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Rugby, Warwickshire facts for kids

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Rugby town centre.jpg
Rugby market place, looking west from Church Street
Rugby is located in Warwickshire
Population 77,285 (2020 estimate)
Demonym Rugbeian
OS grid reference SP5075
  • Rugby
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town RUGBY
Postcode district CV21, CV22, CV23
Dialling code 01788
Police Warwickshire
Fire Warwickshire
Ambulance West Midlands
EU Parliament West Midlands
UK Parliament
  • Rugby
List of places
52°22′N 1°16′W / 52.37°N 1.26°W / 52.37; -1.26

Rugby is a market town in eastern Warwickshire, England, close to the River Avon. In 2020 its population was estimated at 77,286, making it the second-largest town in Warwickshire. It is the main settlement within the larger Borough of Rugby which has a population of 108,935 (2019 estimate).

Rugby is situated on the eastern edge of Warwickshire, near to the borders with Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. Rugby is the eastern-most town within the West Midlands region, with the nearby county borders also marking the regional boundary with the East Midlands. It is 83 miles (134 km) north of London, 30 miles (48 km) east-southeast of Birmingham, 11 miles (18 km) east of Coventry, 18 miles (29 km) north-west of Northampton, and 19 miles (31 km) south-southwest of Leicester.

Rugby became a market town in 1255, but remained a small rural town until the mid-19th century, when the siting of a major railway junction at the town spurred the development of industry, and the rapid growth of population. In 1567, Rugby School was founded as a grammar school for local boys, but by the 18th century it had gained a national reputation as a public school. The school is the birthplace of Rugby football which, according to legend, was invented in 1823 by a Rugby schoolboy named William Webb Ellis.


Early Iron age settlement existed in the Rugby area, and a few miles outside what is now Rugby, existed a Roman settlement known as Tripontium. Rugby was originally a small Anglo-Saxon farming settlement, and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Rocheberie. Rugby obtained a charter to hold a market in 1255, and soon developed into a small country market town.

Rugby School was founded in 1567 with money left in the will of Lawrence Sheriff, a locally born grocer, who moved to London and earned his fortune. Rugby School was originally intended as a school for local boys, but over time became a mostly fee-paying private school. The Lawrence Sheriff School was eventually founded in the late 19th century to carry on Sheriff's original intentions.

Rugby remained a sleepy country market town until the 19th century and the coming of the railways. In 1838 the London and Birmingham Railway was constructed past it, and in 1840 the Midland Counties Railway made a junction with the London and Birmingham at Rugby. Rugby became an important railway junction, and the proliferation of rail yards and workshops attracted workers. Rugby's population grew from just 2,500 in 1835, to over 10,000 by the 1880s.

In the 1890s and 1900s heavy engineering industries began to set up in the town, and Rugby rapidly grew into a major industrial centre. Rugby expanded rapidly in the early decades of the 20th century as workers moved in. By the 1940s, the population of Rugby had grown to over 40,000.

In the postwar years, Rugby became well served by the motorway network, with the M1 and M6 merging close to the town.


Rugby is most famous for the invention of rugby football, which is played throughout the world. The invention of the game is credited to William Webb Ellis whilst breaking the existing rules of a football match played in 1823 at Rugby School.

Rugby School is one of England's oldest and most prestigious public schools, and was the setting of Thomas Hughes's semi-autobiographical masterpiece Tom Brown's Schooldays. A substantial part of the 2004 dramatisation of the novel, starring Stephen Fry, was filmed on location at Rugby School. Hughes later set up a colony in America for the younger sons of the English gentry, who could not inherit under the laws of primogeniture, naming the town Rugby. The town of Rugby, Tennessee still exists.

Rugby is a birthplace of the jet engine. In April 1937 Frank Whittle built the world's first prototype jet engine at the British Thomson-Houston works in Rugby, and between 1936-41 based himself at Brownsover Hall on the outskirts, where he designed and developed early prototype engines. Much of his work was carried out at nearby Lutterworth. Holography was invented in Rugby by the Hungarian inventor Dennis Gabor in 1947.

In the 19th century, Rugby became famous for its once important railway junction which was the setting for Charles Dickens's story Mugby Junction.


