Rugby (pop. 63,000) is a market town sitting on the River Avon at the boundary of Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. It is renowned for its prestigious Rugby School, one of the country's oldest public school (i.e. an expensive private school in the UK - see Eton), founded in 1567. Some of the famous people who attended Rugby School include Alice in Wonderland's author Lewis Carrol, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and essayist Salman Rushdie.
However, the town's main claim of fame is to have invented the sport that bears its name. The ball sport was first played by William Webb Ellis (1806-1872) in 1823, a student of Rugby School, who disrespecting the rules of football (AmE = soccer), took the ball into his hands and started running with it. The claim that he invented the game did not surface before 4 years after his death though.
Rugby School also educated the Australian Tom Wills, who in 1859 first codified the rules of Australian football.
The region of Rugby was settled since the Iron Age. The River Avon marked the boundary between the Dobunni and the Coritani Celtic tribes. The Roman founded Tripontium near present-day Rugby. Not until the 13th century did Rugby develop into a small town, after gaining a market charter.
1567 marks the founding of Rugby School by Lawrence Sheriff, a local grocer who left money for the establishment of a school for local boys. Fee-paying pupils were soon accepted to pay the bills, and Rugby gradually became a largely fee-paying school.
Rugdy's population remained around 1,000 until the Oxford Canal (linking Oxford to Coventry via Rugby) opened in the 1770's. The town only came into prominence in the 1820's when the school's headmaster, Dr Thomas Arnold, pioneered new teaching methods and changed radically public school education in England. Most of the buildings in th centre of Rugby date from this period.
As the railway was developing throughout England in the 1830's, Rugby became a major junction. It became so congested that Charles Dickens satirized it in his short story Mugby Junction (1866).
From the 1950s, Rugby gained a substantial Afro-Caribbean community, and a sizeable community from the Indian sub-continent, making Rugby a multi-cultural town (it even has a Hindu temple).
The town as it exists now is mostly Victorian in architecture, with a few older timber-framed houses. Rugby's town centre is said to have the highest concentration of pubs in England.
The 19th-century grandeur of Rugby School combined with the relaxing calm of Oxford Canal make for a pleasant stroll around the town.
How to get there
Rugby is located 24km south-east of Coventry, about half-way between Birmingham and Northampton.
Trains link Rugby to London Euston (55min, £19.90), Northampton
(20min, £3.30) and Birmingham
National Express has buses to Coventry (2h, £13).