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Rugby School
Latin: Orando Laborando
(by praying, by working)
Lawrence Sheriff Street
Rugby, Warwickshire, CV22 5EH, England
Coordinates 52°22′03″N 1°15′40″W / 52.3675°N 1.2611°W / 52.3675; -1.2611
Type Public school
day and boarding school
Co-educational school
Religious affiliation(s) Church of England
Established 1567; 455 years ago (1567)
Founder Lawrence Sheriff
Gender Co-educational
Age 13 to 18
Enrolment 810
Houses 16
Colour(s) Oxford blue, Cambridge blue, and green
Former pupils Old Rugbeians
School song Floreat Rugbeia

Rugby School is an English independent boarding school for pupils aged 13–18 in Rugby, Warwickshire, England.

Founded in 1567 as a free grammar school for local boys, it is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain. Up to 1667, the school remained in comparative obscurity. Its re-establishment by Thomas Arnold during his time as Headmaster, from 1828 to 1841, was seen as the forerunner of the Victorian public school. It is one of the nine public schools considered by the Clarendon Commission of 1864 and subsequently subject to the Public Schools Act 1868.

The school's alumni – or "Old Rugbeians" – include a UK Prime Minister, several bishops, prominent poets, scientists, writers and soldiers.

Rugby School is the birthplace of Rugby football.

Rugby football

WWEplaque 700
William Webb Ellis plaque
Webb Ellis at Rugby, 1823

The game of Rugby football owes its name to the school.

The legend of William Webb Ellis and the origin of the game is commemorated by a plaque. The story that Webb Ellis was the first to pick up a football and run with it, and thus invented a new sport, has been known to be a myth since it was investigated by the Old Rugbeian Society in 1895.

There were no standard rules for football in Webb Ellis's time at Rugby (1816–1825) and most varieties involved carrying the ball. The games played at Rugby were organised by the pupils and not the masters, the rules being a matter of custom and not written down. They were frequently changed and modified with each new intake of students.

The sole source of the story is Matthew Bloxam, a former pupil but not a contemporary of Webb Ellis. In October 1876, four years after the death of Webb Ellis, in a letter to the school newspaper The Meteor he quotes an unknown friend relating the story to him. He elaborated on the story four years later in another letter to The Meteor, but shed no further light on its source. Richard Lindon, a boot and shoemaker who had premises across the street from the School's main entrance in Lawrence Sheriff Street, is credited with the invention of the "oval" rugby ball, the rubber inflatable bladder and the brass hand pump.

Rugby Fives

Rugby Fives
Rugby Fives

Rugby Fives is a handball game, similar to squash, played in an enclosed court. It has similarities with Winchester Fives (a form of Wessex Fives) and Eton Fives.

It is most commonly believed to be derived from Wessex Fives, a game played by Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby, who had played Wessex Fives when a boy at Lord Weymouth's Grammar, now Warminster School. The open court of Wessex Fives, built in 1787, is still in existence at Warminster School although it has fallen out of regular use.

Rugby Fives is played between two players (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles), the aim being to hit the ball above a 'bar' across the front wall in such a way that the opposition cannot return it before a second bounce. The ball is slightly larger than a golf ball, leather-coated and hard. Players wear leather padded gloves on both hands, with which they hit the ball.

Rugby Fives continues to have a good following with tournaments being run nationwide, presided over by the Rugby Fives Association.


Rugby - Rugby School - - 158546
A view of the cricket ground at Rugby School

The school has produced a number of cricketers who have gone onto play Test and first-class cricket. The school has played host to two major matches, the first of which was a Twenty20 match between Warwickshire and Glamorgan in the 2013 Friends Life t20. The second match was a List-A one-day match between Warwickshire and Sussex in the 2015 Royal London One-Day Cup, though it was due to host a match in the 2014 comptition, however this was abandoned. In the 2015 match, William Porterfield scored a century, with a score of exactly 100.


Rugby School has both day and boarding-pupils, the latter in the majority. Originally it was for boys only, but girls have been admitted to the sixth form since 1975. It went fully co-educational in 1992. The school community is divided into houses.

House Founded Girls/Boys
Cotton 1836 Boys
Kilbracken 1841 Boys
Michell 1882 Boys
School Field 1852 Boys
School House 1750 Boys
Sheriff 1930 Boys
Town House 1567 Boys (Day)
Whitelaw 1936 Boys
Bradley 1830 (1992) Girls
Dean 1832 (1978) Girls
Griffin 2003 Girls
Rupert Brooke 1860 (1988) Girls
Southfield 1993 Girls (Day)
Stanley 1828 (1992) Girls
Tudor 1893 (2002) Girls
  • Numbers in brackets indicate date of conversion to a Girls' house where applicable

Academic life

Pupils beginning Rugby in the F Block (first year) study various subjects. In a pupil's second year (E block), they do nine subjects which are for their GCSEs, this is the same for the D Block (GCSE year). The school then provides standard A-levels in 29 subjects. Students at this stage have the choice of taking three or four subjects and are also offered the opportunity to take an extended project. Oxbridge acceptance percentage in 2007 was 10.4%


The Governing Body provides financial benefits with school fees to families unable to afford them. Parents of pupils who are given a Scholarship are capable of obtaining a 10% fee deduction, although more than one scholarship can be awarded to one student.


