Rugeley Upper Brook Street, leading into the town centre
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|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
It lies on the north-eastern edge of The Chase and next to the River Trent. It lies 7.9 miles (12.7 km) north of the city of Lichfield and 9.8 miles (15.8 km) southeast of the county town of Stafford, as well as 4.6 miles (7.4 km) northeast of Hednesford town and 11.3 miles (18.2 km) southwest of the town of Uttoxeter. At the 2001 census the town's population was 22,724, increasing to 24,033 at the 2011 Census. Rugeley is twinned with Western Springs, Illinois and in July 1962 the towns made telephone history on national television when the chairman of Rugeley Urban District Council made the first telephone call via the new Telstar satellite to the Mayor of Western Springs.
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 and Mersey Canal and then from it becoming a junction on the railway network.
Rugeley was considered royal land and The Chase was considered a royal forest. In 1189, Rugeley was sold to the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry by King Richard I the Lionheart. Rugeley was still relatively small at this point.
1259, Rugeley had grown significantly enough to be granted the right to hold a weekly market. To this today there is a weekly outdoor market held in the town.
In 1709 Rugeley was hit with two disasters. One was a fire that ravaged the town (the town had been hit by a fire sixty years prior to this too making this the second such disaster) and the other was when the Rising Brook which runs through the town broke its banks and flooded the town. Not a good year and could have easily seen Rugeley disappear from the map books.
Rugeley was an agricultural community for hundreds of years and held regular sheep, cattle and horse fairs. This reached its peak in the mid 19th century and lasting until the 1930s. The Rugeley annual horse fair was known internationally and attracted trade from far and away. To this day there is a main road in Rugeley town centre called Horsefair honouring this, as well as another street honouring the sheep fair.
Although smaller pits had existed beforehand, the town became a centre of industrial scale deep shaft coal mining from the 1950s, to access similar coal seams to those under The Chase. The Lea Hall Colliery that 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.
Between 1793 and 1967 Rugeley Grammar School provided selective secondary education for the town and also for Hednesford. Historical characters who were educated at RGS include the banker and railway promoter Edward Charles Blount and the Australian pioneer and politician Charles Bonney.
Areas of Rugeley
Rugeley along with its town centre is made up of several housing estates as well as areas which were once their own identity but now are incorporated into the town including Etching Hill, Brereton, which comprises two main housing estates - St. Michaels and Five Oaks; as well as the village Slitting Mill. The other estates include Burnthill Lane/ Hagley Park area, Green Lane area, Springfields Estate, Peartree Estate, Chadsfield Estate, Ravenhill (which is included in the same Parish council as Brereton), The Beeches, The Birches, Draycott Park and the new Hawksyard Estate among them. There are also several industrial zones including the Levels/ Redbrook Lane Estates, Power Station Road, Wheelhouse Road/ Lea Hall Trading Estate and Trent Valley.
There are two main parks. Elmore Park in the town centre and Ravenhill Park in the Brereton area.
For many years in the 1970s and 1980s Rugeley was served by British Rail, with four services each way to and from Stafford and Rugby/Coventry. After the closure of Rugeley A power station and Lea Hall Colliery and a 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 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 Walsall and Birmingham.
The town continues to benefit from the Trent and Mersey Canal on its eastern side which, since the popularity of canals as a leisure activity, brings additional tourism into the town. The Canal is signposted well linking the canal from Preston Brook to Shardlow running through Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire.
Regular bus services 22, 23, 24, 63, 825 and 826 link Rugeley to towns of Stafford, Hednesford and Lichfield. These Arriva operated routes also link nearby rural villages of Colwich and Great Haywood. They also link the towns neighbourhoods including Springfields, Peartree and Brereton.
The major roads into Rugeley are the A460 from Wolverhampton, and the A51 via Tamworth, Lichfield to Stone before going through Nantwich and ending at Chester. 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.
BBC Midlands Today and ITV Central cover Rugeley from studios in Birmingham. These are mainly received from the Sutton Coldfield transmitting station, however, some parts of the town are shielded from Sutton Coldfield and rely on the Rugeley relay, located at The Hart School.
