Historic treasures from 200 years of rugby football to go on display - The Rugby Observer

Historic treasures from 200 years of rugby football to go on display

Rugby Editorial 26th Aug, 2023   0

HISTORIC treasures from the Rugby School archives will go on display at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum in an exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of rugby football.

He Ran With It… traces the development of rugby from the moment William Webb Ellis took the ball in his arms during a football match on The Close in 1823, the infamous ‘fine disregard for the rules’ which gave the world the game.

The exhibition at the Little Elborow Street venue’s Floor One Gallery includes art, textiles, objects and records which tell the story of Rugby’s role in the development of the game across the globe.

Visitors can learn about the evolution of the rugby ball, the rules of the game and the formation of the Rugby Union.




He Ran With It… features Edward Harwood’s painting of a game of rugby on The Close, believed to be the oldest oil painting of the sport, and gives visitors the chance to look at a scrapbook and carte-de-visite album created by Rugby School pupil Arthur George Guillemard, who went on to play for England against Scotland in 1871 – the first rugby international ever staged.

Guillemard later became president of the Rugby Union and his scrapbook and album chart the development of the game at Rugby School in the 1860s and the formation of the union in 1871.


The exhibition also includes a display of ‘follow up’ caps, worn by Rugby School players during a game to distinguish the boys entitled to ‘follow up’ – or play – the ball from the younger boys whose role on the pitch was limited to defending, together with gifts given to the school by rugby clubs and unions from across the world.

He Ran With It… opened at Rugby School’s Lewis Gallery earlier this year and visits the Floor One Gallery from Friday September 15 to Saturday November 4.

Rugby School archivist manager Jennifer Hunt said: “It’s fantastic we can trace the history of rugby football through unique items from the school archives, telling stories of how the actions of William Webb Ellis, his fellow Rugbeians, a school and a town in the Midlands inspired the development of a game which spread worldwide.”

Rugby Art Gallery and Museum manager Sally Godden said the venue was delighted to host the exhibition as part of the town’s celebrations for the bicentenary of the game.

She added: “He Ran With It… opens in the Floor One Gallery just a week into the Rugby World Cup in France, where 20 teams compete for the Webb Ellis Cup, so it’s the perfect time to discover rugby’s roots in the birthplace of the game.”

Visit www.ragm.co.uk for more information about exhibitions and events at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum. Visit www.rugbyschool.co.uk/200-anniversary for information about Rugby School’s rugby bicentenary celebrations.

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