Tom Brown’s Schooldays
The Museum is called ‘Tom Brown’s School Museum’ because in the 19th century, when Thomas Hughes wrote his famous book, the village school occupied the building which now houses the Museum. Hughes’ book mentions the school, and there is little doubt that the adventures of Tom Brown are closely modelled on the author’s own childhood.
The drawing to the right, taken from the book, shows the young Tom Brown going fishing for sticklebacks with his ancient friend Benjy.
It is obvious from the book that Hughes had a very liberal and progressive upbringing.
The first indications of this occur when the author tells that Tom Brown was positively encouraged to mix with other children of the village regardless of their social background, something which at that time was unusually radical.
The book incudes extensive descriptions of village life, and much of the village which has remained as it was during Thomas Hughes’s childhood. Immediately opposite the Museum is the cottage where Benjy used to live, and the surroundings are still as illustrated in the book.
The book is mainly known for the accounts of Tom’s adventures at Rugby public school. It illustrates Hughes’s radical ideas about education, with his characterisation of the kindly Doctor Arnold, headmaster of Rugby.
The Museum has a display on the life of Thomas Hughes, and has a collection of 136 different editions of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Two different films which are based on the book are available on DVD for visitors to view.
Hughes’ book ‘The Scouring of the White Horse’ is an important record of the celebrations that accompanied the renovation of the Horse in 1857. One of the first editions of the book is on display in the Museum.