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Our Rugby Pilgrimage

We—my fiancé Michael and I—first visited Rugby over 20 years ago for the Rugby Pilgrimage festival in August 1988. We were enchanted by the little village preserved from the previous century!

While we were there, we visited the blue-painted Rugby Library and were stunned by the cases of perfectly preserved books in bright jewel colors, lettered in gold. At concert time, we sat in the little rose-and-gold gothic Christ Church Episcopal and listened to Farr Horizons playing strings music that listeners might have heard a hundred years before in 1888. We perused historic memorabilia at the Rugby Schoolhouse, now a museum and visitors' center. And we happily toured the English Rural Gothic houses, with their board-and batten siding, stick-style trim, arched windows, vintage interior paneling, elegant Victorian carpeting and upholstery, and long luxurious draperies puddled on the floor, which showed wealth and status.

At the Harrow Road Cafe, we enjoyed a savory lunch of beef pot pies. At the Rugby Commissary, we perused the quilts, baskets, dishes, hurricane lamps, tinned foods, and wooden toys. At Percy Cottage, now a book shop, we examined Victorian reproduction books, cards, stickers, and decorations. And at the Rugby Printing Works, we watched the printer churn out hand-printed cards through the hand-operated press with handset type. Visitors received copies of the printed cards and, back at home, I framed mine, a red-and-green card in a red-and-green frame: "The Harrow Road Cafe: Open Daily."

That weekend we stayed at the Pioneer Cottage guest house with a group of Lark-in-the-Morn English Country Dancers, some of whom were Michael's housemates in the big city two hours away. We watched the dancers on the green grassy lawns—both the English Country Dancers and Rapper Sword Dancers. We visited the crafts booths and, another time, we watched a sheep sheering. Many times now we have hiked down the rocky, rooty path to swim in the Gentleman's Swimming Hole.

We have been coming back for Maytime festivals, summer Pilgrimages, the Ghostly Gathering with haunted house stories, Thanksgiving Marketplace, and Victorian Christmas dinners. Now there are even New Year’s dinners, Valentine dinners, and St. Patrick's celebrations. One summer, we came for a weekend outing with our church's parents-of-young-children group, staying at the rose-and-gold Rural Gothic replica Parish Hall, lunching at Grey Gables, and attending church at the tiny Christ Church Episcopal. One autumn not long ago, we came with our own St. John's Cathedral Choir to sing an Advent Evensong at Christ Church. That evening we also visited the home of church friends who have retired to Beacon Hill, with its charming historic replica Rural Gothic houses.

We have told friends and family about Rugby over the years, and have sometimes brought them with us, and we always find time to go back!