Rugby is a market town in Warwickshire, England, located on the River Avon. The town has a population of 61,988 (2001 census) making it the second largest town in the county. The enclosing Borough of Rugby has a population of 91,600 (2005 estimate).
The town is credited with being the birthplace of rugby football.
Early Iron age settlement existed in the Rugby area, and a few miles outside what is now Rugby, existed a Roman settlement known as Tripontium. Rugby was originally a small Anglo-Saxon farming settlement, and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Rocheberie. Rugby obtained a charter to hold a market in 1255, and soon developed into a small country market town.
The name's likeliest origin is Anglo-Saxon Hrōca burh or similar = "Rook fort", where Rook may be the bird or may be a man's name. Another theory is that the name is originally derived from an old Celtic name Droche-brig meaning "wild hilltop". The change to -by is because of Viking influence: there are other place names ending in -by in the area ( meaning town in Norwegian, Swedish and Danish even today).
Rugby School was founded in 1567 by money left in the will of Lawrence Sheriff, a locally born grocer, who moved to London and earned his fortune. Rugby School was originally intended as a school for local boys, but over time became a mostly fee-paying private school. The Lawrence Sheriff School was eventually founded in the late 19th century to carry on Sheriff's original intentions.
Rugby remained a sleepy country market town until the 19th century and the coming of the railways. In 1838 the London and Birmingham Railway was constructed around the town, and in 1840 the Midland Counties Railway made a junction with the London and Birmingham at Rugby. Rugby became an important railway junction, and the proliferation of rail yards and workshops attracted workers to the town. Rugby's population grew from just 2,500 in 1835, to over 10,000 by the 1880s.
In the 1890s and 1900s heavy engineering industries began to set up in the town, and Rugby rapidly grew into a major industrial centre. Rugby expanded rapidly in the early decades of the 20th century as workers moved into the town. By the 1940s, the population of Rugby had grown to over 40,000.
Rugby is most famous for the invention of rugby football, which is played throughout the world. The invention of the game is credited to William Webb Ellis whilst breaking the existing rules of a football match played in 1823 at Rugby School, which is near the centre of Rugby.
Rugby School is one of England's oldest and most prestigious public schools, and was the setting of Thomas Hughes's semi-autobiographical masterpiece Tom Brown's Schooldays. A substantial part of the 2004 dramatisation of the novel, starring Stephen Fry, was filmed on location at Rugby School.
Rugby is also a birthplace of the jet engine. In April 1937 Frank Whittle built the world's first prototype jet engine at the British Thomson-Houston works in Rugby, and between 1936-41 based himself at Brownsover Hall on the outskirts of the town, where he designed and developed early prototype engines. Much of his work was also carried out at nearby Lutterworth. Holography was also invented in Rugby by the Hungarian inventor Dennis Gabor in 1947.
The town also inspired Thomas Hughes, (author of Tom Brown's Schooldays) to set up a colony in America, for the younger sons of the English gentry, who couldn't inherit under the laws of primogeniture. He named the town Rugby. The town of Rugby, Tennessee still exists today.