh, Wappenbury, Watergall, Weston-under-Wetherley, Wills Pastures, Wolfhampcote, Wonnleighton.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyWarwickshire 
Ecclesiastical parishRugby St. Andrew 
Poor Law unionRugby 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

The Warwickshire County Record Office hold the following registers for Rugby:

Holy Trinity1854-19741875-1974 
St Andrew1621-19401621-19761621-1950
St George 1941-1969 
St John1911-19911939-1984 
St Matthew1841-19541868-1948 
St Peter1901-19921909-1993 
St Philip1914-19411915-1958 

Most of the records prior to 1911 have been digitised and are available on

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Rugby from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Warwickshire is available to browse.


Online maps of Rugby are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Warwickshire papers online:


The Rugby School Register, 1675-1849 is available to browse.

The Rugby School Register, 1850-1874 is available to browse.

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Warwickshire 1619 is available on the Heraldry page.

RegionWest Midlands
Postal districtCV21
Post TownRugby