Historic Rugby

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Time stands still at Rugby, Tenn.

This Victorian English village, nestled on the tabletop lands where three counties (Morgan, Fentress and Scott) meet just outside the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, is a visual sensory experience and a history lesson all rolled into one. 

It was founded by the British reformer Thomas Hughes, an author best known for “Tom Brown’s School Days,” in the 1880s. He envisioned a utopian colony for the second sons of English gentry. 

Hughes’ dream was never quite realized, but Rugby persevered. The community remained mostly intact through the 20th century, and its residents began restoring the original design and layout of the community and its buildings in the 1960s. The surviving structures were preserved, and some others were rebuilt. 

Today, Rugby is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district. Walking tours of the village are available on a daily basis (you can tour the South’s oldest lending library, the Hughes Public Library, for example, which dates back to 1882), and special events are held throughout the year. There are trails both inside and outside the village in the surrounding Rugby State Natural Area, as well as trails in the adjacent Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. For example, there’s a hiking trail leading to the Gentlemen’s Swimming Hole on the Clear Fork River, where the Rugby gentlemen went to bathe in the late 19th century.

On the edge of town is the R.M. Brooks General Store, which is also a throwback to simpler times … and home of what is purported to be the best bologna sandwich in the South!

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