We recently made a trip up the road to Historic Rugby- a late 19th century English village in Northern Tennessee.
Rugby was a planned settlement begun in the 1880s by and English gentleman by the name of Thomas Hughes. Although Hughes himself never spent a great deal of time in Rugby, his mother did. In fact, the only remaining home on tour (Kingstone Lisle) was her permanent residence.
The Rugby settlement attracted young men and women of the British gentry as it was customary in Victorian era England for only the first sons to inherit the family’s wealth and/or business. This left subsequent sons and daughters without a means of monetary support.
Thus the idea of a eutopian community in the far reaches of the isolated mountains of Tennessee was born.
(Images from Kingstone Lisle:)
Rugby’s Library was extensive and impressive:
However, the success of the community was short lived. One year after the settlement began, a typhoid epidemic killed several residents. A lack of skills, ill placed priorities, and poor farming conditions led many to near starvation. And a devastating fire in 1884 destroyed the Tabard Inn- a tourist resort and Rugby’s primary means of community income. By 1887, the majority of the population of Rugby had either fled or died since arriving.
But a few remained. And it is their descendants that have kept the history of this place alive. A handful of origin buildings still stand as a testament to a Victorian Era English experiment that in its heyday was truly a sight to be seen in the middle of the Tennessee wilderness.