Rugby School was founded in the year 1567 by Lawrence Sheriff, a local businessman. In 1750 the school was moved to its present site on the edge of the town of Rugby.
In 1828 Thomas Arnold was appointed headmaster of Rugby. Although a prosperous private school, Rugby was not seen as having the same status as schools such as Eton or Winchester. Arnold had a profound and lasting effect on the development of public school education in England. Arnold introduced mathematics, modern history and modern languages and instituted the form system and introduced the prefect system to keep discipline. He modernized the teaching of Classics by directing attention to literary, moral or historical questions. Although Arnold held strong views, he made it clear to his students they were not expected to accept those views, but to examine the evidence and to think for themselves.
The education developed at Rugby was graphically described in Tom Brown's Schooldays, a novel written by a former pupil, Thomas Hughes. Other former students include Percy Wyndham Lewis, Arthur Hugh Clough, Rupert Brooke, Arthur Ransome, Henry Sidgwick, Maurice Hankey and Richard Tawney.
Last spring the Germans had constructed huge tents in an open space in the Lager. For the whole of the good season each of them had catered for over 1,000 men: now the tents had been taken down, and an excess 2,000 guests crowded our huts. We old prisoners knew that the Germans did not like these irregularities and that something would soon happen to reduce our number.