Events 2023 Exhibition

2023 Exhibition

Event Date: Tuesday 24 January 2023 @ 12:50
End Date: Saturday 09 December 2023

Visit the birthplace of the game and see The Close where rugby football first began. Through our visual and audible 2023 exhibition, (photographs, memorabilia, video footage and interviews with previous members of Rugby School’s XV) you will learn about how the game has developed since William Webb Ellis first took the ball in his arms and ran with it.

You can then follow the Pathway of Fame trail around the town of Rugby. From April onwards you will also be able to follow the pathway of art around the town of Rugby. (See details of young people’s art competition).

The Game in the SchoolRugby School Museum (January-December 2023) Open on event days or by prior booking.

a timeline of events since the founding of the School in 1567, which have had an impact on how the game has been played on The Close.

The exhibition features the foundation of the School and its early years in the town; the story of William Webb Ellis; the development of The Close, the rules and the School; changes to kit and how the School has celebrated the history of the game. It also highlights how girls could have been playing rugby football on The Close as early as the 1870s with the founding of The Laurels School in 1872.

There are several items from our archive collection on display including Stanley and Kilbracken jerseys, which haven’t been seen since the 1930s, a trophy that commemorates Rugby League played on The Close in 2000 and a report from The Old Rugbeian Society on the ‘Origins of Rugby Football’ which was published 1897.

Visitors can view the documents through the glass cases, but will also be able to interact with them digitally. Together with SDS Heritage, the archive team has created a new digital repository of key documents relating to the development of ‘The Game in the School’ including the long-forgotten letters from Rugbeians, who as part of an investigation in the 1890s, were asked about the origins and development of football as played at Rugby School in the 1820s, 30s and 40s. The original handwritten rules from 1845 will also be available to read digitally. There are more modern records available on site with digital versions of News From Rugby School 1988-2014 telling the story of rugby football in the late 20th and early 21st century.

He ran with it – Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Gallery 1, (16th September- 3rd November 2023). Please see Rugby Art Gallery and Museum’s website for opening times

is an exhibition of art, textiles, objects and records, which tell the story of how the town and the School influenced the world-wide development of the game.

There will be the chance to learn about the development of the ball, clubs, rules, the Rugby Union, kit and celebrations of the game. There is also a chance to see The Harwood painting (thought to be the oldest oil painting of a game of rugby); gifts given to the School by clubs and unions from around the world and older versions of rugby balls. Later in the year, we also hope to have audio clips from Rugbeians telling their stories.

Visitors can view a physical display but also take a closer, digital look at the ‘Following-up caps’,  especially those featuring embroidered matches. Another first is the chance to take a closer look at a scrap book and carte-de-visite album created by the 1871 English international player and 5th Rugby Union President, A G Guillemard, while at School. Both give an insight into how the game of football was developing at Rugby School in the 1860s before Guillemard helped to form the Rugby Union in 1871.

This is also an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the development of the game across the world. As part of this exhibition, we have created a map to show the geographical history of rugby football and we encourage visitors to share their knowledge of rugby clubs around the world to add to this map. If anyone has an origin story of a rugby club they would like to add to the map they can send it to us at

You can view our digital exhibition materials here


The exhibition in Rugby School Museum will be open on event days* or as part of the guided tour.

For all ticket enquiries, individual, groups & schools please contact:

T: 01788 556 169

The exhibition in Rugby Art Gallery Museum is open during the Museum’s opening hours Tuesday to Saturday. See their website for more details

If you have a smart device and headphones please bring these with you to access our audible history.


The exhibition will help raise awareness of two fantastic charities.

  • Wooden Spoon is the children’s charity of rugby.  With the help of you, the rugby family, they fund life-changing projects across the UK & Ireland that support vulnerable children and young people. The charity’s original wooden spoon will be on display at various times throughout the year.
  • Our own 1823 bursary fund which is in honour of Webb Ellis who was a bursary student. The bursary will offer means-tested places at Rugby School for boys or girls who show significant promise and aptitude for sport and a commitment to Rugby Football, with up to 100% of fees and essential extras available.

World Rugby Museum, Twickenham will also have an exhibition dedicated to William Webb Ellis during 2023, please click here for further details.


*Event Days

Sunday 5th March, 12 till 4pm, ticket holders only

Saturday 25th March, 10am till 4pm

Sunday 26th March, 10am till 4pm

Saturday 1st April, 10am till 4pm

Sunday 2nd April, 11am till 3pm

Friday 7th April, 10am till 3pm

Saturday 8th April, 10am till 3pm

Monday 10th April, 10am till 3pm

Sunday 16th April, 10am till 4pm, ticket holders only

Sunday 23rd April, 1pm till 3pm

Saturday 24th June, 1pm till 5pm, ticket holders only

Saturday 18th November, 11am till 3pm, ticket holders only

Saturday 9th December, 11am till 2pm