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“Check your electronics at the door”

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1880 Newbury House at Historic Rugby
Ranked #2 of 2 Rugby B&B and Inns
Kemptville, Canada
Level Contributor
28 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Check your electronics at the door”
Reviewed 5 October 2013

I've stayed at Newbury House in Historic Rugby three times (with a fourth coming up this month). Whenever we've gone, we've been the only guests, which was quite nice - we could pretend we owned the place! Everything you need to prepare meals is in the kitchen, and a lovely breakfast is prepared 'in town'...a very short walk from the house. The rooms are well fitted out and comfortable. As for the 'ghost'...I've only experienced something once and I'm still alive to tell the tale! Rugby is a wonderful step back in time. Sitting and rocking on the front porch late one night with the full moon shining through the leafless branches of the surrounding trees, and the wind blowing dead leaves across the road, we expected Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman to come riding by at any time. This historic town has been lovingly maintained and is worth the side trip if you're interested in history and want a quiet, peaceful place to stay.

  • Stayed August 2013, travelled with friends
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Thank omaizzy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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18 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Location
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (2)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Fort Worth, Texas
Level Contributor
59 reviews
18 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 92 helpful votes
Reviewed 13 September 2013

I had heard of Historic Rugby on and off for years and finally got around to visiting 10 years ago. It's a small village from the 1880s about 75 miles northwest of Knoxville, accessible only by winding 2-lane roads in the middle of nowhere. Go there late at night, as I sometimes have, with a light fog covering the road, and you'll be inclined to name the road "The Zen Highway," since you must concentrate very hard at every moment to avoid going off the road. On the other hand, a retired Episcopal priest and his wife drive up from Knoxville every week to hold service in the small Episcopal chapel in the village.

Rugby was named after the famous prep school in England and founded by Victorian author and social reformer Thomas Hughes, with money that he earned from the sale of his novel "Tom Brown's School Days," a book that was once much better known than it is now (you can buy a copy in the village store). The idea was to provide a self-sustaining community where penniless younger sons of English aristocrats would work side by side with American factory laborers thrown out of work by the Panic of 1873.

The community failed, through a series of setbacks--less-than-optimal soil, the failure of the railroad to route a train sufficiently close to the new village, as promised, a fire that burnt down the town's main hotel, and a typhoid epidemic--as well as from human nature, with the aristocratic young men preferring to play polo or cricket, while the factory laborers did much of the actual work. Still, there was always a small core of people over the years who kept the place from dying out altogether. They built a church, a schoolhouse, a store, a 1-room library whose collection of 7,000 books is now priceless, and several Victorian cottages, of which the Newbury House is one. Hughes visited once a year for several months and, though he himself died in England, his elderly mother died at Rugby, and his granddaughter grew up there.

Even if you are not staying overnight, you can pay a fee and take a tour that lasts about an hour and a half. When I first visited, it was conducted by a cute college girl, which immediately alerted me to the historical and educational value of the place; now, alas, the tour is conducted by people my age, but it is still interesting. (If you are an overnight guest, the tour is included in the cost of your stay.) The tour starts in a new visitors' center, which includes a well-produced orientation film about the history of the place, and takes you through the Episcopal chapel, a lovely Carpenter Gothic structure from 1887, an 1880s cottage called Kingstone Lisle where Hughes's mother and granddaughter lived, and the library mentioned previously, which includes such rarities as original editions of Victorian works and the 9th edition of the Britannica. You are also given a map of the village so that, after the tour is over, you can walk through the village on your own. There are two stores featuring local and regional crafts, a pleasant little restaurant called the Harrow Road Café (if you are an overnight guest, breakfast at the café is included in the price of your stay), and a hiking trail that leads you down to a 200-foot-deep gorge that features a "swimming hole" still frequented by residents and visitors.

There is a village foundation that actively seeks to promote interest in the place by sponsoring year-round programs of various kinds, including lectures, workshops, walking tours, musical performances, exhibits of regional arts and crafts, and an antique British car show once or twice a year. You can become a member, if you wish, and be added to their mailing list. The Harrow Road Café features frequent performances by local and regional musicians and bands, often on weekend nights. The place has also added regional wines to its menu in the last few years. If you are there for breakfast, you may enjoy their "Plateau Pancake Breakfast," which is what I always order.

