THE HISTORY of the borough’s clubs, societies and associations is explored in a new exhibition at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum.
Join Our Club, which opens on Saturday October 1, includes dozens of items donated to the museum’s social history collection by residents.
The exhibition features The Rugby Club, a gentleman’s club founded in 1886 for the borough’s ‘great and the good’.
The club’s headquarters in North Street was home to billiards and reading rooms, and boasted members including businessmen, dignitaries, Rugby School staff and top brass from British Thomson-Houston (BTH).
In its 1960s heyday, BTH employed around 22,000 people in Rugby and launched a variety of sport and social clubs in a bid to keep workers happy and healthy.
The company’s recreation club in Hillmorton Road had tennis courts, bowling greens and pitches for rugby, football, cricket and hockey, delivering on BTH’s pledge contained in a handbook presented to new staff to “promote healthy outdoor and indoor recreation, and generally encourage good sportsmanship amongst its members”.
Join Our Club includes newsletters, programmes and photographs from BTH’s sports and social clubs, and features information about the company’s girls’ club, based at The Firs in Bilton Road, where classes included hairdressing, dressmaking, cooking and handicraft.
The exhibition also traces how the origins of many of the borough’s grassroots rugby clubs tell a story of industry, education and migration, while past and present football clubs feature, including Valley Sports Rugby Football Club – better known as VS Rugby, and now known as Rugby Town FC – who won the FA Vase at Wembley in 1983.
And Join Our Club also celebrates Rugby’s thriving children’s associations and organisations, including the Scouts, Brownies, Girl Guides and Boys’ Brigade, with a host of memorabilia on display.
Rugby Borough Council’s leisure and wellbeing spokesman Coun Howard Roberts said: “Clubs have played an important role in society throughout history, cultivating a sense of belonging, building social relationships and indulging shared passions for sport and recreation.
“Join Our Club charts the development of clubs, societies and associations in the borough over more than a century, offering a fascinating insight to how such organisations change with the times and thrive to this day.”
Join Our Club runs at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum until next June. Visit www.ragm.co.uk for more information about exhibitions and events at the venue.