Rugby School
Rugby School is a co-educational day and boarding school located in the town of Rugby
Rugby, Warwickshire
Rugby is a market town in Warwickshire, England, located on the River Avon. The town has a population of 61,988 making it the second largest town in the county...

, Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

, England. It is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.


Rugby School was founded in 1567 as a provision in the will of Lawrence Sheriff
Lawrence Sheriff
Lawrence Sheriff was an Elizabethan gentleman and grocer to Elizabeth I who founded Rugby School.Not much is known about Lawrence Sheriff's early life, but it thought that he was born near St. Andrew's Church in Rugby, Warwickshire...

, who had made his fortune supplying groceries to Queen Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

. 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 Arnold's Rugby. It is one of the best known schools in the country and seen as an innovator in education (e.g. see its part in developing the Cambridge Pre-U
Cambridge Pre-U
Cambridge Pre-U is a new UK qualification from University of Cambridge International Examinations that is an alternative to the current A Level qualification, which is considered by some to have become devalued...


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. Gradually, however, as Rugby's fame spread 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
Lawrence Sheriff School
Lawrence Sheriff School is a selective boys' grammar school in Rugby in Warwickshire. The school is named after Lawrence Sheriff, the Elizabethan man who founded Rugby School. The school's name is often shortened to 'LSS', or often just 'Sheriff' by boys at the school. In a recent OFSTED ...

 – 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.

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. 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
Tom Brown's Schooldays
Tom Brown's Schooldays is a novel by Thomas Hughes. The story is set at Rugby School, a public school for boys, in the 1830s; Hughes attended Rugby School from 1834 to 1842...

) 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
Thomas Hughes
Thomas Hughes was an English lawyer and author. He is most famous for his novel Tom Brown's Schooldays , a semi-autobiographical work set at Rugby School, which Hughes had attended. It had a lesser-known sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford .- Biography :Hughes was the second son of John Hughes, editor of...

 (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
Victorian architecture
The term Victorian architecture refers collectively to several architectural styles employed predominantly during the middle and late 19th century. The period that it indicates may slightly overlap the actual reign, 20 June 1837 – 22 January 1901, of Queen Victoria. This represents the British and...

 Gothic revival architect William Butterfield
William Butterfield
William Butterfield was a Gothic Revival architect and associated with the Oxford Movement . He is noted for his use of polychromy-Biography:...

 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. 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. 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."


Thomas Arnold

The school's most notable headmaster was Thomas Arnold. Appointed in 1828 he executed many reforms to the school curriculum and administration and was immortalised in Thomas Hughes'
Thomas Hughes
Thomas Hughes was an English lawyer and author. He is most famous for his novel Tom Brown's Schooldays , a semi-autobiographical work set at Rugby School, which Hughes had attended. It had a lesser-known sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford .- Biography :Hughes was the second son of John Hughes, editor of...

 book Tom Brown's School Days. However, it is wrong to associate Arnold too closely with the image of him presented in that book. In his authoritative 'Godliness and Good Learning' (Cassell 1961), D.H. Newsome points out that muscular Christianity
Muscular Christianity
Muscular Christianity is a term for a movement originating during the Victorian era which stressed the need for energetic Christian activism in combination with an ideal of vigorous masculinity...

 developed after Arnold's time at Rugby and that "although 'Tom Brown's School Days' is one of the earliest examples of the delight in athleticism, the ideal there expressed is not that of Arnold but of Thomas Hughes [the author]" (page 80).

John Percival

In 1888 the appointment of Marie Bethell Beauclerc
Marie Bethell Beauclerc
Marie Bethell Beauclerc was a pioneer in the teaching of Pitman's shorthand and typing in Birmingham, England. In 1888 she was the first woman to be appointed as a teacher in an English boys' public school. The school was Rugby...

 by Percival was the first appointment of a female teacher in an English boys' public school and the first time shorthand
Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed or brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos and graphē or graphie...

 had been taught in any such school. The shorthand course was popular with one hundred boys in the classes.

William Webb Ellis

The game of Rugby
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

 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
Football (soccer)
Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball...

 during 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 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
Matthew Bloxam
Matthew Holbeche Bloxam , a native of Rugby, Warwickshire, England, was an amateur archeologist and Warwickshire antiquary. He was the original source of the legend of William Webb Ellis inventing the game of Rugby football....

 (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
Richard Lindon
Richard Lindon was an English leatherworker who was instrumental in the development of the modern-day rugby ball by advancing the craft for ball, rubber bladder, and air pump.- Life and career :...

 is credited for the invention of the "oval" rugby ball, the rubber inflatable bladder and the brass hand pump. 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.

