Rugby originated as one of several versions of football played at the major English public schools. From the mid-18th century Rugby School allowed a version of football which included handling of the ball although initially no one was allowed to carry the ball towards the opponents' goal until this innovation occurred in the 1820s. (The story that William Web Ellis was responsible for it in 1823 is now believed to be apocryphal.) In 1845 the school published the first written rules for the game. Other school such as Marlborough College in Wiltshire began to adopt this game. Former students of the schools began to form clubs as adults to continue their enjoyment of the game and introduce others to it. The Rugby Football Union was founded in 1871 to standardize the rules and make the game less violent. The Union was split in 1893 over the issue of professionalism. The breakaway Northern Rugby Football Union was formed and the divide deepened in 1895 with the creation of a separate League. The divide was not truly 'north/south' but 'working class/upper class'. Working class men playing the game could not afford to play on Saturdays and lose wages unless they received some compensation for loss of income. However the Rugby Union would not agree to professionalism until as late as 1995, and Union and League continue to be separate. The Union version of the game is predominant worldwide. Rugby is not currently an Olympic sport but Rugby sevens are due to be included in 2016.
Photograph of Trowbridge Rugby Team in 1933 (Reference 2437/31)
Photograph of Hardenhuish School Chippenham rugby team playing under the rules and mode of dress common in 1871 as a centenary celebration in 1971 (Reference F8/700/4/1/25/2)
Notebook from Trowbridge Rugby Club in 1973, showing the costs of matches including match fees of 20 pence and half-time oranges at 12 pence. (Reference 2437/29)