The Newbury House is one of several overnight accommodations in the village. It is one of the original village houses and its large parlor (originally the dining room) was used by Thomas Hughes himself to entertain village residents and visitors at large dinners, since the cottage where he lived when visiting Rugby (and where his mother and granddaughter lived) was too small for such purposes. Newbury House is a two-storey structure with five guest rooms upstairs (three rooms have their own bathrooms, while guests in the other two would use a bathroom accessible from the hallway) and a large suite downstairs, occupying the house's original parlor. The suite includes a spacious main room with a double bed, love seat, and fireplace, as well as a small adjoining room with two or three twin beds, and a bathroom.

There is also a half-bath downstairs, a *very* large kitchen, and a small sun porch that contains the house's only television, one of those combination TV-videocassette players from years ago, with a small collection of videocassettes. The kitchen is set up for guests to prepare their own meals, if they wish; there is a coffee maker and a jar of shortbread cookies, replenished daily.

The present parlor (again, the original dining room), also very large, contains the house's other fireplace, fitted out with working gas fixtures (I have only stayed there in warm weather so have never seen this in operation); the room is furnished, as the whole house is, with period antiques as well as a bookcase with old Victorian works, including Lyell's Principles of Geology, Kingsley's Hypatia, and Dickens's A Children's History of England. You can also look at a historic photo album of Rugby itself, The American Heritage History of the Civil War, or ephemera such as "Haunted Hikes" and the like.

There is a nice little front porch with chairs and a porch swing, pleasant for sitting and enjoying one's morning coffee. The house sits on a spacious and pleasant lot that slopes down to a pond in the back, with a bench near the pond. The nearest houses are several hundred feet away. Most of the guests seems to be couples in their forties and up and occasionally, no other guests will be present, so the place is always very quiet and peaceful.

If you drive up in the evening, you must have eaten already, as noted in another review, since the restaurant closes rather early, and all the nearby "towns" are little more than crossroads with a Sonic, a church, and a gas station. If you are coming from the west--e.g., from Nashville--be aware that the time changes to Eastern Time about 20 minutes before you reach Rugby.

Call or write and reserve your room in advance. When you get there, the visitors' center may be closed, but they will have left your room key in an envelope in the mailbox on the front porch--I'm not kidding. It's like Mayberry, but after all, it's perfectly safe because the whole thing is so remote and obscure. The envelope will also contain a welcome brochure including the village map, a ticket for your village guided tour, and a coupon for your breakfast at the restaurant. The next morning, when you forget and leave your breakfast coupon in your room, the friendly staff at the restaurant will still take your word for it that you stayed overnight and give you your free breakfast.

I always stay in the Sarah Walton room, a room for 2 with its own bath, on the second floor at the front of the house. Sarah Walton was a native and lifelong resident of the town, and her photo is displayed on the dresser; you can also see a photo of her playing the organ when you visit the church and, if you stop off at the village cemetery on the way to the swimming hole, you can see the graves of Sarah and her husband. Sarah lived from 1881 to 1958 and lived in a house that is actually visible from a window of the bedroom.

In that regard, whether Sarah is the culprit or not, several have complained about the place being haunted. One sees that both in online reviews and in comments left in one of the guestbooks in the house. I can only say that I have spent a total of five nights there and have never seen, heard, or otherwise experienced anything of the kind, though it is true that the place reminds me so much of older homes that I visited as a child that I thought, upon first visiting, that it would not have surprised me to see my long-deceased great-grandmother emerge from one of the rooms in her housecoat to ask me if I had had a safe trip. As to other guests' "haunted" experiences, I can't prove they didn't have them, but I suspect some folks just have vivid imaginations.

I finally booked an overnight stay there in 2009 and have stayed at least one night a year there ever since--I spent 2 nights in 2011. As soon as I walked in, I felt as though I were "home" and "safe," even though I had no connection to the place and had never been there. I have spent the night there as the house's sole occupant, or with other guests present but with no contact between us, or with other guests present and the opportunity to enjoy a pleasant chat. In all cases, I felt completely at home and appreciated the peace and quiet, the comfort, and the simple elegance of the place. You will see similar comments reflected in the guestbooks. This is not a place for those who think they need a minibar, heated towel racks, or a flat-screen TV in their rooms in order to feel comfortable, but it is a place for sensible and discerning adult travelers to go back in time 100 years to get away from our noisy, distracted world.