  • Boarder fees per term: 12,266 (GBP)
  • Day pupil fees per term: 7,696 (GBP)


Rugby school
Rugby School from the side

There have been a number of notable Old Rugbeians including the purported father of the sport of Rugby William Webb Ellis, the inventor of Australian rules football Tom Wills, the war poets Rupert Brooke and John Gillespie Magee, Jr., Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, author and mathematician Lewis Carroll, poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold, the author and social critic Salman Rushdie (who said of his time there: "Almost the only thing I am proud of about going to Rugby school was that Lewis Carroll went there too.") and the Irish writer and republican Francis Stuart. The Indian concert pianist, music composer and singer Adnan Sami also studied at Rugby School. Matthew Arnold's father Thomas Arnold, was a headmaster of the school. Philip Henry Bahr (later Sir Philip Henry Manson-Bahr), a zoologist and medical doctor, World War I veteran, was President of both Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and Medical Society of London, and Vice-President of the British Ornithologists’ Union. Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly joined the army in 1915, straight after leaving the school, earned a Military Cross during the First World War, and later returned to the school as Director of Art.

See also Category:People educated at Rugby School

Rugbeian Society

The Rugbeian Society is for former pupils at the School. An Old Rugbeian is sometimes referred to as an OR.

The purposes of the society are to encourage and help Rugbeians in interacting with each other and to strengthen the ties between ORs and the school.

In 2010 the Rugbeians reached the semi-finals of the Public Schools' Old Boys' Sevens tournament, hosted by the Old Silhillians to celebrate the 450th anniversary of fellow Warwickshire public school, Solihull School.

Head Masters

  • Richard Seele – 1600
  • Nicolas Greenhill – 1602
  • Augustus Rolfe – 1606
  • Wiligent Greene – to 1642
  • Raphael Pearce – 1642 to 1651
  • Peter Whitehead
  • John Allen – to 1669
  • Knightley Harrison – 1669 to 1674
  • Robert Aahbridge – 1674 to 1681
  • Leonard Jeacocks – 1681 to 1687
  • Henry Holyoake – 1687 to 1730
  • John Plomer – 1731 to 1742
  • Thomas Crossfield – 1742 to 1744
  • William Knail – 1744 to 1751
  • John Richmond – 1751 to 1755
  • Stanley Burrough – 1755 to 1778
  • Thomas James – 1778 to 1794
  • Henry Ingles – 1794 to 1806
  • John Wooll – 1806 to 1827
  • Dr Thomas Arnold – 1828 to 1842
  • Archibald Campbell Tait – 1842 to 1848
  • Dr Meyrick Goulburn – 1849 to 1857
  • Frederick Temple1858 to 1869
  • Henry Hayman DD – 1870 to 1874
  • Thomas William Jex-Blake, DD, 1874 to 1887
  • John Percival, DD, – 1887 to 1895
  • Herbert Armitage James, DD – 1895 to 1910
  • Albert Augustus David – 1910 to 1921
  • William Wyamar Vaughan – 1921 to 1931
  • Percy Hugh Beverley Lyon1931 to 1948
  • Sir Arthur Frederic Brownlow fforde – 1948 to 1957
  • Walter Hamilton – 1957 to 1966
  • James Woodhouse – 1967 to 1980
  • Brian Rees −1980 to 1985
  • Richard Bull – 1985 to 1990
  • Michael Mavor – 1990 to 2001
  • Patrick Derham – 2001 to 2014
  • Peter Green 2014 – 2020

Peter Green (Executive Head Master )2020-

  • Gareth Parker Jones (Head) 2020 -

Dr Thomas Arnold

Rugby School - ex libris
Ex libris from Rugby School. From BEIC

Rugby's most famous headmaster was Dr Thomas Arnold, appointed in 1828; he executed many reforms to the school curriculum and administration. Arnold's and the school's reputations were immortalised through Thomas Hughes' book Tom Brown's School Days.

David Newsome writes about the new educational methods employed by Arnold in his book, 'Godliness and Good Learning' (Cassell 1961). He calls the morality practised at Arnold's school muscular Christianity. Arnold had three principles: religious and moral principle, gentlemanly conduct and academic performance. Dr George Mosse, former professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, lectured on Arnold's time at Rugby. According to Mosse, Thomas Arnold created an institution which fused religious and moral principles, gentlemanly conduct, and learning based on self-discipline. These morals were socially enforced through the "Gospel of work." The object of education was to produce "the Christian gentleman," a man with good outward appearance, playful but earnest, industrious, manly, honest, virginal pure, innocent, and responsible.

John Percival

In 1888 the appointment of Marie Bethell Beauclerc by Percival was the first appointment of a female teacher in an English boys' public school and the first time shorthand had been taught in any such school. The shorthand course was popular with one hundred boys in the classes.

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