The History of Rugeley
Rugeley lies on the main Stafford-Lichfield road which continues south to London and north to the Potteries and Manchester. It is famous for one of its inhabitants the infamous Doctor William Palmer known as Palmer the poisoner.
Rugeley, which includes the mining village of Brereton and the hamlets of Slitting Mill and Etching Hill. The urban district with Hazel Slade and the area now known as Brindley Heath formed the ancient parish. Rugeley is bounded by the Trent on the north-east and by the high ground of Cannock Chase on the west, and these natural features until recently determined the shape of settlement within the parish.
Rugeley was described in 1747 as ‘a handsome clean well-built town of exceeding pleasant and healthful situation’. By 1834 it was considered ‘the largest and handsomest market town in the Cuttlestone hundred’. At this time it was said to consist in the main of one long street with short roads leading off it. During the previous twenty years many new houses had been erected and some of the old ones rebuilt most of the houses being well built and some ‘even elegant, being occupied by wealthy families and having neat lawns and pleasure grounds’. The greatest expansion of the town in the second half of the 19th century took place to the south and east, although parts of the Brereton and Armitage roads were already built up by 1842. The area east of Market Street, where there was once a forge, contains the gas works and is largely industrial. When the Roman Catholic church was built in1849–51 it was on the outskirts of the town, but a network of small streets to the south and east as far as the canal soon followed, together with a great increase of building on the Brereton and Armitage roads. The greatest alteration to the town centre took place in 1878 when the old Town Hall was demolished and Anson Street was cut to connect the Market Place with Wolseley Road. The south-west end of Church Street was built up late in the 19thcentury. In the 20th century council housing estates to the west and south greatly increased the area of the town. The estates at Burnt Hill and Newman Grove were built before the Second World War while Springfield Crescent, containing two-story prefabricated houses, dates from immediately after it. Attlee Crescent was laid out c. 1950. The large Pear Tree housing estate on rising ground south-west of the town was begun in 1953.
Over the past 15 years there have been an influx of new homes.
Rugeley was granted a charter which gave the right to hold a fair on the Vigil, Feast and Morrow of St Augustine of Canterbury, between the 25-27 May. However, in 1752 the date of the charter changed to the beginning of June due to the ‘loss’ of 11 days following the change of the calendar.
The fair gradually developed into a horse fair and then a pleasure fair. In 1851 the fair was described as ‘a very large fair for colts and horses, chiefly of superior breeds’. The fair was originally held in Horse Fair, with it spreading down Brook Street and Market Place. Gradually the horse fair ended due to the increasing popularity of cars, the last horse fair was held in 1932 but the pleasure fair still continued.
As part of the Festival of Britain in 1951 the British Legion organised a Carnival Week to raise funds for a headquarters building, this took place in June and became an annual event until 1956.
In 1969 The Round Table used the date to run a Donkey Derby to raise money for charity. This developed into the ‘Round Table Event’ throughout the 1970’s.
From 1980-1982 the Rugeley Festival Week was run by the Rugeley Chamber of Commerce and for the next 10 years the Rugeley festival was organised by an Independent Committee.
The absence of new volunteers meant the demise of the Festival. To prevent Rugeley losing it’s annual event Rugeley Town Council took over and organised the first ‘Charter Fair’ in 1996 continuing the traditions of a carnival procession and a great day for the Town of Rugeley.
The Traders, Town Council and the local people of Rugeley work tirelessly to promote and make the very best of the town.