RUGBY, Tenn. (WATE) — As thousands across the world honor Queen Elizabeth II, one small historic East Tennessee village is honoring the British queen in their own special way dating back to their Victorian roots.
Historic Rugby is honoring Queen Elizabeth II following her death on Thursday by practicing Victorian mourning traditions. This involves shrouding her portrait in black, ringing the Episcopal church bell for her, and hanging a Union Jack outside the schoolhouse. In addition, Friday morning, the village bell was rung 70 times for her years of reign, and on the day of the funeral, the bell will be rung 96 shared Annie Patterson, the Operations Manager.
“Yesterday, we had a lot of people in the village who you know were here just as a regular beautiful fall day in Rugby. It was just kind of interesting as the news spread, of course, through the staff and the residents and then the visitors, as the news spread that the Queen had passed. You could just kind of feel the mood shift because she was such a steadfast presence in everybody’s life,” said Patterson.
This is not the first time Rugby honored a queen. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, the village also went into mourning.
“We have done some research on what happened when [Victoria] passed away and what the community did at the time. We’re emulating some of that given our respect for Queen Elizabeth II,” said Patterson.
For those who would like to experience Victorian mourning for themselves, during October the village will have their “Rugby Edged in Black” event. Patterson says this event offers a look at the death and mourning customs of the Victorian era through the death of Margaret Hughes, Thomas’s mother. Patterson added that they plan to keep their tributes to the Queen up until the end of the Edged in Black event.
The village was founded in 1880 by British author Thomas Hughes during Victoria’s reign. He used the money he made from the children’s book “Tom Brown’s School Days” to buy land on the Cumberland Plateau. Hughes wanted to establish a Utopian village.
“Hughes was trying to create this community to give them an opportunity for that. But it goes even more than that because it was a mixture of Englishmen and their families, as well as American, Appalachian families in that time. You get a mixture of cultures and different social and economic backgrounds, different nationalities, and even different races, all working together to make a cooperative community,” said Brian Whitson, a historic interpreter at Rugby.
“So that was a really big concept for the idea for this, it was designed to be a utopian based community for all people to work together as one. His dream was to see this succeed and although his initial colony did decline. Elements of that still exist today. There is more of a utopian mindset for the people who come to Rugby, who live in Rugby, and work together to support this dream that Thomas Hughes had back in 1880,” he continued.
According to the Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, the residents of Rugby began restoring the original design and layout of the community in the 1960s. This led to the creation of the nonprofit Historic Rugby Inc, which works to preserve and protect the site and its story as well as the heritage of the British Isles and Appalachia. The chamber added that due to its architecture, and setting nearby is the Big South Fork National Park, Rugby is a very popular tourist attraction.
It can be found on the top of the Cumberland Plateau in Morgan County. The Clear Fork River passes just north of the town, then joins with the New River to form the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. Historic Rugby contains 17 original buildings, hiking trails, shops, lodging and a print shop. Guided tours of the buildings are also offered. To find out more, click here.