Rugeley shown within Staffordshire
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
|UK Parliament||Cannock Chase|
Rugeley is a historic market town in the county of Staffordshire, England. It lies on the north-eastern edge of Cannock Chase next to the River Trent, and is situated between the towns of Stafford, Cannock, Lichfield and Uttoxeter. The population as at the 2001 census was 22,724 (including the Brereton and Etchinghill wards).
The town, historically known as Rudgeley or Ridgeley, is listed in the Domesday Book. This name is thought to be derived from 'Ridge lee', or 'the hill over the field'. In the mediaeval period, it thrived on iron workings and was also a site of glass manufacturing. During the Industrial Revolution the economy of Rugeley benefited from the construction of the Trent & Mersey Canal and then from it becoming a notable junction on the railway network.
Although smaller pits had existed beforehand, the town became a centre of industrial scale deep shaft coal mining from the 1950s, taking advantage of the geological faults that cause coal seams under Cannock Chase to be more accessible. The Lea Hall Colliery which opened in July 1960 was the first modern coal mine opened by the National Coal Board which managed the United Kingdom's nationalized coal industry. Nearby the Central Electricity Generating Board built two power plants. With the construction of Rugeley A and B power stations Rugeley became a major centre for electricity generation. These developments led to the town growing very quickly in the 1960s. The Rugeley A power station was designed to take its fuel directly from Lea Hall by conveyor belt (although the coal was of poor quality not suitable for Rugeley B). This was the first such arrangement in Britain. The Rugeley B coal-fired power station continues to dominate the skyline where a flue gas desulphurisation plant has been constructed. This will allow it to continue to generate electricity and comply with environmental legislation.
Next to the power plant Amazon.co.uk is utilizing a warehouse once used by the adjoining coal mine which has been closed since 1990. The work is low paying and regimented but offers an opportunity for employment in this economically depressed area.
For many years in the 1970s and 1980s Rugeley was poorly served by British Rail, with just four services each way from/to Stafford and Rugby/Coventry. However, after the closure of Rugeley A power station and Lea Hall Colliery and reduction in rail freight, it became possible to open up the Rugeley to Walsall line for passenger traffic. Rugeley now has two railway stations Rugeley Trent Valley and Rugeley Town. Rugeley Trent Valley lies on the West Coast Main Line, and now has a regular hourly service to London via Lichfield, Nuneaton, Rugby and Milton Keynes, and to Crewe via Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent. Rugeley Trent Valley also has an hourly service via Rugeley Town railway station and the Chase Line suburban route connecting to Cannock, Walsall and Birmingham.
The major roads into Rugeley are the A460 from Cannock, and the A51 Lichfield to Stone. A new eastern bypass was opened in 2007 to facilitate the development of new employment areas on the former colliery site, and to reduce congestion in the town centre.
Rugeley is a mixed community in terms of age groups and household incomes, but in terms of racial mix it remains a very white/caucasian town. Much of the ageing population and their families are linked to the ex-mining communities, with an increasing proportion of the younger population being new to the area and associated with the services sector. As a former mining town Rugeley, and neighbouring Brereton, suffer from a moderate level of social deprivation with parts of the town consisting of council or ex-council house stock (such as the Springfield Estate and parts of Brereton) or, significantly, ex National Coal Board housing such as the Pear Tree Estate. However, on the fringes of Rugeley there is much more affluence, particularly in some of the areas bordering Cannock Chase, some of the older Georgian streets, or waterfront properties along the Trent and Mersey Canal. A number of new houses were built in the housing boom of the early 2000s, providing a mixture of affordable and higher-end properties for local people and those new to the area.
Rugeley has a modern swimming pool and leisure centre, opened 2006 on Burnthill Lane. Rugeley has also benefitted from a skate park being built in Hagley Park.
Rugeley has a reasonably sized town centre which boasts an outdoor market 3 days per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It also has an indoor market and a shopping centre of sorts called the Brewery Street Arcade. Rugeley has a number of well known high street names like Boots, Argos, Greggs and Morrisons.
Residents of the town benefit from their proximity to Cannock Chase and indeed there is now a heritage trail funded by the National Lottery linking the town to Hednesford and Cannock with excellent disabled access. The trail is now complete and contains numerous notice boards highlighting the town's history.
Rugeley also has a state-of-the-art health centre off Sandy Lane, a replacement for its predecessor on Horsefair, there is now a modern care home on the site of the old surgery. Technically, two separate surgeries coexist there with chairs in the waiting room oriented one of two ways towards the plasma screen that informs patients of their appointment, there is also the Aelfgar Surgery in Taylors Lane.
The town also has the Rugeley Rose Theatre which is a theatre and community centre in Taylors Lane and recording studio, Abbeysound, housed in a former convent in Heron Street, which is also home to Rugeley Snooker & Poker Clubs
Rugeley is well served by sports clubs, playing home to two cricket clubs (Rugeley C.C. and Trent Valley C.C.), several football clubs and Rugeley Rugby Club, as well as Rugeley Rifle Club which offers some of the best indoor and outdoor ranges in Staffordshire, catering for .22 and air gun target shooting.