Nearby places


Hillmorton radio masts
Rugby VLF transmitter (now demolished)

One of the most notable landmarks around Rugby was, until August 2007, the Rugby VLF transmitter, a large radio transmitting station just to the east of the town. The station was opened in 1926 and was used to transmit the MSF time signal. Several of the masts however were decommissioned and demolished by explosives in 2004, although a few, including four of the biggest masts remained until 2007. (Firing the explosive charges was delayed by rabbits gnawing the wires). The remaining four 'tall' masts were demolished on the afternoon of 2 August 2007 with no prior publicity. However the majority of the smaller masts still stand, awaiting demolition before becoming a housing estate

Rugby Cement works, to the west of the town, can be seen for many miles. Standing at just 115 metres high, the landmark is not a popular one— in 2005 it came in the top ten of a poll of buildings people would like to see demolished on the Channel 4 television series Demolition. In October 2006, the owners of the Rugby Cement works, Cemex, were fined £400,000 for excessive pollution after a court case brought by the Environment Agency.

WWEstatue 700
William Webb Ellis' statue

The town has statues of three famous locals: Rupert Brooke, Thomas Hughes and William Webb Ellis. The Rupert Brooke statue is situated at the forked junction of Regent Street on the green and commemorates his contribution to poetry. Thomas Hughes' statue stands in the gardens of the Temple Reading Rooms (the central library of Rugby school) on Barby Road. Since England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, the William Webb Ellis statue outside Rugby School is one of the most visited parts of the town.

St Andrew's Church, Rugby
St Andrew's Church

St Andrew's Church, in the town centre, is Rugby's original parish church. A church has stood on the site since the 13th century. The church was extensively re-built and expanded in the 19th century, designed by William Butterfield. The expanded church included a new east tower, which has a spire 182 feet (55 m) high. However some parts of the older medieval church were retained, most notably the 22 metre high west tower which bears strong resemblance to a castle turret. The west tower was probably built during the reign of Henry III (1216–1272) to serve a defensive as well as religious role, and is Rugby's oldest building. The church has other artefacts of medieval Rugby including the 13th-century parish chest, and a medieval font.

St Maries Church, Rugby 484475
St Maries church

Rugby's main Roman Catholic church is St. Maries [1] on Dunchurch Road. It is one of the town's most well-known landmarks as it is quite dominant on the skyline. Its spire is the tallest in Warwickshire . The church was built in 1872, designed by Pugin in the Early English style.

Places of interest

Places of interest in the town include:

  • The Rugby School Museum, which has audio-visual displays about the history of Rugby School and of the town.
  • The combined art gallery and museum. The art gallery contains a nationally recognised collection of contemporary art. The museum contains, amongst other things, Roman artefacts dug up from the nearby Roman settlement of Tripontium.
  • The Rugby Football Museum, where traditional rugby balls are handmade. It contains much rugby football memorabilia.
  • The Benn Hall, a conference, seminar, exhibition and party venue.

Places of interest around Rugby include:


  • Bilton
  • Binley Woods
  • Brownsover
  • Cawston
  • Church Lawford
  • Dunchurch
  • Hillmorton
  • Hillside
  • Kingsway
  • Long Lawford
  • New Bilton
  • Newbold-on-Avon
  • Overslade
  • Wolston



Rugby is situated near to several major trunk routes including the M1, M6 and M45 motorways, and the A5, A14 and A45 roads. Other main roads in the town include the A426 road, the A428 road and the Rugby Western Relief Road, linking the A45 with the Leicester Road, that connects with junction 1 of the M6.

In 2010, a short local bypass was opened; it was the first part of the Rugby Western Relief Road. It runs from the A428 (Lawford Road), along the edge of the built-up area to the A4071 (road from Rugby through Bilton and Cawston), a little west of Cawston; it takes through heavy traffic off suburban housing roads such as Addison Road. On 10 September 2010, the final part of Rugby's Western Relief Road was opened. The road runs from Potsford Dam near Cawston, through the Lawford Road and ending at Newbold Road, near the Avon Valley School. The initial estimated cost was projected at £36.6 million, while the final figure was in excess of £60 million.


Buses run to Coventry, Southam, Leamington Spa, Daventry, Leicester and Northampton, as well as serving the major estates of the town on a regular basis. Stagecoach in Warwickshire have a depot in the town.