It is also fair to say that cross country running
Cross country running
Cross country running is a sport in which people run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain. The course, typically long, may include surfaces of grass and earth, pass through woodlands and open country, and include hills, flat ground and sometimes gravel road...

 may have begun at Rugby School. The Big-Side Runs were one of the first such events of their type in public schools and were started in 1837. The Crick Run was started in 1838 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
Sixth form
In the education systems of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and of Commonwealth West Indian countries such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Jamaica and Malta, the sixth form is the final two years of secondary education, where students, usually sixteen to eighteen years of age,...

 since 1975. It went fully co-educational in 1995.

The school community is divided into houses
House system
The house system is a traditional feature of British schools, and schools in the Commonwealth. Historically, it was associated with established public schools, where a 'house' refers to a boarding house or dormitory of a boarding school...

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


  • Age range: 11 - 18
  • Day pupils: 77 boys, 64 girls
  • Annual day fees: £17,475 - £22,815; Juniors £10,299 (numerous scholarships and bursaries available)
  • Full boarding pupils: 369 boys, 296 girls
  • Annual full boarding fees: £28,050
  • 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
    Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference
    The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference is an association of the headmasters or headmistressess of 243 leading day and boarding independent schools in the United Kingdom, Crown Dependencies and the Republic of Ireland...

  • Religious affiliation: Church of England
    Church of England
    The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...


There have been a number of notable Old Rugbeians including the purported father of the sport of Rugby William Webb Ellis
William Webb Ellis
Rev. William Webb Ellis was an Anglican clergyman who is famous for allegedly being the inventor of Rugby football whilst a pupil at Rugby School....

, the inventor of Australian rules football
Australian rules football
Australian rules football, officially known as Australian football, also called football, Aussie rules or footy is a sport played between two teams of 22 players on either...

 Tom Wills
Tom Wills
Thomas Wentworth "Tom" Wills was an Australian all-round sportsman, umpire, coach and administrator who is credited with being a catalyst towards the invention of Australian rules football....

, the war poets Rupert Brooke
Rupert Brooke
Rupert Chawner Brooke was an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War, especially The Soldier...

 and John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was an American aviator and poet who died as a result of a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire during World War II. He was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States officially entered the war. He is most famous for his poem "High...

, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

, author and mathematician Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson , better known by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll , was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well as the poems "The Hunting of the...

, poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold was a British poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. He was the son of Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, and brother to both Tom Arnold, literary professor, and William Delafield Arnold, novelist and colonial administrator...

, 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
Francis Stuart
Henry Francis Montgomery Stuart was an Irish writer. His novels have been described as having a thrusting modernist iconoclasm. Awarded the highest artistic accolade in Ireland before his death in 2000, his unwillingness to take a clear moral stance with regard to his years spent in Nazi...

. Matthew Arnold's father Thomas Arnold
Thomas Arnold
Dr Thomas Arnold was a British educator and historian. Arnold was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement...

, 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
Solihull School
Solihull School is a British Independent school situated near the centre of Solihull, West Midlands, England.2010 saw Solihull School celebrate its 450th anniversary since its foundation in 1560....


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
Solihull School
Solihull School is a British Independent school situated near the centre of Solihull, West Midlands, England.2010 saw Solihull School celebrate its 450th anniversary since its foundation in 1560....


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 and Eton Fives....

 is a handball
Gaelic handball
Gaelic handball is a sport similar to Basque pelota, racquetball, squash and American handball . It is one of the four Gaelic games organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association...

A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements...

, similar to squash
Squash (sport)
Squash is a high-speed racquet sport played by two players in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball...

, played in an enclosed court. It has similarities with Winchester Fives (a form of Wessex Fives) and Eton Fives
Eton Fives
Eton Fives, one derivative of the British game of Fives, is a hand-ball game, similar to Rugby Fives, played as doubles in a three-sided court. The object is to force the other team to fail to hit the ball 'up' off the front wall, using any variety of wall or ledge combinations as long as the ball...


It is most commonly believed to be derived from Wessex Fives, a game played by Thomas Arnold
Thomas Arnold
Dr Thomas Arnold was a British educator and historian. Arnold was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement...

, Headmaster of Rugby, who had played Wessex Fives when a boy at Lord Weymouth's Grammer, now Warminster School
Warminster School
Warminster School, originally called Lord Weymouth's Grammar School, is a co-educational independent day and boarding school at Warminster, Wiltshire, for students aged three to eighteen...

. The open court of Wessex Fives, built in 1787, is still in existence at Warminster School
Warminster School
Warminster School, originally called Lord Weymouth's Grammar School, is a co-educational independent day and boarding school at Warminster, Wiltshire, for students aged three to eighteen...

 although it has fallen out of regular use.

Rugby Fives
Rugby Fives
Rugby Fives is a handball game, similar to squash, played in an enclosed court. It has similarities with Winchester Fives and Eton 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
Golf is a precision club and ball sport, in which competing players use many types of clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a golf course using the fewest number of strokes....

