Rugby, Warwickshire

PUBLISHED: 12:13 22 June 2011 | UPDATED: 12:02 28 February 2013

Rugby, Warwickshire

Rugby, Warwickshire

Fast trains, good roads and realistic house prices put Rugby right in the commuter dream belt, reports Tony Lennox.

Young Tom Brown arrived in Rugby to begin his celebrated school days on top of the Tally-ho stagecoach, from London, bound for Leicester, swathed in a heavy coat, feet muffled in straw and an old oat sack on his knees, according to his literary creator, Thomas Hughes, himself an old boy.


Todays commuter doesnt have to freeze on a coach roof any more. And the journey to the capital takes just 55 minutes, in considerably greater comfort.


The proximity of London is one of the chief considerations for people who chose to live in Rugby and its surrounding villages. Many have moved from the more traditional Metroland villages of the Home Counties to find a more comfortable place to live in this corner of Warwickshire.


Indeed, there are many high fliers who enjoy the peace of the county, but who can rise at 6.30am and be in their central London offices by 8.30 every weekday morning.


This, according to many local estate agents, explains the attraction of the town.


The railway first steamed into the unsung market town of Rugby in 1838, changing the course of its history and character for ever.


The pools along the Avon where generations of schoolboys swam made way for industrial growth. And the town expanded hugely from its medieval core, the Victorian regeneration stamping much of it with a bright new red brick character.


Architectural guru, Nikolaus Pevsner calls Rugby "Butterfieldtown" after the busy 19th century architect that created so much of it, from the revamped landmark St Andrews Church to many grand additions to Rugby School.


He remarks, however, in The Buildings of England that Rugby "never comes to life visually. And he even questions the impact of the dominating school buildings. "No-one would call the first sight of Rugby School from the town cheering."


Tom Brown and Thomas Hughes thought it pretty inspiring on their first glimpse: "Toms heart beat quick as he passed the great school field or close, with its noble elms, in which several games at football were going on, and tried to take in at once the long line of grey buildings, beginning with the chapel and ending with the School-house."


A new visitor to the town centre should push on to find the many good bits and there are plenty of those: the attractive independent shops in the user-friendly pedestrianised routes off the Market Square, some inviting pubs, hints at the old timber framed town and quite the grandest Marks and Spencers faade with its classical pediment details, only visible to those who take their minds off shopping to gaze up for a minute.


Rugby has just done rather well in a nationwide survey of town centres, coming sixth out of 51 with some high scores for some proud independent retailers.


It was also praised for its cleanliness and security, outranking places such as Gloucester, Bournemouth and even Bristol.


If you visit the town, there are encouraging signs of vitality. The town centre is often heaving, the car parks jammed and market traders in fine voice as they compete to sell their wares.


A new multi-storey car park opened just a couple of years ago to silence the grumbles among townsfolk and rail commuters who used to struggle to find a space by the busy station.


Helping to fuel demand for such vital transport services are the vast amounts of new housing in the pipeline for Rugby, seen as the perfect spot to absorb at least 10,000 new homes before 2026.


Alongside the sport and the school, Rugby is also synonymous with cement, marking it from miles around as firmly industrial.


Locals would dearly love to see the landmark works, the largest of their type in Europe, obliterated once and for all. But residential areas march right up into the shadow cast by its 115 metre high structure.


But there are reasons to be cheerful. Rugby has a thriving nightlife, thanks in part to a proud pub tradition.


In the 1960s, where there even more than today, it was apparently second in the country for the number of central pubs per square mile.


But there is tourism too and rugby, the game, is a big draw. Sadly, Gilberts the rugby ball maker, whose Rugby craftsmen used to hand stitch the balls for international rugby games, moved their production to Surrey, just after Christmas last year.


But there is still is a museum, connected to the Webb Ellis sporting goods store, a statue of the legendary William himself outside Rugby School, which is a popular shrine for sporting pilgrims.


Whether pubs are the draw, or sporting history, even the towns cultural links or its Roman roots, Rugby can be thoroughly explored in a relatively short time.


And the modest scale of the place accentuates its bustling, down to earth spirit.


James Way, a partner with Knight Frank, who lives on this same eastern edge of Warwickshire, explains the house price value on offer here in Rugby and its surrounding villages.


"It is largely to do with fashion," he admits. And Rugby people would be the first to admit that their town is neither pretty nor posh. As one long time resident put it: "Real people live here."


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