Rugby railway station
Rugby railway station

Rugby railway station is served by the West Coast Main Line and has frequent regular services to London Euston, Birmingham New Street, Stafford and Crewe. There are also some infrequent services between Rugby and Glasgow Central, the North West of England, Shrewsbury, Chester and Holyhead.

Rugby has had a railway station since 1838, when the London and Birmingham Railway was opened, though the present station dates from 1885. Rugby station used to be served by lines which have now been closed, including to Leicester, Leamington Spa and Peterborough. These were closed in the 1960s as part of the Beeching cuts.

Between 1899 and 1969, Rugby had a second station; Rugby Central station on the former Great Central Main Line, which had services to London Marylebone to the south and Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield to the north. The station and line were closed in the 1960s as part of the Beeching cuts.

British Railways' locomotive testing centre was in Rugby.

Warwickshire County Council have proposed a new station; Rugby Parkway station be built on the Northampton Loop Line, south-east of the existing station, serving the Hillmorton area of the town, and the new development at Houlton. The station is to be built in between the current edge of town and DIRFT to accommodate for the future expansion of the town where 6,200 homes are planned to be built over a 15 to 20 year period. No date, however, has been given for the opening of this station.

Newbold canal tunnel
Newbold canal tunnel on the Oxford Canal at Rugby


There are direct railway links to the nearest major airport Birmingham Airport. The smaller Coventry Airport is also nearby.


The Oxford Canal from near Coventry to Oxford runs around Rugby, through the Newbold, Brownsover and Hillmorton areas, although it does not come close to the town centre. The canal was opened in 1790, as a winding contour canal, but was straightened out in the 1830s. Notable features of the canal locally are the 250 yd (230 m) long tunnel at Newbold, and the flight of locks at Hillmorton, which are the busiest flight of locks on the national canal network.


There are a number of cycling routes in Rugby, some of which are roadside cycle lanes, and others are off-road and traffic free, some of which reuse old railway infrastructure.

Twin towns

Rugby is twinned with:


GE Energy building, Rugby 10.21
The GE Power engineering facility in Rugby.

For most of the 20th Century manufacturing was the largest employer in Rugby. Manufacturing employment peaked in the 1950s, and has gone into steady decline since, and service industries are now the largest source of employment. Rugby remains an engineering centre and has a long history of producing gas and steam turbines and electrical equipment. Engineering in Rugby has taken place under a myriad of different companies; it was established in the 1900s by British Thomson-Houston (BTH) and Willans & Robinson, which later became parts of Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) and English Electric respectively, until both were united as part of the General Electric Company (GEC) in the late-1960s, which itself merged with Alstom in 1989. Most of the engineering works in Rugby were based in the Avon valley area north of the railway station, since the 1980s much of the engineering works have closed with their land sold off for housing and commercial development, however engineering still continues in Rugby on a smaller scale under the auspices of GE Power Conversion, which produces large electric motors, and services and manufactures steam turbines. In 2019 the Rugby site was threatened with closure, but was saved following an order for motors from the Ministry of Defence, after the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, decided that closing the site would lead to a ‘loss of sovereign capability and security’.

Further afield, within the Rugby borough is the Rolls-Royce engineering works near Ansty. This is nearer to Coventry than Rugby.

Rugby is also a centre of laser manufacturing: This was started by the local firm JK Lasers, which was founded in 1972. In 1982 JK Lasers merged with Lumonics of Canada and was for a time one of the largest industrial laser companies in the world. Following takeovers and mergers, the JK Lasers brand name disappeared in 2015, and it is now part of SPI Lasers, a subsidiary of the Trumpf company. In 2018, SPI Lasers announced that their manufacturing site at Rugby was to be doubled in size. A second laser manufacturing firm in Rugby is Litron Lasers, which was established in 1997.

