Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Historic Rugby - Christ Church Episcopal


Historic Rugby, located on the Cumberland Plateau of east Tennessee, is what remains of an idealistic Victorian experiment, founded and funded by the Englishman Thomas Hughes (author of the very successful Tom Brown's School Days (1857).) A graduate of Oxford, Hughes was a partisan of liberal and idealistic causes and a follower of Christian Socialism. 

Hughes, himself a member of the privileged class, rather endearingly conceived the notion of a colony for the younger sons of England's wealthy families -- those young men who would not inherit the family estates, due to the laws of primogeniture in which the family land and money went to the oldest son, leaving the younger sons to find occupation in the military or the church. 

Here in the classless society of the United States, thought Hughes (again, endearingly), these young men could learn to farm and work with their hands -- a thing they could not have done in England without causing severe embarrassment to their families.

The colony was dedicated in 1880 -- dwelling-houses were built, as well as a hotel, a library, and this church.  (Tennis courts were also built early on...)

For a few years, the colony flourished. Over 300 residents enjoyed drama and literary societies, a weekly newspaper, croquet, lawn tennis, and rugby football.   But a typhoid epidemic hit; the hotel -- which had been providing needed income -- burned; the soil was found to be unsuitable for farming; and perhaps those younger sons of wealthy families weren't suited to it either, preferring to play tennis.

 By the early 1900s, the colony was all but deserted.  A few settlers remained and they and their descendants managed to care for and preserve many of the original buildings. 

In the 1960s, area residents banded together to form non-profit Historic Rugby, dedicated to restoring the original buildings and interpreting Rugby's history to the public. I'll tell you more about modern Rugby tomorrow.
 
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17 comments:

Ms. A said...

Beautiful stained glass. Don't you wish the trees could talk, they'd sure have a story to tell.

Martin said...

Very interesting piece, Vicki. Rugby is certainly a place to be proud of.

callie brady said...

Yes... an endearing idea that left behind some beautiful buildings and... Thank you for the story and photos! I always felt sorry for those younger sons too.

Thérèse said...

Quite an interesting piece of history! So well documented in images.

Star said...

That they stayed there as long as they did is a wonder to me! I can't help but imagine how their day would pan out...who did the work? There were very few servants as far as I could see. People of their class and upbringing would have absolutely no clue about the care of trees, the building of houses, the normal day to day work of cooking, washing clothes, housework etc. Like you said, they probably thought it would be one long game of tennis.
I suppose the biggest disappointment would have been the lack of the railway connection to the nearest town, which they were promised, but which never arrived. This caused them to be almost completely cut off. With the heat, which the English would find extremely difficult to deal with, and the bugs!, likewise and their lack of knowledge in practical things, life must have been such a struggle.
I think their biggest achievement was the library, which was and is beautiful with so many of the original books still intact.
Hats off to the Irish and Dutch members of the part, who must have done most of the work.
Rugby is such a beautiful place. I just love it and wish, wish wish I could have come along to hear you talk there.
I shall be in Tennessee from Sept. 5th to October 16th. Are you doing any talks during that time?

Kath said...

Fascinating! How wonderful that it has been restored.

Jean Baardsen said...

Ah, what did they do for women??

Brian Miller said...

that is a pretty cool bit of the story you have shared already...interesting on how they could go there and learn with out shaming the fam...love the stained glass as well...

Frances said...

Vicki, thank you for introducing me to Historic Rugby. I wonder how it is that I have not read of this place before now. (Maybe because it was not in Virginia...that is a little joke.)

xo

Anonymous said...

This post brings back a lot of memories.I grew up just a few miles to the west of Rugby and remember going on Sunday drives with my folks (probably mid 60's) and seeing all the buildings in the not so wonderful state that they are in now , a real frozen in time moment. My best friend in high school was married in the church. My dad tells me that the group probably would have starved if not for the help of the local farmers. Thanks for the memory jogging post.

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

lovely! interesting! and nice pictures!

JJRod'z

Vicki Lane said...

Re that big tree. I was told it is an arborvitae -- more usually seen as a landscaping shrub. It must have been there from the beginning of the colony.

I have to agree with Star -- talk about culture shock!

Re women, Jean -- I expect that the mindset of the time was that if you took care of the men, the men would take care of the women. Of course that wasn't necessarily true -- then or now.

As Anonymous said -- they probably owed a lot to the local farmers. Like the earliest colonists in New England were saved from starvation by the Native Americans. And just as our neighbors taught us about farming. Idealism and books can only take one so far...

NCmountainwoman said...

Wonderful post. Lovely trees and architecture. I especially liked the history of Rugby, a place I have never been.

Beth said...

Wow, what an interesting history! I'm so glad that Rugby has been preserved. Wonderful pictures--I especially love the tree bark.

Terri Buster said...

I always thought that rule was dumb- you can't help your birth order! That tree is just fascinating to me.

Miss_Yves said...

Very interesting post.

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

Excellent, Vicki. I loved what you did with the photos. Jim