About Rugby, the birthplace of the game


Today there are constant reminders in and around Rugby and the surrounding area of its rich heritage which spans many centuries.

Until you have been here, it is hard to imagine that the worldwide sport of rugby football took its name from this bustling market town.

Rugby is essentially at the crossroads of England, and whilst the town’s unique connection with the game is acknowledged worldwide, mention of the town as an Anglo-Saxon settlement dates back to 1068 in the Domesday Book.

Rugby School is one of Britain’s oldest independent schools, and was founded in 1567 by Lawrence Sheriff, a Rugbeian who was grocer to Queen Elizabeth I.

The game of rugby, now played and appreciated by millions across the globe, all began on The Close at Rugby School in 1823.

It was during a football match that one of its pupils, William Webb Ellis, first picked up the ball, ran with it and so the modern version of this major world sport was begun.

The rest is history.

Rugby the birthplace of the game




A plaque laid at Rugby School commemorates that moment in 1823. The inscription commemorates Webb Ellis by saying, “who with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time first took the ball in his arms and ran with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the Rugby game.”

The Close has changed little since and the statue of William Webb Ellis, which was commissioned after a worldwide appeal and now stands close to Rugby School, is a fitting tribute to Rugby’s most famous son.

For several centuries, the history of the town of Rugby and Rugby School have inevitably been closely linked.

Great literary figures including poet Rupert Brooke – another of Rugby’s most famous sons, Arthur Ransome, Richard Grant, Salman Rushdie and Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) have all attended Rugby School. It was also the scene of Tom Brown’s Schooldays and resting place of Thomas Arnold, the headmaster who would transform the face of British education.

Today, visitors have the opportunity to get behind the scenes and tour Rugby School, and explore the Rugby School Museum which attracts thousands of tourists every year. Many international rugby teams make a special journey of paying a visit to the birthplace of the game while on tour.

Visitors to Rugby also have a unique way to explore the town – The Pathway of Fame. Starting from The Rugby Visitor Centre, the Pathway of Fame is a unique way to explore the town combining the heritage of rugby football. Bronze plaques commemorate significant players and moments in the history of the game of Rugby, including the first world cup and England’s iconic win in 2003.


In addition to the sport of rugby, Rugby has many other famous claims to fame.

Rugby was the birthplace of Rupert Brooke, the famous First World War poet whose sonnets captured the idealism of the early years of the Great War.

Sir Frank Whittle – Father of the jet engine made crucial breakthroughs in the engine’s development while working in Rugby.

Rugby had a crucial role in Robert Catesby’s conspiracy to assassinate James I and blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

After spending three years studying at Rugby School and then leaving for Oxford University, Charles Dodgson, writing under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll, found worldwide fame with the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, one of the cornerstones of the literary nonsense genre.

Former Rugby School pupil Thomas Hughes was a lawyer, judge and a Member of Parliament. But it was his first novel – Tom Brown’s School Days, telling the tale of Tom Brown’s life at Rugby School and being targeted by the bully Flashman and guided by the headmaster, Dr Thomas Arnold.- which cemented his place in history.

Hungarian-born scientist, Dennis Gabor, invented holography – the technique which produces holograms. He was honoured with the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work.

Rugby-born Scientist and astronomer, Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer, was credited with the discovery of the gas helium in 1868, together with French scientist Pierre Janssen.

Further reading

Rugby Borough Council

Rugby on Wikipedia

Enjoy Rugby website