Some parts of Rugeley can also receive good signals from the Waltham transmitting station near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, which carries BBC East Midlands and the East Midland variant of ITV Central.
Rugeley lies within the coverage areas of the West Midland regional stations, like Heart and Greatest Hits Radio, Capital Mid-Counties and Signal 1 in Stoke-on-Trent. BBC Local Radio is covered by BBC WM from Birmingham on 95.6 FM, though reception is not good, and in some parts, BBC Radio Stoke on 94.6 FM is better received.
For many years up to 1980, Rugeley had its own newspaper, the Rugeley Times published from Bow Street. The paper was sold to the Staffordshire Newsletter. Today the town is covered by the Express and Star. Students from the local area began writing a newspaper for Rugeley called The Hart of Rugeley. This is published three times a year. The team of students are based at The Hart School.
Rugeley is a mixed community in terms of age groups and household incomes, but in terms of its ethnic make-up it remains an overwhelmingly White British town; the area in which it is located, Cannock Chase, was 96.5% White British as of the 2011 census. 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 former mining towns, Rugeley including the Brereton area 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 former National Coal Board housing, such as the Pear Tree Estate. However, on the fringes of Rugeley there is more affluence, particularly in some of the areas bordering The Chase, some of the older Georgian streets including the conservation area of Crossley Stone 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.
Church of England
The Parish Church of Rugeley is St Augustine's Church. St Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century to convert the Anglo-Saxon Pagans to Christianity. There was previously a Church before and is now opposite St Augustine's. It now lies in ruins but there is a School next to it called 'Chancel School' as the Chancel of the Church is the only part that is mainly intact. There are several other churches within the Rugeley area including The Church Of The Good Shepherd, Rugeley Community Church, Victory Church, The Church Of The Holy Spirit and St. Michael's Church.
The Catholic Church in Rugeley is dedicated to St Joseph and St Etheldreda. It is built in the Gothic revival style of the 19th Century. There is a Catholic Primary School in the Town dedicated to St Joseph as the Church is. The Parish is part of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
The Methodist church of Rugeley is named after St Paul and located close to the town centre on Lichfield Street. It is a Methodist/ United Reformed Church. Along with the main town centre Methodist church there is also one in the Brereton area of the town.
Rugeley has a modern swimming pool and leisure centre, opened 2006 on Burnthill Lane. Rugeley has a skate park in Hagley Park. Schools in the area include The Hart School (formerly two separate schools - Fair Oak Academy and Hagley Park Academy).
Rugeley's town centre has an outdoor market three days per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It also has an indoor market and a shopping centre called the Brewery Street Arcade. Rugeley has a number of well known high street names like Boots, Argos, Greggs, Costa Coffee, McDonald's, Burger King, Subway Restaurant, Tesco and Morrisons among other well known retailers. Along with these main high street retailers there are still a number of smaller Momma & Poppa style shops.
Residents of the town benefit from their proximity to The Chase and indeed there is a heritage trail funded by the National Lottery linking the town to Hednesford with excellent disabled access. The trail 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. A modern care home now stands on the site of the former surgery. Technically, two separate surgeries coexist there. There is also the Aelfgar Surgery in Taylors Lane. There is also the Springfields Health & Well Being Centre which caters for the Springfield and Etching Hill Areas as well as the Brereton Clinic. There is also the Cool Shaping Clinic in Hawkesyard.
Rugeley Rose Theatre is a theatre and community centre in Taylors Lane.
Heron Court Hall, is a gothic style mansion (built by Joseph Whitgreave in 1851) on the outskirts of Rugeley town centre. It is a former convent and private residence and is now owned by Rugeley Snooker Club (also known as Rugeley Billiards Club). It is home to both Rugeley Snooker Club and Rugeley Poker Club. Rugeley Snooker Club has three full size snooker tables and in addition to serving its members, regularly plays host to other clubs from local snooker leagues.
Rugeley is 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 caters to .22 and air gun target shooting.
The Lea Hall Social Club, which underwent extensive renovation between 2005 and 2011, serves Rugeley residents with a variety of facilities including cricket and football pitches, tennis courts and a crown bowling green.
There is also the Etching Hill Tennis Club if you enjoy tennis.
