22 October 2010

Rugby, Tennessee, and Thomas Hughes of Uffington, Oxfordshire, England: Southern Literary Tour, Part Two: #1

Rugby is a tiny village on the Cumberland Plateau to the north-east of Tennessee. The settlement there was begun in 1880 by Thomas Hughes, better known for his book Tom Brown's Schooldays, which is set in the English town of Rugby in Warwickshire, where Hughes went to the private school of the same name.

Hughes's idea was to build a kind of utopia. In Victorian England, the practice of primogeniture meant that the first born son inherited his father's whole estate, leaving upper middle-class sons born after this with very few respectable professional opportunities. Therefore, Hughes conceived this agricultural community based on the principles of Muscular Christianity, in which much importance was given to sport.

The colony was beset by many difficulties - typhoid, land title disputes, maladminisration, and poor soil among them - and by 1887, following the deaths of several prominent members, most of the colony's original members had left. Hughes himself had spent very little time in Rugby, although his mother Margaret lived there.

Inside the school is a brief history, of which this is the relevant part:

'The first building on this site was a three-storey community building erected by Rugby's Board of Aid to Land Ownership [from whom Hughes bought the land and retained the name] in 1880. The first floor functioned as a school, the second floor housed a multi-denominational room, and the third floor was used as a meeting space for clubs like the Masonic Lodge and the Odd Fellows. This community building burned in 1906.

A number of Hughes's books on display in the school.

As the sign on the door says, this library was built on 5 October 1882.

It contains 7000 books .

Kingstone Lisle was designed for Thomas Hughes to live in, although he used it very little.

Christ Church Episcopal, 1887.

The chancel windows, the left one of which is dedicated to Margaret E. Hughes (1797-1887).

And finally, Rugby Printing Works.

We had originally planned to spend the night at historic Newbury House in the village, but unfortunately had to press on further with our tour.
In 1907, the Morgan County School Board built the current building on the same foundation. Classes were held for all grades on the first floor, and the second floor held a cafeteria.'

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