Cemex Cement Works, from Lawford Road, Rugby 7.21 (2)
Rugby cement works at New Bilton

Another major industry in Rugby is cement making; This industry started on a small scale locally in the early 19th century, but began on a large scale in the 1860s when the Rugby Cement company was founded, making cement from the local Jurassic Blue Lias limestone at New Bilton. The current cement works at Rugby has the largest cement kiln in the UK, capable of producing 1.8 million tonnes of cement a year. The current plant was opened in 2000, having been rebuilt and substantially enlarged in the late-1990s, upon its opening other Rugby Cement plants at Southam and Rochester were closed, with all production moved to the enlarged Rugby plant. Rugby Cement was taken over in 2000 and is now owned by the Mexican firm Cemex, who moved their UK headquarters to Rugby in 2018.

IChemE headquarters, Railway Terrace, Rugby 4.21
Headquarters of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) in Rugby.

The American fashion retailer Gap Inc. has had its UK headquarters and distribution centre in Rugby since 2002, as does the construction firm Morgan Sindall, and the historic legal firm Brethertons. In addition a number of trade, professional and charitable organisations have headquarters in Rugby, including the Institution of Chemical Engineers, the Institution of Lighting Professionals, the Master Locksmiths Association, the Auto-Cycle Union, the Oral Health Foundation, and the development charity Practical Action.

Since the 1980s several large industrial estates have been built to the north, and warehousing, distribution and light industry have become major employers. This is due to the town's close proximity to the M6 motorway (Junction 1) and M1 (Junction 19), at the heart of the UK's motorway network. In 2017 nearly half of Warwickshire's businesses in the ‘Transport and storage’ sector were in Rugby. In 2017 Hermes opened its 'Midlands Super Hub' parcel delivery depot at the Rugby Gateway development to the north of the town, which is the largest of its type in the UK. To the east of Rugby is the large Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT), which opened in the 1990s; although this is across the county border in Northamptonshire, it is closest to Rugby.

Tourism is also important to the town's economy, especially related to Rugby football.

In 2017 the average annual workplace wage in the Rugby borough was £29,059; above the Warwickshire (£28,513) and UK (£28,296) averages.

One of the last links to Rugby's rural past was the cattle market held near the railway station, and earlier in the "Market Place" in the old centre of Rugby since medieval times. The market near the railway station was closed in late 2008 and the site has been redeveloped into housing, a hotel and a Tesco store as part of a wider scheme of work in the station area.


At the 2011 census, there were 70,628 residents in Rugby in 30,901 households, and the median age of Rugby residents was 39.

In terms of ethnicity:

  • 89% of Rugby residents were White (Comprising 81% White British, 6.5% Other White, 1.1% Irish and 0.1% Gypsy/Irish Traveller).
  • 5.8% were Asian (Comprising 3.6% Indian, 0.8% Pakistani, 0.2% Bangladeshi 0.5% Chinese and 0.8% from another Asian background)
  • 2.5% were Black (Comprising 1.2% African, 1.0% Caribbean and 0.3% other Black)
  • 2.4% were Mixed.
  • 0.1% were Arab and 0.2% were from another ethnic group.

In terms of religion, 62% of Rugby residents identified as Christian, 25.6% said they had no religion, 6.7% did not state any religion, 2.6% were Hindu, 1.6% were Muslim, 0.7% were Sikh, 0.3% were Buddhists, 0.1% were Jewish and 0.3% were from another religion.



State schools
  • Abbots Farm Junior School
  • Abbots Farm Infant School
  • Bawnmore Infant School
  • Bilton Infant School
  • Bilton CE Junior School
  • Boughton Leigh Infant
  • Boughton Leigh Junior
  • Brownsover Community Infant School
  • Cawston Grange Primary School
  • Clifton-upon-Dunsmore Primary School
  • Eastlands Primary School
  • English Martyrs Catholic Primary School
  • Henry Hinde Infant School
  • Henry Hinde Junior School
  • Hillmorton Primary School
  • Northlands Primary School
  • Oakfield Primary Academy
  • Paddox Primary School
  • Riverside Academy
  • Rokeby Infant School
  • Rokeby Junior School
  • Rugby Free Primary School
  • St Andrew's Benn CE Primary School
  • St Gabriels's CofE Academy
  • St Maries RC Infant School
  • St Maries RC Junior School
  • St Matthews Bloxham CE Primary School
  • Crescent School


Comprehensive Schools
  • Ashlawn School
  • Avon Valley School
  • Bilton School
  • Harris Church of England Academy
  • Rugby Free Secondary School
Grammar schools
  • Lawrence Sheriff School (for boys)
  • Rugby High School for Girls
  • Ashlawn School – Partially Selective
Independent schools

Further education

  • Rugby College – which is a part of the Warwickshire College Group.
  • Percival Guildhouse - Independent adult education charity.