Of course, few places are without a couple of drawbacks, and this one is not immune. The first time I visited, I'm not sure I could have found the dark path that leads to the place off the main highway if I had not had my GPS. The other guests had turned off the front porch light, so I couldn't tell that the front gate was secured by a chain and had to wrestle with it in the dark, trying to open it (now, guests are asked to park in a side lot). There are two overhead lights in the parlor with fans; one of the fans sounds as though someone is sawing wood, and they won't fix it, which is rather distracting when you are trying to read. The parlor is very nicely furnished, but on my last visit, the tables and table lamps had somehow been rearranged so that light to read by was now very poor, which had not been the case previously.

Some of the elderly tour guides are so used to giving their tour speech that they may rush through it rather distractedly. I wanted to take my time to see one or two things in the visitors' center, but the man shooed me out of there, gave me the tour, and then disappeared, locking the visitors' center behind him, with no indication of when he might be back.

If you happen to be there when they are having a special event such as the antique car show, the plateau pancake breakfast suddenly disappears off the restaurant menu, for no reason that I can tell. There are two main servers in the restaurant. One of them is very friendly, and the other doesn't seem to speak English very well. Sometimes, there are too many guests for the two of them to handle adequately. On the only occasion when I was there for dinner, a party of about 15 people had walked in just as I was arriving, and it took me over a half-hour to be served. Part of it was complicated by the fact that some members of the other party, who wanted barbecue, were ordering baked beans, which the non-English-speaking server misunderstood as "green beans," and since they apparently don't serve green beans except as part of a vegetable medley, she kept saying to the guests, in an increasingly irritated tone of voice, "Veggie medley, OK? Veggie medley, OK?" It was comical up to a point, but I thought to myself, "It's 8 p.m., I can't get my order taken, and I'm miles from nowhere." While this was happening, the other server was busy in another part of the restaurant telling two other diners (who later repeated this to me) that the service there really wasn't very good. Ahem...

Finally, although the shower in the Sarah Walton room has always impressed me by how powerful it is and how much hot water was available, the last time I was there, a year ago, it didn't work *at all.* As in, not one drop of water came out. I had to go down the hall to the shared bathroom to take a shower. I wrote to the management about it and got back an e-mail promising me a 20% discount on my next stay. In any case, this was one such incident in 4 years, and I'm willing to believe it was a fluke.

Overall, the place is a hidden gem and well worth a visit. If you're like me and anywhere within driving distance, you may also end up promising yourself to stay at least once a year. I'm looking forward to this year's visit.

  • Stayed October 2012, travelled solo
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Helpful?
1 Thank Michael H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
norther cincinnati
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 8 July 2013

I specifically asked before booking if this place was haunted. He laughed and said he hasn't heard anything since he has worked there. After a night of hearing things all around us and having a very disturbing experience (like electricity through my whole body) we decided not to stay our second night. When we turned our keys into the nice lady working at the visitor center she proceeded to tell us many stories of paranormal activity.
The area is beautiful, the people exceptionally friendly and the buildings are amazing. But do not stay at the Newbury if you are even a little "sensitive." You will not sleep.
Stay at Grey Gables. The Grey Gable stay includes dinner and breakfast which are exceptional!!

  • Stayed July 2013
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank readhead00
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Clarksville, Tennessee
Level Contributor
11 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 12 November 2012

My husband and I stayed at the newbury house last weekend. We were drawn there by the haunted nature of the property. What we found was amazing.

We too arrived after dark but had no problems finding the visitors center or the b & b as they were well lit.

Once we got our keys we let ourselves in and instantly felt very comfortable like we had come home. We stayed in the Sarah Walton room. While very small, it was quite comfortable. The bathroom while small was very adequate and clean.

We loved the fact of no tv and very little phone service. We truly were able to enjoy each other and the quite away from the husstle and bustle of everyday life.

We hated to leave and are already planning our next visit.