The Chase has many activities including hiking, camping, mountain bike trails and the local Go Ape which is located at Birches Valley, Rugeley which is also the centre of both the Forestry Commission and Forest Live outdoor annual concerts.
For the golf enthusiast there is the St. Thomas Golf Course at the Hawkesyard Estate.
A charter fair 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". A Christmas lights switch-on during December includes a market and late-night opening of shops, with the local traders association joining in the organising of street entertainment.
A Pagan conference happens on the May bank holiday every year. Staffordshire Pagan Conference started in 2015 and was held at Lea Hall Social Club. The conference is attended by over 250 people from all over the country. Over £1,000 has been donated to Staffordshire Wildlife Trust with the profit from the event. As of 2018 the conference will be relocating to The Rose Theatre and will become Witchfest Midlands.
In 2016 and 2017, the British Quidditch Cup was held at Rugeley Leisure Centre. The third British Quidditch Cup took place on 19 and 20 March 2016, with 32 teams competing, and the winners were Oxford's team, the Radcliffe Chimeras. The fourth British Quidditch Cup took place on 11 and 12 March 2017, with 32 teams competing, and the winners were Velociraptors QC.
In February 2020 a new "Fringe Festival" was announced with a variety of events intended to be held in the town over the May Bank Holiday. The Festival was cancelled in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Chase is a venue for the Forest Live series of music events, with concerts held at Birches Valley Forest Centre, Rugeley. As with other Forest Live events it hosts different live acts from big name bands each year. Past acts have included Paul Weller, UB40, Kaiser Chiefs and Paloma Faith.
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 been 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. A new self sustaining village of a further 2,300 + houses with amenities and sporting facilities as well as two new schools, a park and a Silicon Valley-style business park have been proposed.
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 onto 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.
Other notable people
- Thomas Weston (1584-1646) Merchant adventurer, admitted to the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers in 1609
- Mary Knowles (1733–1807), English Quaker poet, supported abolition of the slave trade and slavery.
- John Stevenson Salt (1777–1845) English barrister, banker and land owner, served as High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1838
- Thomas George Bonney FRS (1833–1923) English geologist, president of the Geological Society of London
- John Porter (1838–1922) English thoroughbred flat racing trainer, founder of Newbury Racecourse
- Frederic Bonney FRS (1842–1921) British land owner, photographer and anthropologist
- Ethelred Luke Taunton (1857–1907) English Roman Catholic priest and historical writer.
- Selwyn MacGregor Grier (1 April 1878 – 8 November 1946) was a British colonial administrator, Governor-in-Chief of the Windward Islands from 1935 to 1937.
- Lynda Grier (3 May 1880 – 21 August 1967) was A British educational administer and policy advisor
- William Beaumont Burns (1883–1916) English cricketer, played more than 200 first-class matches mainly for Worcs.
- Wilfred John Simkin CMG (1883–1967) was the 6th Anglican Bishop of Auckland
- Sir Nicholas Raymond Winterton (born 1938) British Conservative Party politician, MP for Macclesfield 1971 / 2015
- Paul Davies-Hale (born 1962) British long-distance runner, competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in the 3000m steeplechase and at 1992 Summer Olympics in the marathon
- Scout Niblett (born 20 September 1973) Singer-Songwriter-Musician.
- Robert Rock (born 6 April 1977) is an English professional golfer. He has played on the European Tour since 2003.
- George Pilkington (born 7 November 1981) is an English former professional footballer.
Towns and cities
Rugeley is twinned with:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rugeley.|
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- Sarah O’Connor (8 February 2013). "Amazon unpacked: The online giant is creating thousands of UK jobs, so why are some employees less than happy?". Financial Times. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
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- Jordan Reynolds (25 February 2020). "First Rugeley Fringe Festival planned". Express and Star. Midland News Association. Archived from the original on 26 February 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
- Rebecca Sayce (18 March 2020). "First Rugeley Fringe Festival cancelled". Express and Star. Midland News Association. Archived from the original on 19 March 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
- "Amazon bringing 900 jobs to Rugeley". www.expressandstar.com.
- "1,700 Christmas jobs at Rugeley Amazon centre". www.expressandstar.com.