Rugby School

Rugby School, located in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, is a co-educational boarding school and one of the oldest public schools in England.

The Good Schools Guide called it one of the "number one choice among all the co-ed boarding schools.


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. It is one of the nine English public schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868.

Since Lawrence Sheriff lived in Rugby, the school was intended to be a free grammar school for the boys of that town. Gradually, however, the nature of the school shifted to become fee-paying, and so a new school – Lawrence Sheriff Grammar School – was founded to continue Lawrence Sheriff's original intentions; that school receives a substantial proportion of the endowment income from Lawrence Sheriff's estate every year. In addition, Rugby School continues to offer a large number of scholarship places for outstanding students from the local community, who come from state (maintained) primary schools in the immediate vicinity of Rugby. The school's new Arnold Foundation has been established to enable it to offer similar support to children from outside the Rugby area. The core of the school (which contains School House, featured in Tom Brown's Schooldays) was completed in 1815 and is built around the Old Quad (quadrangle), with its fine and graceful Georgian architecture. Especially notable rooms are the Upper Bench (an intimate space with a book-lined gallery), the Old Hall of School House, and the Old Big School (which makes up one side of the quadrangle, and was once the location for teaching all junior pupils). 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 polychrome school chapel and new quadrangle were designed by the well-known Victorian Gothic revival architect William Butterfield in 1875, and the smaller Memorial Chapel was dedicated in 1922. Lord Peter Wimsey, the private investigator created by Dorothy L. Sayers, rather unkindly referred to the school as little more than a railway junction (see David Cannadine (1994) Aspects of Aristocracy).

Thomas Arnold

The school's most famous headmaster was Dr. Thomas Arnold. Appointed in 1828 he executed many reforms to the school curriculum and administration and was immortalised in Thomas Hughes' book Tom Brown's School Days. It was Arnold's reforms, with their emphasis on sport, 'fair play' and the system of allocating responsibility to boys, that led the British Public School system towards the 'Muscular Christianity' ethos which drove the British Imperial expansion.

William Webb Ellis

The game of Rugby 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 has been known to be a myth since it was first investigated by the Old Rugbeian Society (renamed the Rugbeian Society) in 1895. There were no standard rules for football during Webb Ellis's time at Rugby (1816–1825) and most varieties involved carrying the ball. The games played at Rugby were organized by the students and not the masters, the rules of the game played at Rugby and elsewhere were a matter of custom and were not written down. They were frequently changed and modified with each new intake of students. The sole source of the story is credited to one Matthew Bloxam (a former student, 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) whereby 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. a Boot and Shoemaker had premises immediately across the street from Rugby Schools main entrance in Lawrence Sheriff Street. No doubt the boys of Rugby School had significant input into their required design.

It is also fair to say that cross country running began at Rugby School. The Crick Run was the first such event of its type in the world, and is still a major annual event in the School's calendar.


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: Boys:

  • Cotton House
  • Kilbracken
  • Michell House
  • School Field
  • School House
  • Sheriff House
  • Town House (Day House)
  • Whitelaw House


  • Bradley House (ex boys' house)
  • Dean House
  • Griffin House
  • Rupert Brooke House
  • Southfield House (Day House)
  • Stanley House (ex boys' house: 6th form)
  • Tudor House (ex boys' house)

Junior School:

  • Marshall House


  • Age range: 11 - 18
  • Day pupils: 77 boys, 64 girls
  • Annual day fees: £15,120 - £15,120
  • Full boarding pupils: 369 boys, 296 girls
  • Annual full boarding fees: £23,835 - £23,835
  • 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


There have been a number of notable Old Rugbeians including the purported father of the sport of Rugby William Webb Ellis, 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, the Irish writer and republican Francis Stuart and the well known songwriter, Luke Howard. Matthew Arnold's father Thomas Arnold, was a headmaster of the school.

The 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.

Rugby School slang

In common with most English public schools, Rugby has its own argot, a few words of which are listed below. Also, the Oxford "-er" abbreviation (e.g. Johnners, rugger, footer etc), prevalent at Oxford University from about 1875, is thought to have been borrowed from the slang of Rugby School.

  • Bags: Sporting colours (particularly 'The Holder of Bigside Bags', the Captain of the Running Eight)
  • Beak: Teacher
  • Bodger: The current headmaster (After Dr. H. A. James - former headmaster (1895-1909). He gained this nickname whilst headmaster at Rossall School.)
  • Boomer: Chapel Bell (not actually functional, on the premise the tower may collapse)
  • Bug: Library
  • Copy: Award for exceptional work
  • Dics: House prayers or talks on useful information
  • Distinction: Award for slightly less exceptional work than a Copy
  • F-Block: Year 9
  • E-Block: Year 10
  • D-Block: Year 11
  • Levee or Pig: School prefect
  • Hall: The table below that of the Sixth. Members of Hall have or had certain privileges, such as that of carrying an umbrella, or making toast.
  • New Turf: Hockey Astro Pitches
  • Old Guard: Sports team of teachers
  • *
  • Pig Hut run: Physical punishment of running to Levee hut
  • Pontines: 2nd XV rugby pitch
  • Prep: Homework
  • Stig (pronounced sch-tig): deregatory slang for local resident, normally wearing sports clothing and/or a baseball cap. From the novel "Stig of the dump".
  • Sixth: House prefect
  • Speckle: To sack someone from being a House Sixth (the Sixth tie is speckled)
  • Stodge: School tuck shop
  • Stripe: To sack someone from being a Levee (the Levee tie is striped)
  • Tanner: Day-boy (from 'Town House')
  • Tick: The compulsory salutation of a Beak in the street, by lifting an index finger to shoulder level
  • Topos: Lavatory (from Greek τόπος, meaning 'a place')
  • Tosh: The old 66 2/3 yard open-air swimming pool, also used as a skating rink in winter, demolished by the School Governors in 1989 and replaced with a basket-ball court and a smaller indoor swimming pool. In some houses a name given to a large communal shower room. Also, a bath (sb.) or to take a bath
  • Wagger: Waste paper basket (abbreviation of "wagger pagger bagger" - see Oxford "-er")
  • XV (the fifteen): First school Rugby team
  • XXII (the twenty-two): Second school cricket team
  • Lacque (pronounced 'Lake'): Room for the sixth in Sheriff House


See also

External links

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