What I like best about the two Grey Gables cookbooks is the Rugby history. We in our family have been visiting Rugby and reading about Rugby for over 20 years; we have been to Grey Gables for lunch; and we have heard of Linda Brooks Jones' books, though we hadn't read them or heard her speak until this week. The standard history of Rugby that we usually read, on our tour guides or in books we buy from the bookshop or check out of the library back in Knoxville, is of the English village and its settlers in its heyday, circa 1880-1900. What Linda is writing and speaking about is Rugby after its decline as an English utopia, when it was a rural town in the early 1900s through the 1950s, before its restoration as a historic settlement.
She holds up vintage clothing and pictures to illustrate her talk: portraits of the menfolk in her family who settled in the area as early as the 1850s, before the English colony was established; her aunt's long wool bathing suit that she wore to the Ladies' Swimming Hole; a black ruffled taffeta petticoat found in her grandparents' attic; a two-piece ruffled dress with a tiny, tiny waist that belonged to a Rugby lady; a lace-edged white bonnet exactly like Madame Hughes is wearing in her pictures.
Linda's aunt and uncle Nell and Charles Brooks lived in Madame Hughes's home, Uffington House, with its long walkway and grape arbor, after Madame Hughes left, from 1905 until 1955; Linda sometimes stopped there on her bicycle after helping deliver mail. The post office was in the parlor of Kingston Lisle, that chocolate-brown board-and-batten house with its dark interior woodwork, once the home of Thomas Hughes himself. Linda, as a child in the 1940s and 1950s, picked up incoming mail at Kingston Lisle and carried it on her bicycle up the road to the R.M. Brooks General Store, where neighbors could pick it up.
Highway 52 had a tar-and-gravel surface in those days, and on warm afternoons, melted tar stuck to her bicycle tires, and she had to get off and push her bicycle home. The General Store was run by her parents and grandparents, and is still there to this day. Her family lived in the house behind the store. Linda's husband Bill Jones grew up in the area too, and they were high school sweethearts in the 1950s.They married and moved away, then came back years later to open Grey Gables as a bed-and breakfast inn.
I love knowing the story of 1900s Rugby!