Former schools and colleges

  • Bishop Wulstan School
  • Hillbrow School
  • William Temple College (1954–71): an Anglican theological college.

Notable residents

Born in Rugby

  • Chris Adams (1955–2001), wrestler
  • Neil Adams (born 1958), judoka
  • Melanie Astles, (born 1982) French aerobatic champion
  • David Barby (1943–2012), antiques expert
  • Ian Bell (born 1982), cricketer
  • Laura Bettinson (born 1987), singer-songwriter
  • Andrew Bloxam (1801–1878), clergyman and naturalist
  • Matthew Bloxam (1805–1888), antiquarian and archaeologist
  • Arthur Bostrom (born 1955), actor, best known for his role as Officer Crabtree in the BBC TV sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!
  • Rupert Brooke (1887–1915), poet
  • Richard Cockerill (born 1970), rugby union coach and former player
  • Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw (born 1983), comedic writer
  • Jim Dewes (born 1957), cricketer
  • Walter Gilbert (1871–1946), sculptor
  • Herbert Haddock (1861–1946), ship captain, the first person to captain Titanic
  • Michael John Harrison (born 1945), writer
  • Peter Kember (born 1965), musician (Spacemen 3, Spectrum)
  • Richard Lindon (1816–1887), leatherworker, inventor
  • Norman Lockyer (1836–1920), scientist, discovered the gas helium
  • Rose Macaulay (1881–1958), writer
  • Katharine Merry (born 1974), former sprinter
  • James Morrison (born 1984), singer-songwriter
  • James Petiver (1665–1718), botanist
  • Jason Pierce (born 1965), musician (Spiritualized, Spacemen 3)
  • Tim Pigott-Smith (1946–2017), actor
  • Marjorie Pollard (1899–1982), field hockey and cricket player, film maker and writer, and the first woman to commentate on sport for the BBC
  • Carole Quinton (born 1936) former track and field athlete
  • Peter Rogers (1947-2020), businessman
  • Sam Ruddock (born 1990), track and field athlete
  • Lawrence Sheriff (c. 1510–1567), grocer, philanthropist
  • Barbara Stocking (born 1951), public servant
  • Lauren Taylor (born 1994), golfer
  • Chris Wakelin (born 1992), snooker player
  • Peter Whalley (1722–1791), clergyman, academic and schoolmaster
  • Mona Wilson (1872–1954), civil servant and author
  • Arnold Wolfendale (1927–2020), Astronomer Royal
  • Albert Wratislaw (1822–1892), clergyman and scholar

Lived or lives in Rugby

  • Joseph Addison (1672-1719), writer and politician
  • Matthew Arnold (1822–1888), poet
  • Thomas Arnold (1795–1842), educator
  • Emily Burns (born 1994), singer-songwriter
  • Lewis Carroll (1832–1898), writer
  • Neville Chamberlain (1869–1940), politician
  • Paul Dirac (1902-1984), physicist
  • William Webb Ellis (1806–1872), clergyman, claimed inventor of rugby football
  • Reginald Foort (1893–1980), organist
  • Dennis Gabor (1900–1979), physicist
  • Thomas Hughes (1822–1896), writer
  • Billy J. Kramer (born 1943), singer
  • Unity Mitford (1914–1948), socialite
  • John Moultrie (1799–1874), clergyman and poet
  • Kevin Painter (born 1967), darts player
  • Peter Purves (born 1939), television presenter
  • Salman Rushdie (born 1947), novelist
  • Judy Simpson (born 1960), athlete
  • Lesley Souter (1917– 1981) first female electrical engineering student at the University of Glasgow
  • Franco Wanyama (1968–2019), boxer
  • Frank Whittle (1907–1996), inventor
  • Clem Wilson (1875–1944), cricketer
  • Johnny Williams (1926–2007), boxer, one time both the British and Empire heavyweight champion
  • Richard Henry Wood (1820–1908), antiquary and philanthropist

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