, leather-coated and hard. Players wear leather padded gloves on both hands, with which they hit the ball.

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

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

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. However, much of the slang below is now obsolete as marked.
  • Bags: Sporting colours (particularly 'The Holder of Bigside Bags', the Captain of the Running Eight)
  • Beaks: Teachers (obsolete: current pre-1970)
  • Bodger: The current headmaster (After Dr. H. A. James
    Herbert Armitage James
    Herbert Armitage James, C.H. was a Welsh cleric and headmaster of three leading public schools, who ended his "remarkable scholastic career", as it was later described by Austen Chamberlain, by becoming President of St John's College, Oxford...

     - former headmaster (1895–1909). He gained this nickname while headmaster at Rossall School
    Rossall School
    Rossall School is a British, co-educational, independent school, between Cleveleys and Fleetwood, Lancashire. Rossall was founded in 1844 by St. Vincent Beechey as a sister school to Marlborough College which had been founded the previous year...

    .) (obsolete - current in 1970s and earlier)
  • Boomer: Chapel Bell (not actually functional, on the premise the tower may collapse)
  • Bosh: A traditional game of soccer between School House and School Field on the Close annually
  • Bug: Library (obsolete: current pre-1970). The main library is the Temple Reading Room (TRR)
  • Close: Rugby and cricket pitches outside School House. Also serves as a form of punishment in School House, where the offender walks around the Close early in the morning.
  • Cock House: winner of the inter house rugby competition
  • Copy: Award for exceptional work
  • Credit: Award that is just below a distinction
  • Crick Run: annual long distance run from Crick to Rugby
  • Defaulter : half an hour of manual labour, that could be imposed as a punishment by a sixth
  • Dics: House prayers or talks on useful information (obsolete - current in 1960s and earlier)
  • Distinction: Award for slightly less exceptional work than a Copy
  • D-Block: Year 11
  • E-Block: Year 10
  • F-Block: Year 9
  • Far Polo: the most distant rugby pitches, only occasionally used, located on farmland more usually used for grazing sheep.
  • Gation: Second to worst form of punishment in the form of boarding house arrest with staff or Levee signatures required on the hour.
  • Ground Work: 2 hours of manual labour, imposed as a punishment
  • G-Block: Years 7 and 8
  • Imposition: Lowest form of punishment
  • Job: 1 hour of manual labour, imposed as a punishment
  • Lacque : Room for the sixth in Sheriff House
  • Levee: School prefect
  • LXX: (Known as Lower Twenty) Year 12
  • 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 (obsolete: current pre-1970 )
  • The Marshall: A figure who makes sure everything is as it should be
  • New Turf and Old Turf: Hockey Astro Pitches
  • New Quad and Old Quad: The two areas around OBS
  • Old Guard: Sports team of teachers
  • OBS: Old Big School
  • OR: Old Rugbeian
  • Pig Hut run: Physical punishment of running to Levee hut (obsolete)
  • Pontines: 2nd XV rugby pitch
  • The Porridge: The gravel area outside the Chapel
  • Rustication: Highest form of punishment before expulsion. Sent home or occasionally sent to live with Chaplain.
  • Sixth: House prefect
  • Speckle: To sack someone from being a House Sixth (the Sixth tie is speckled)
  • Stewboi: A hindrance - 'To lay a Stewboi' being the correct term for hindering a pupil - or a fashion of hat worn
  • Stodge: School tuck shop
  • Stripe: To sack someone from being a Levee (the Levee tie is striped)
  • Tanner: Day-boy (from 'Town House') (obsolete)
  • Tick: The obligatory salutation of a Beak in the street, by lifting an index finger to shoulder level (obsolete - current in 1960s and earlier)
  • Topos: Lavatory (from Greek τόπος, meaning 'a place') (obsolete - current in 1980s and earlier)
  • Tosh: The old 66 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
    Public bathing
    Public baths originated from a communal need for cleanliness. The term public may confuse some people, as some types of public baths are restricted depending on membership, gender, religious affiliation, or other reasons. As societies have changed, public baths have been replaced as private bathing...

    . Also, a bath (sb.) or to take a bath
  • Wagger: Waste paper basket (abbreviation of "wagger pagger bagger" - see Oxford "-er") (obsolete - current in 1960s and earlier)
  • XX: Year 13

School song

"Floreat Rugbeia" is the traditional school song. While a boy's house, Tudor house had an alternate first verse of the Floreat which for more than two centuries by tradition they would sing by heart at Chapel contrary to all other houses of the school which would sing the official first verse of the Floreat. Members of Tudor House would then continue to sing the correct second and third verse of the Floreat which Older boys ensured that younger boys knew by heart. No other house memorised either versions of the Floreat. The girls now residing in Tudor house have not continued the boys' original tradition, other than on reunion days for the Old Rugbeians.

External links

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