Saturday, May 18, 2013

Historic Rugby Village

British-founded Rugby, Tennessee, is a rare example of a rural, living community that survives from its 1880s Utopian beginnings, with its town plan intact. Begin your visit here at the Visitor Center with a history film, a guided tour of 4 key buildings, and a self-guided tour of the remainder of the village.
Thomas Hughes, author of the classic Tom Brown's School Days and a well known British reformer, established the experimental community in 1880. This building was the Board of Aid to Land Ownership; it's purpose to encourage settlement.
The building burned in 1977 and has been historically reconstructed on its original site.
Today approximately 85 residents live full or part time in Rugby, including owners of some of the historic homes as well as modern-day colonists. People are still encouraged to settle here and build architecturally compatible homes based on Rugby's 1880 town plan.
Founder Thomas Hughes' 1884 house is based on "English Rural Style" cottage. He envisioned a strong community built through cooperative enterprise free of rigid class distinctions that prevailed in England...
...While maintaining a cultured, Christian lifestyle. Christ Church Episcopal, an example of Gothic architecture, was constructed of pine, walnut, and poplar that covered this area in the 1880s. The church is painted its original colors and contains all early furnishings, light fixtures, and rosewood organ.
20 of the original 70 buildings remain, including the library which still has its original 7000-volume collection. Other buildings, like this boarding house are being reconstructed in their original locations. 
 The Perrigo/Alexander Boarding House under reconstruction.
Percy Cottage was originally constructed in 1884 by Sir Henry Kimber, a close friend of Thomas hughes and a key financial backer of the Rugby effort.
Built in 1985, the Harrow Road Cafe is an example of compatible new architecture in the historic district. An 1880s cafe of the same name served " a capital Welsh rarebit." Today you can enjoy British and country cooking here.
 Rugby printed its own weekly newspaper starting in 1881.

The cooperatively-run Commissary sold everything from garters to plowshares in the 1880s.
The first frame house built in Rugby served as a temporary haven for many early colonists. Hughes spent his first visit to Rugby here in 1880. He wrote of his plans for the new colony in great detail in his book Rugby, Tennessee. This cottage is available for visitor lodging still today.
This home was built in 1884 by stonemason Danial Ellerby, a man who built many of Rugby's chimneys.
One result of Hughes' progressive thinking was his creation of public park land along the Clear Fork River for residents of Rugby to enjoy. A short drive down Cemetery Road brings you to some trailheads on this still public land.
 Rugby Cemetery
 During his opening-day speech in 1880, Hughes stated, "We have here two beautiful streams which will be a delight forever to those who dwell here, if they are left free for the use and enjoyment of all. Therefore in laying out the town we have reserved a strip of various widths along the banks, which will remain common property, and along which we hope to see walks and rides carefully laid out and kept in order."
Thistle and I hiked the trail to the "Gentlemen's Swimming Hole." It is one of several trails that were developed and maintained by the community of Rugby for more than a century until these lands became part of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation area.
The Gentlemen's Swimming Hole. They didn't mention if the ladies had a swimming hole.
Since I had Thistle with me, I did not go in any buildings, and due to people setting up for a festival, I didn't do the whole tour either, but it certainly was an interesting place to visit.


  1. great as the time I get out there
    you girls will have been everywhere!!

  2. I wonder if they still let you swim there...thanks again Liz for a great tour!

  3. I'm in Cleveland, TN and just joined the Women RV group its neat to see someone in the same state. I'm still looking for my RV can't seem to be there at the right time, oh coarse its the wrong time of the year to be looking. Enjoy TN. I've been here 9 years and love it.

    1. Glad you joined us at womenrv. What kind of RV are you looking for? One of our members in TN is selling a nice Class C. Check out the Trading Post thread in the forum.

  4. Thank you for capturing such beautiful memories of Rugby during our Spring Festival visit. If I may, I'd like to use some as reference material to paint landscapes of our area. Thank you, Mara Trumbo Art Expressions Studio, Rugby TN. Visit my on-line gallery on

    1. Feel free to use any of my photos...they are not copyrighted and are there or others to enjoy.