- History of Rugby, Warwickshire
This is about the history of the town of Rugby.
Iron Agethe Rugby area was settled. Rugby's site on a plateau at about 400 feet above sea level, overlooking the River Avon made it an important strategic post overlooking the Avon, which was a natural barrier between the Dobunniand the Corieltauvitribes. Iron Age remains, probably lookout posts or forts, have been located on either side of the Avon.
In Roman times, two major
Roman roads were built very close to the site of modern day Rugby: the Fosse Wayand Watling Street. Twelve miles north of Rugby is High Cross (Roman name Venonae), where the two roads cross.
Just outside modern day Rugby, remains have been found of a Roman town called
Tripontium, on the original Watling Street which is now known as the A5. Historians believe that the settlement was a kind of ancient service station, providing stabling and accommodation to passing Roman armies and travellers.
Rugby got its name in Saxon times. It was first mentioned in the
Domesday Bookin 1086 as a small farming settlement then called "Rocheberie". One theory is that the name came from the Anglo-Saxon "Hrōceburh" = "Rook fort", where Rook may be the birds or may be a man's name. There is another theory that it is derived from an old Celtic name "Droche-brig" meaning "wild hilltop". Vikinginfluence in the area changed the ending to the Old Norse"-bý"; in 1200 it was spelt "Rokebi". The name later evolved into "Rokeby", and by the 18th century had become "Rugby".
In the 12th century Rugby was mentioned as having a
castle. However the 'castle' was probably little more than a defended manor house. In any event the 'castle' was short lived. It was probably constructed during the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154), and demolished in around 1157 on the orders of King Henry II. According to local legend, the stones from the castle were used to construct the west tower of St Andrew's church, which bears strong resemblance to a castle.
lord of the manorHenry de Rokeby obtained a market charter for Rugby, which became a small rural market town, which it remained until the 19th century. The layout of the streets in the town centre around the market place still follows the pattern set down in medieval times. Rugby's built-up area was only High Street and Sheep Street and North Street and the Market Place.
One of the most significant events in the town's history was the founding in 1567 of
Rugby School: Lawrence Sheriff, a locally born grocer to Queen Elizabeth I, left money in his will to establish a school in Rugby for local boys. The school needed to take some fee-paying pupils from outside the area, to help pay the bills, and gradually became a largely fee-paying school.
From medieval times until the late 18th century, the population of Rugby stayed at around 500-1000. It began to grow in the 1770s when the
Oxford Canalwas constructed around the town and spurred some growth in local industries and in population.
Brushes with history
Rugby and its surrounding area had several brushes with some of the most important events in English history.
The Rugby area has associations with the
Gunpowder Plot- On the eve of the plot on November 5, 1605, the plotters stayed at an inn in nearby Dunchurchto await news of the plot. If it had been successful then they planned to kidnap the princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, who was staying at nearby Coombe Abbey, and install her as Queen.
English Civil Warin the 17th century, King Charles I is said to have passed through Rugby on his way to Nottinghamwith 120 Cavalier troops during 1642. The attitudes of the towsfolk were said to be too close to the Parliamentariancause for the king's liking. One of the most important battles of the war, the Battle of Nasebywas fought some 15 miles east of Rugby.
In April 1645
Oliver Cromwellstayed in Rugby along with two regiments of Roundheadtroops. He is said to have stayed at the "Shoulder of Mutton Inn" (where the Marks and Spencers shop now stands).
Rugby for centuries was merely High Street, Sheep Street, North Street, and the Market Place. It only grew into an important settlement during the 19th century.
Influence of Rugby School
Rugby School, one of England's oldest and most prestigious public schools, rose to national prominence in the 1820s through the teaching methods pioneered by its headmaster, Dr
Thomas Arnold, which contributed to a radical change in Public Schooleducation in England. Most of the present school buildings, near the centre of the town, date from this period. In 1823 William Webb Ellisis said to have invented Rugby Footballwhen he picked up the ball and ran with it.
The growing popularity of the school in the early 19th century led to an increase in population of the town. Many immigrants came to Rugby, many of whom were Rugby School pupils' parents, who preferred their sons to be able to go to a normal home life each night instead of having to endure school conditions (poor food, crowding, bullies) 24 hours every day; in Rugby such immigrants were called "sojourners". This caused Rugby to expand along Bilton Road and Dunchurch Road.
Rugby School during this period was imortalised by
Thomas Hughesin his semi-autobiographical novel Tom Brown's Schooldays.
Coming of the railways
The major factor in the growth of Rugby was the arrival of
railways. In 1835 Rugby was a small rural town with a population of around 2,500. However In 1838, one of the first trunk lines to be built in England, the London and Birmingham Railway, an early part of what later became the West Coast Main Line, was built around the town.
In 1840, the
Midland Counties Railway, which linked the East Midlandswith North East England, formed a junction with the London and Birmingham, making Rugby the busiest and most important railway junction in Britain.
Soon railways were being built into Rugby from several different directions. The main
Trent Valley Linefrom Staffordwas built into Rugby in 1847. A line to Market Harboroughand Peterboroughwas opened in 1850, and a line to Leamington Spawas opened in 1851. The Northampton loop lineto Northamptonopened in 1881.