The Lea Hall Social Club underwent extensive renovation between 2005 and 2011 and serves Rugeley residents with a variety of facilities including cricket and football pitches, tennis courts and a crown bowling green. Etching Hill Tennis Club is well known in the area for producing talented young players.
Entertainment & Events
Rugeley has recently had some new, modern pubs including the Glass Works (Brewery Street) and the Plaza, the old town cinema converted by Wetherspoon's. There is a charter fair that occurs during the first weekend in June, which is a huge attraction with most people from the town joining in the street parade. The town council also puts on a fireworks display during the last weekend of the school summer holidays, known as "Back to School with a Bang". There is a Christmas lights switch-on during December, which also includes a market and late night opening of shops with the local traders association joining in the organising of street entertainment.
Rugeley suffered an increase in unemployment when Lea Hall Colliery closed in 1990. Following many years of demolition and regeneration, a number of large industrial units have, and are still being built on the Towers Business Park, a brownfield site situated on the former ground of the colliery. In August 2011, Amazon.co.uk opened a 700,000 sq ft fulfillment centre on the Towers Park, creating between 700 and 900 full-time jobs as well as generating a large pool of seasonal work around Christmas.
In 1855, the town gained notoriety when a local doctor, William Palmer, was accused of murdering an acquaintance, John Parsons Cook (who is buried in a still visible grave in the local St Augustine's churchyard). It was claimed that Cook had been poisoned, and in the months that followed, Palmer was implicated in the deaths of several other persons, including his own wife and brother, and possibly even some of his own children. He was put on trial for the murder of Cook in 1856, and an Act of Parliament was passed to allow the trial to be held at the Old Bailey, London, as it was felt that a fair jury could not be found in Staffordshire. Palmer was found guilty of murder, and hanged publicly outside Stafford Gaol on 14 June 1856. Local legend has it that, on being instructed to step on to the gallows trap-door he asked the now famous question "Is it safe?".
Another tale holds that following the uproar surrounding the discovery of Palmer's activities, the town put in a special request to the Prime Minister requesting that they be permitted to change the name of the town to disassociate themselves from the murders. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister at the time was Lord Palmerston, who agreed to the request only on the condition that the town be named after him. For obvious reasons the locals declined this offer. The story of Palmer was told in The Life and Crimes of William Palmer (1998), starring Keith Allen in the role of the infamous doctor.
George Ernest Thompson Edalji (March 1876 – 17 June 1953) was famously and wrongly convicted of one of the 'Great Wyrley Outrages,' (the village of Great Wyrley being some eight-and-a-half miles south of Rugeley, south of the Cannock Chase district and north of Walsall) but cleared as the result of an investigation by Arthur Conan Doyle. Julian Barnes's 2005 novel Arthur & George recounts the entire episode in great detail, though it does not always stick to the historical record (see Roger Oldfield's book 'Outrage: The Edalji Five and the Shadow of Sherlock Holmes', Vanguard Press). Edalji was educated at Rugeley grammar school in the 1880s.
The body of Christina Collins was discovered in the Trent and Mersey Canal in Rugeley on 17 June 1839. She was believed to have been raped and murdered by Shale who had agreed to transport her from Liverpool to London to join her husband. The steps which she was carried up are still known as the 'bloody steps' to this day. Although, as they are made from sandstone, the steps have no doubt been replaced several times, local legend has it that they sometimes ooze blood and her ghost appears upon them. Christina's grave can still be seen today in the churchyard at St Augustine's. Three of the four bargemen were charged with her murder. The story of her murder was the inspiration for an Inspector Morse mystery first broadcast in 1998, entitled The Wench is Dead.
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- Rugeley Online – Statistics
- Sarah O’Connor (February 8, 2013). "Amazon unpacked: The online giant is creating thousands of UK jobs, so why are some employees less than happy?". Financial Times. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
- Amazon's human robots: They trek 15 miles a day around a warehouse, their every move dictated by computers checking their work. Is this the future of the British workplace?, Daily Mail, 28th February 2013
- Rugeley, A History of the County of Stafford, Victoria County History, L. Margaret Midgley, British History Online, 1959
- Rugeley, Churches, A History of the County of Stafford, Victoria County History, L. Margaret Midgeley, 1959, British History Online
- Rugeley Town Council
- Brereton and Rugeley Parish Website
- Map of Rugeley at Streetmap.co.uk
- Rugeley Bypass
- Rugeley Power Station
- Rugeley Cricket Club
- Rugeley Rifle Club
- Rugeley Rangers Football Club
- Lea Hall Miners Welfare CEntre and Social Club
- The Landor (Local History) Society serves Rugeley, Staffordshire and the neighbouring parishes