As for haunted? I would say definitely yes, but you will have to check that out for yourself!

  • Stayed November 2012, travelled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank kavlee89
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Charlemont, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
157 reviews
38 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 59 helpful votes
Reviewed 18 October 2012

While the original community of Rugby failed, as a artful, interesting piece of history, Rugby is first rate. The entire community is composed of Victorian and neo-Victorian buildings. This includes Newbury House. A five or six room house with a Viictorian feel in and out allows for a restful visit while you explore the area.

We were three couples and all praised Newbury House.

Room Tip: The Hughes Suite is worth e star bucks.
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  • Stayed October 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank ijg1018
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Asheville, North Carolina
Level Contributor
65 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 54 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 August 2012

My sister and I took a long weekend just to travel around in Kentucky & Tennessee. I checked tripadvisor for B&B in the Jamestown area of Tn and found Rugby. Made a reservation for two nights, staying in the "Sarah Walton" room in Newbury House. Arrived after dark, was difficult to find our way to visitor center to pickup key and then to find our way to house, very little light at night. Everything we needed was left in box for us. We traveled down a dark road and saw the sign for Newbury House. Absolutely Victorian, charming, quiet and so welcoming. The porch light was on and we entered into this beautiful parlor area, all antiques, and a hall leading to kitchen area and small sunroom off to right. This is the only room with TV, ok with us!
The only difficult part of this house was the steps leading upstairs to our room. They are very narrow and extremely steep, but we made it!! The room had queen bed with original furnishings, very comfortable! The AC was marvelous (temp 90's) and we slept well. Bath has been totaly renovated with new shower. Some of the rooms share a bath but we had our own.
The entire area is gorgeous, the Church, School and theater are wonderful, along with commissary, print shop, Oddiment shop and of course the Harrow cafe. Your breakfast is complimentary, 4 main items. All was very good, however, our server Jessica was one of the best on our entire trip. What a wonderful person, she is from Taiwan, via California, and then to Tennessee! Jessica told us and another couple we met at the house, how difficult the change was for her and the children. Then she began telling us of her donkey, chickens and everything else on their farm. They live in or very near Rugby. The trip was worth just meeting Jessica!! Please check out their website: http://www.historicrugby.org/. Best weekend in years!

  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank nikki a
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Oxford, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 22 April 2010

Historic Rugby preserves and cherishes a unique Victorian village built by English and American settlers in 1880 as a cooperative community, under the leadership of Thomas Hughes (author of Tom Brown's Schooldays). This authentically preserved and charming B&B is in the heart of the village, which itself is in the heart of the romantic and isolated Cumberland Plateau. I went there for academic reasons (I am researching Hughes) - but I would go back because it is the perfect romantic holiday location for a couple who wants peace, beauty, and long country walks on the excellent and well-marked trails around the area. There is also a very good café serving breakfast, lunch and early dinner - very good cooking, and very nice staff. This is a really special place, and nobody seems to know about it... It is also extremely good value. You can rent a cottage, as an alternative to the B&B - which might be even nicer, if you have a family.

  • Stayed April 2010, travelled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank HHJCarter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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Additional Information about 1880 Newbury House at Historic Rugby

Property: 1880 Newbury House at Historic Rugby
Address: 1331 Rugby Pkwy, Rugby, TN 37733-5008
Region: United States > Tennessee > Rugby
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Kitchenette
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 2 B&Bs / Inns in Rugby
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): £
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Lodge where early Rugby colonists stayed at Historic Newbury House or one of our cottages - Percy Cottage or Pioneer Cottage. Newbury House is antique and book-filled, with five upstairs rooms and Thomas Hughes suite down with queen bed & fireplace. Guests' parlor and kitchen facilities. Percy Cottage is historically reconstructed with three bedroom, two bathrooms, a kitchen and two sitting rooms. Historic Pioneer Cottage has a more rustic atmosphere and includes a parlor, equipped kitchen, screened porch, three bedrooms with a total of five double and two twin beds, a full bath and half bath. All are set in a tranquil, wooded setting in unique historic village, open daily offering national award-winning history film, historic building tours, museum shops, and hiking trails. Adjacent to Big South Fork National Park and Rugby State Natural Area. ... more   less 

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