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John de Astley, mentioned in the last paragraph, was knighted by King Henry VI., and rewarded with a pension, and subsequently with the order of Knight of the Garter, for his military services. Sir William de Astley was the last male of the family of Astleys of Astley Castle. With his daughter the estate passed to the family of Grey. Sir John Grey, a member of this family, was the husband of Elizabeth Woodville, who, after his death, became the Queen of Edward IV. Thomas, son of Sir John and Elizabeth Woodville, was, through his mother's influence, created Marquis of Dorset. Henry, his grandson, third Marquis, married Frances, eldest daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, by Mary, daughter of Henry VII., and Queen Dowager of France.
Thus was brought into the Grey family the claim of Mary to the English throne, after the death of Edward VI., in the failure of the male issue of the Brandons. This Marquis was raised to the dukedom of Suffolk by right of his wife on the failure of heirs male. The result of the unfortunate insurrection of the Duke of Suffolk, and Sir Thomas Wyatt, with the view of raising Suffolk's daughter, Lady Jane Grey, to the throne, is sufficiently well known. For some time after its suppression he lurked in concealment in the woods of Astley, but was at length betrayed by a forest keeper for the sake of the reward offered for his
apprehension. He was executed on Tower Hill, 1554.
The castle is surrounded by a moat, overshadowed with fine trees. The remains of the original structure are picturesquely mantled with ivy. For a long time this interesting building was much neglected, being used only as a farmhouse. It was, however, afterwards carefully fitted up, and is now an elegant and aristocratic residence. The castle contains some old armour, and several paintings, among which is a portrait of the last Duke of Suffolk. There are also preserved a table and chair, said to have belonged to the Duke. The gardens and grounds are beautifully laid out.
The Church, though scarcely half its original size, is a building of some interest. It contains the remains of ancient monuments, which have been treated with shameful neglect or positive injury by former proprietors of the estate.
HOTELS.—George; Eagle-Bed 1s. 6d. to 2s., breakfast 1s. 6d.
to 2s., dinner 2s. to 3s., tea 1s. 6d. Royal, William Blick
-Same charges. Three Horse Shoes. Population in 1851, 6317; Inhabited houses, 1103. Rugby from London, 824 miles; from Birmingham, 294;
from Leamington, 15; from Coventry, 114; from York, 137.
Situated near the eastern border of the county, Rugby has little to interest the tourist, with the exception of its celebrated public school. In Domesday-book it is called Rocheberie ; ruche, as Dugdale remarks, signifying a rock or quarry of stone, and berie, a court or habitation of note. Whatever may have been its consequence in earlier times, it seems to have been of little importance at the Conquest, when it belonged to Turchill de Warwick. Near the town is an eminence called Castle Mount, from its having been formerly the site of a castle. Dugdale is of opinion that this was one of the fortresses erected by King Stephen when threatened with invasion by the Empress Matilda (daughter of Henry I. of England, and widow of Henry V. Emperor of Germany), whose crown he bad usurped. The castle was probably demolished by order of Henry II., who put a stop to the encroachments of the barons in the early part of his reign. Few traces of this building are now to be seen.
Rugby is a pleasant market town, with nothing in its architecture calling for particular description. It has been steadily increasing in population, and in commercial activity, for many years. In 1831 the population was 2501; now it is 6317. The prosperity of the town shows itself in the improved style of architecture. Among the buildings which will attract notice may be mentioned the Church, Lawrence Sheriff's Almshouses, the George Hotel, and the Railway Station. The Church is said to have been partly built of stone taken from the ruins of the castle. It has undergone repeated alterations and enlargements. In the churchyard may be seen a few curious epitaphs. There are several other places of worship in the town. The Almshouses will attract
attention from their quaint and neat appearance. The original endowment was for the benefit of four poor men, two of Rugby, and two of Brownsover; but the number has been increased with the increase of the revenues. The town also possesses a charity school and almshouses, founded and endowed by Richard Elborow, Esq., in 1707. Several important fairs are held
at Rugby for the sale of horses, cattle, and sheep.