For nearly 30 years, nearly all rail traffic between London, the Midlands, the north of England,
Scotland, and north Walespassed through Rugby junction, giving the town huge national importance.
By the 1860s the junction had become extremely congested, so much so that it was not uncommon for trains to have to queue for hours to pass through. This caused much anger and frustration amongst travellers, for whom Rugby became a byword for delays.
Charles Dickenslampooned it in his short story Mugby Junction(1866). To relieve this congestion a new line, later called the Midland Main Line, was built, taking a more direct route to London, avoiding Rugby. Much traffic was diverted onto the new line; Rugby remained one of the most important railway junctions in the country, but was no longer an all-important hub.
Rugby railway stationwas opened in 1838 when the London & Birmingham opened, located to the west of the present station. When the Midland Counties line was opened in 1840, the original station was badly located to serve the new line, and so a second station was opened close to the present one. This station lasted for over 40 years but proved to be inadequate to cope with traffic. In 1885 the present station was opened.
In 1899 the Great Central Railway was built into Rugby and the town gained a second station 'Rugby Central Station' which offered an alternative route to London and the north.
Growth of industry
With the railways, many wagon works, and engineering facilities were opened, and Rugby's population reached 10,000 by the 1880s, many employed by the railways. Because of its transport links, a number of industries developed in Rugby.
In 1862 the Rugby Lias Lime and Cement Co. Ltd was founded, although manufacture of cement at the site began in 1855. Using the local
Rugby began to develop more industries from the 1880s onwards. In 1881 a
corsetfactory opened, employing local women. From the 1890s onwards Rugby began to attract engineeringindustry, due largely to its good transport links. The Willans & Robinsonworks opened in Rugby in 1893 which made steam engines. And in 1899 the British Thomson-Houstonworks opened which made electrical equipment and later turbines. Engineering would dominate the town's economy for most of the following century.
Challenges of growth
By the middle of the 19th century Rugby's infrastructure had not kept pace with the increase in population. Most notably, there was not an adequate supply of drinking water which was mostly sourced from wells and street pumps, nor was there adequate sewerage. These problems caused Rugby's growth to stall. In 1849 Rugby became the first town in England to have a
Local board of health, beating Croydonby a matter of weeks. The board had powers to levy a rate to provide drinking water and sewage facillities. However several early schemes to provide adequate drinking water were unsuccessful. It was not until 1876 that a reliable supply was obtained from the River Avon.
Until the 1870s, the cattle market was still held in the town centre as it had been since the Middle Ages. However this became increasingly unpopular with local residents. In 1878 the cattle market was moved to its present location near the railway station.
In 1894 Rugby became an
urban districtand gained its first elected council.
The engineering works in Rugby attracted many workers to the town, and in the early decades of the 20th century the population grew rapidly and Rugby's built-up area spread fast in all directions. In 1901 the population of Rugby was 16,950, by the 1930s it had reached 40,000.
Due to its expansion Rugby became a
municipal boroughin 1932, and the old Rugby Urban District Council was replaced with Rugby Borough Council. The nearby parishes of Bilton, Brownsover, Hillmortonand Newbold-on-Avonwere incorporated into the new borough. Further local government reform in 1974 saw the borough expand to include the whole of the abolished Rugby Rural District.
From 1926, near Rugby to its east was a large antenna farm for the
Rugby VLF transmitter. All but four of the twelve big radio masts (used to broadcast the MSF time signal) were demolished in June 2004 - delayed by rabbits chewing through the wires controlling detonation [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/coventry_warwickshire/3823335.stm] .
In the late 1930s
Frank Whittledeveloped the jet enginein Rugby. With his work taking place at the British Thomson-Houston works, and at Brownsover Hall.
Coventryand Nuneaton, Rugby was highly fortunate to avoid German bombing during World War II. This is perhaps somewhat surprising given the town's strategic importance as a railway junction and engineering centre. A few stray bombs landed on Dunchurchhowever, but no other significant bomb damage occurred in the area.
In the postwar years Rugby became a centre of the national
motorwaynetwork. Two of Britain's most important motorways, the M1 and M6, as well as the M45, run close to the town. Rugby expanded further, especially at Brownsoverand Cawston where new housing estates were built.
However during the 1960s several of the railway lines which radiated from Rugby were closed as part of the
Beeching axe. These included the once hugely important Midland Counties route to Leicester, the lines to Leamington and Peterborough, and the Great Central Line. Rugby Central Station was closed in 1969, leaving the town with only one station. As of 2006, only the West Coast Mainline still serves the town.
From the 1950s, Rugby gained a substantial Afro-Caribbean community, and a sizable community from the Indian sub-continent, making Rugby a multi-cultural town. There is a small
Hindu templein Rugby; it was converted from two adjacent terrace houses.
* "From historical estimates. Figures from 1801 onwards taken from census"
*"Rugby, Aspects of the Past", and "Rugby, Further Aspects of the Past", by the Rugby Local History Group.
*"Rugby: A Pictorial History", by E.W. Timmins (1990) ISBN 0-85033-700-3
*"Rugby's Railway Heritage", by Peter H Elliot (1985) ISBN 0-907917-06-2
*"Rugby Growth Of A Town", by Eddy Rawlins & Andy Osborne (1988)
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