RUGBY is set to embrace its world-famous sporting heritage to breathe new life into the town.
A new rugger-themed clothing brand is moving into a revamped landmark building near Rugby School, while two nearby businesses have confirmed expansion plans to welcome tourists in anticipation of World Cup fever hitting the town next year.
CV22 The Rugby Co. is currently refurbishing the former It’s A Gift store on the corner of Sheep Street and Lawrence Sheriff Street, to launch a new clothing brand celebrating the heritage of Rugby – the game and the town.
The brand will celebrate four of the town’s proudest claims to fame, namely the birth of rugby football, the origins of the England team’s white shirt, the tradition of awarding international ‘caps’, and the invention of the bladder ball – all of which originated in Rugby.
Owner and Rugby Lions loosehead prop Oliver Taylor said it was sad that these stories were not more widely celebrated in Rugby.
He added: “We’re using these four stories in particular to create a high-end brand that celebrates Rugby. Our tagline is ‘120 countries, 20,000 clubs, five million players, one Rugby’.”
The building itself will be restored back to its original character, with the bricked-up windows facing Rugby School to be opened up again, and a glazed atrium space to be added to the rear.
Mr Taylor said: “For many years I’ve looked at that It’s A Gift shop and thought, what a travesty. What a beautiful town we live in, and it’s just left to rack and ruin.
“It’s an opportunity to do something really positive for that area of town that celebrates some of the really cool stuff that Rugby’s responsible for.”
Mr Taylor hopes to have an online store open in time for Christmas, with the town store opening next spring.
Developments are afoot to expand the Webb Ellis shop and museum.
While the thriving rugger kit shop has been given planning permission to expand, big plans for the adjoining Rugby Football Museum, described as “incredibly exciting for the town”, are being kept under wraps – for now.
Planning permission has been granted to build ground and first floor extensions to the rear of the St Matthews Street premises.
And when the building work is complete next spring, manager Phil Blundell says people can expect a big announcement about the museum.
He said: “We are incredibly excited about the World Cup, and there are significant developments in the pipeline for the museum. It is going to be incredibly exciting for the town.
“On a daily basis, tourists from around the world come to the museum and go on the fantastic tour of Rugby School, and ask where they should go next. It’s a little bit of a shame that there’s not that much to sing and dance about.
“We’ve got something nobody else in the world has got, being the town of Rugby, and we should be capitalising on it.”
He added there would be a significant expansion of the Webb Ellis shop, fuelled by continued support from local rugby clubs and schools.
“We’re incredibly happy about the way business is going.” he said. “We are getting support from the people of Rugby and we need more space.”
THE RUGBY Tap will be raising a glass to next year’s visiting tourists – not to mention resident ale enthusiasts – when it expands from a specialist beer shop into a full-blown pub.
Owner Colin Arthur has been given planning permission to extend the St Matthews Street store – opposite the Webb Ellis statue – into a vacant unit next door, to create an old-fashioned ‘tap room’.
He said it was a great opportunity to continue attracting visitors from out-of-town with his variety of locally-produced ales, and capitalise on the tourism boom that will be centred around the statue.
Colin added: “It will be similar to an old fashioned one-room, no-frills ‘ale house’, where the front room of a house became ‘the local’.
“We’re aiming to attract our current customer base, and those who seek the atmosphere of a traditional family local with quality local ale, atmosphere and conversation – not loud music, sport, screens and gaming machines.”
The new tap room is scheduled to open in early November.
The old It’s A Gift store opposite Rugby School is being restored back to its original character to make way for Rugby-themed clothing brand CV22 Rugby. Picture by Jon Mullis 39.014.005.rug.jm11 (www.buyphotos247.com
Phil Blundell of the Webb Ellis museum/shop has plans which are “incredibly exciting for the town”. Picture by Jon Mullis 39.014.005.rug.jm3 (www.buyphotos247.com
Cheers… Colin Arthur of the Rugby Tap hopes to bring in more punters when he opens his ‘tap room’ in November. Picture by Jon Mullis 39.014.005.rug.jm6 (www.buyphotos247.com)