Rugby School, celebrated as an educational institution, gives chief importance to the town. It was founded in 1567 by Laurence Sheriff, a grocer of London, a native of the neighbouring village of Brownsover. This benevolent individual endowed the school and the almshouses already mentioned, with estates in the neighbourhood of Rugby and London; but it was not till 1653 that the full endowment from these sources was obtained. The original building, which was of a very humble description, was taken down in the beginning of this century, and the present noble structure erected from the designs of Mr. Hakewell. It is built in the Elizabethan style, from a proper regard to the period of its original erection, and the memory of its founder. It is constructed of white brick, the angles, cornices, and dressings to the windows and the openings being of Attleborough stone. The principal front, which is towards the south, extends 220 feet. A gateway from the street leads into the principal court, which is 90 feet by 70, having a plain cloister on three sides. The arrangements of the interior of the building are admirably in accordance with the objects of the institution. The chapel is adorned with a fine monument by Chantrey to the memory of Dr. James, formerly head master of the school. The splendid east window of stained glass was the gift of Dr. Arnold, also a head master of Rugby. The subject is the adoration of the Magi. This fine specimen of ancient stained glass belonged originally to a monastery in Flanders. A memorial window has been constructed for this chapel in honour of the gallant Rugbeians who fell in the late war with Russia.
Rugby School is considered one of the best in the kingdom. It has had several very eminent men as its masters. Dr. Arnold's name is universally celebrated as that of a profound scholar and an excellent man. He raised the standard of classical learning as well as the reputation of Rugby School. His successor was the Rev. Dr. Archibald Campbell Tait, now Lord Bishop of London. The present head master is the Rev. E. Meyrick Goulburn, D.C.L. There are fourteen assistant masters for classics, mathematics, etc., and six others for writing, drawing, music, calisthenics, etc.
The usual number of boys in the school is from 300 to 350. Of these 40 or 50 are upon the foundation. About 60 pupils board in the school-house under the superintendence of the head master; the others board with the different masters, or with friends in the town.
The management is vested in twelve trustees, who are gentlemen connected with the district. The benefit of the foundation was originally confined to Rugby and the four neighbouring parishes. In 1777, however, an Act of Parliament was obtained to extend it to places within five miles. At the same time a number of exhibitions was founded. These have since been considerably augmented, and are open to the competition of all members of the school, without preference to any part of the United Kingdom. There are 21 Exhibitions of £60 a year for four years. Originally they were held for seven years; but in 1854 the trustees, with the sanction of the Charity Commissioners, determined to limit the term of their tenure to four years. By this arrangement, when it is in full operation, there will be five exhibitions given annually, independently of broken ones. The exhibitions are awarded to the boys most proficient in divinity, classics, mathematics, and bistory. The examiners are appointed by the Vice-Chancellors of the Universities. There are also scholarships of £30 and £20 for three years instituted by the masters. With regard to admission, the rule of the school is that no boy above sixteen can enter, unless qualified for the upper fifth form; and no boy is allowed to remain after completing his nineteenth year. The system of fagging exists in this school, but to a limited extent, and under proper control.
BILTON HALL, which has been rendered classic ground by the residence of Addison, is about two miles from Rugby. The house and manor were purchased by Addison, in 1711, from William Broughton, Esq., previous to his marriage with the fair Countess of Warwick. On his taking up his residence here the poet Somerville addressed to him a complimentary epistle in verse, in which the following couplet occurs :
“When panting virtue her last efforts made,
You brought your Clio to the virgin's aid.” Dr. Johnson remarks that this couplet is “written with the most exquisite delicacy of praise ; it exhibits one of those happy strokes that are seldom attained.”
Addison was married in 1716. The union was not a happy one, owing to the proud and irritable temper of the Countess. He died in London in 1719, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He left one child, a daughter, who resided at Bilton Hall, and died unmarried at the age of 79.
The mansion is spacious but irregular. In construction it is of different periods, the oldest and largest portion bearing marks of the style of architecture common about the time of James I. The remainder of the building consists of a lower range of apartments facing the gardens. This part of the house, being of the style which prevailed in the beginning of the eighteenth century, may have been erected by Addison himself when preparing the mansion for the reception of his destined wife. The furniture, after being long preserved as it was left by its illustrious possessor, was disposed of by auction; but some of the pictures collected by him still adorn the walls.
The gardens are extensive, and retain much of the old formal character, being laid out principally in straight lines. A long walk on the north side of the grounds is called “ Addison's Walk," there being a tradition that this was his favourite retreat.
Bilton Hall will possess to some an additional interest from the circumstance of its having been, for several years, the residence of the well-known writer “Nimrod," the author of numerous popular works on sporting subjects.
Bilton Church is a neat building, in the Gothic style, with a graceful spire. The interior is plain, containing no monuments of interest. The remains of Miss Addison are interred here, but without any monumental inscription.
The village possesses no features worthy of remark. It has a picturesque green, on which may be noticed the stocks, in excellent condition. Besides them is part of a stone pillar fixed in a socket, much defaced-perhaps the pillory.