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Rugby School

Rugby School
Motto Orando Laborando
(Latin: "By praying, by working")
Established 1567
Type Independent day and boarding
Public school
Religion Church of England
Headmaster Peter Green
Founder Lawrence Sheriff
Location Lawrence Sheriff Street
CV22 5EH
DfE URN 125777 Tables
Students 810
Gender Co-educational
Ages 11–18
Houses 16

Oxford blue, Cambridge blue, and Green

Former Pupils Old Rugbeians
School Song Floreat Rugbeia
Website .net.rugbyschoolwww

Rugby School is a co-educational day and boarding school located in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England. Rugby School is a registered charity[1] and is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.[2] The influence of Rugby and its pupils and masters in the nineteenth century was enormous and in many ways the stereotype of the English public school is a reworking of Thomas Arnold's Rugby. It is one of the original nine English public schools defined by the Public Schools Act 1868, It is one of the best-known and most expensive schools in the country. "Floreat Rugbeia" is the traditional school song.


  • History 1
    • Early challenges 1.1
    • Growth 1.2
    • Cartel 1.3
  • Today 2
  • Headmasters 3
    • Thomas Arnold 3.1
    • John Percival 3.2
  • William Webb Ellis 4
  • Houses 5
  • Information 6
  • Alumni 7
  • Rugbeian Society 8
  • Rugby Fives 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


Rugby School from The Close, the playing field where according to legend the game of rugby was invented

Early challenges

The logo of Rugby School in an ex libris

Rugby School was founded in 1567 as a provision in the will of Lawrence Sheriff, who had made his fortune supplying groceries to Queen Elizabeth I of England.[3] Since Lawrence Sheriff lived in Rugby and the neighbouring Brownsover, the school was intended to be a free grammar school for the boys of those towns. Up to 1667, the school remained in comparative obscurity. Its history during that trying period is characterised mainly by a series of lawsuits between descendants of the founder, who tried to defeat the intentions of the testator, and the masters and trustees, who tried to carry them out. A final decision was handed down in 1667, confirming the findings of a commission in favour of the trust, and henceforth the school maintained a steady growth.[4]


It was no longer desirable to have only local boys attending and the nature of the school shifted, and so a new school – Lawrence Sheriff Grammar School – was founded in 1878 to continue Lawrence Sheriff's original intentions; that school receives a substantial proportion of the endowment income from Lawrence Sheriff's estate every year.

The core of the school (which contains School House, featured in Thomas Hughes (like his fictional hero, Tom Brown) once carved his name onto the hands of the school clock, situated on a tower above the Old Quad. The polychromatic school chapel, new quadrangle, Temple Reading Room, Macready Theatre and Gymnasium were designed by the well-known Victorian Gothic revival architect William Butterfield in 1875, and the smaller Memorial Chapel was dedicated in 1922.


In 2005, Rugby School was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents.[5] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.[6] However, Mrs Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT director-general, saying, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."[7]


Rugby School continues to offer scholarship places for outstanding students from the local community, who come from state (maintained) primary schools in the immediate vicinity of Rugby.[8] The school's new Arnold Foundation has been established to enable it to offer similar support to children from outside the Rugby area.


  • 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 Holyoake1687 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

Thomas Arnold

Rugby's most famous headmaster was Thomas Arnold, appointed in 1828, he executed many reforms to the school curriculum and administration. Arnold's reputation and the school's reputation was 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

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.

William Webb Ellis

William Webb Ellis plaque
Webb-Ellis at Rugby, 1823

The game of 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) wherein he quotes some unknown friend relating the story to him. He elaborated on the story some three years later in another letter to The Meteor, but shed no further light on its source. Richard Lindon is credited for the invention of the "oval" rugby ball, the rubber inflatable bladder and the brass hand pump.[11] Lindon, a Boot and Shoemaker, had premises immediately across the street from the School's main entrance in Lawrence Sheriff Street. No doubt the boys of Rugby School had significant input into their required design.


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 1995.

The school community is divided into houses:

Junior School:

  • Marshall House (Day House. Pupils leave Marshall House at age 13 to join one of the other houses, usually Town for boys and Southfield for girls)


Rugby School from the side
  • Age range: 11 – 18
  • Day pupils: 77 boys, 64 girls
  • Annual day fees: £19,605; Juniors £11,550 (numerous scholarships and bursaries available)
  • Full boarding pupils: 369 boys, 296 girls
  • Annual full boarding fees: £31,245
  • Total pupils: 446 boys, 360 girls
  • Including 6th form/FE: 194 boys, 168 girls
  • Staff numbers: 100 full-time – 9 part-time
  • Method of entry: Common Entrance, Interview, Scholarship or bursary exam
  • Professional affiliations: HMC
  • Religious affiliation: Church of England[12]


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."[13]) and the Irish writer and republican Francis Stuart. Matthew Arnold's father Thomas Arnold, was a headmaster of the school. An OR seven-a-side rugby team was invited to compete in the inaugural Old Boys Sevens tournament in June 2010, hosted by the Old Silhillians, the former pupils' association of Solihull 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.[14][15]

Rugbeian Society

The Rugbeian Society is for former pupils at the School.[16] 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.

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 Grammer, 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.[17]

See also


  1. ^ "Charity Commission – Rugby School". Charity Commission. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  2. ^ List of Schools on
  3. ^ Rugby by Henry Christopher Bradby
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees
  6. ^ Article at UK Office of Fair Trade
  7. ^ "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph (London). 1 March 2004. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  8. ^ "Scholarships" Rugby School web site
  9. ^ a b c d e f John Barclay Hope Simpson, Rugby Since Arnold: A History of Rugby School from 1842, Published by Macmillan, 1967
  10. ^ a b c Rugby School – History and Traditions
  11. ^ Richard Lindon web site
  12. ^ Good Schools Guide
  13. ^ Salman Rushdie: The Arab spring is a demand for desires and rights that are common to all human beings, Telegraph
  14. ^ "Sir Philip Henry Manson-Bahr". Lives of the fellows : Munk's Roll : Volume VI. Royal College of Physicians of London. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "Obituary Notices: Sir Philip Manson-Bahr, C.M.G., D.S.O., M.A., M.D., F.R.C.P., D.T.M.&H.". British Medical Journal 2 (5525): 1332–1334. 1966.  
  16. ^ Rugbeians On-line
  17. ^ Ruby Fives Association

External links

  • Rugby School official website
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