Discover Our Story



The Percival Guildhouse was an experiment in adult education in the 20th Century. It was not founded to meet a recognised and statutory need; for example, the provision of a school in a new housing development. It was the outcome of the thinking and undefined aspirations of a number of people in Rugby after the First World War.

Adult education became popular after this period, with the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) being set up in 1918 in Rugby. Although, the WEA provided individuals with a place to understand educational subjects of the day – philosophy, literature etc, the creation of non -vocational adult education facilities allowed individuals to engage in a less formal form of education than that of WEA.

Social change demanded an institution such as The Percival Guildhouse, somewhere that provided non-vocational adult education to the individuals of Rugby who did not want to gain a qualification. PGH was first formed in 1920, when the Old Rugbeians society raised funds to pay memorium to the late Dr Percival, Head Master of Rugby School from 1887 to 1895.

Dr Percival had been a pioneer of adult education and it was suggested that the foundation of such a centre would provide an ideally fitting memorial. Therefore, once the founding committee had secured purchase of the building in 1925, it was formally opened by Dr David (then Headmaster of Rugby School) in the Large Lecture Room (now the Beresford room) on September 29th 1925.

Chairman: Mr Vaughan – Headmaster of Rugby School who had succeeded Dr David. A man of forceful character and tremendous energy became a tower of strength for The Guildhouse both in the preliminary stages and throughout its early years.

Miss Slade – Financial secretary until she left Rugby in 1944.

Miss Clarke – A teacher and Women’s Adult School member.

J Austin Bayes – a pharmaceutical chemist in the town and a very active Adult School member.

H C Bradby – a Master at Rugby School, keenly interested in social work and after whom the Bradby Boys’ club is named.

C P Evers – staff of Rugby School.

John Gibson – Adult School member.

J Holden 

Capt R T Hills –  Assistant Director of Education, Warwickshire County Council.

C E Joynes –  Hon Secretary of the Rugby branch of WEA.

 P I Kitchin –  County Council Organiser for Further Education – established the East Warwickshire College of Further Education.

F W Metcalfe – after Dr David’s departure Metcalfe became the chairman of the interim committee. An engineer at BTH and Adult School member he is held in high regard at The Percival Guildhouse. Memorial furniture in the Guildhouse Library and the basement room indicate the affection held by those at PGH.

F C Slater –  Rugby School.

Walter Turton – A brass moulder at Thos Hunter’s Railway Wagon Works. Active in Adult Schools and an elder statesman of the Guildhouse.

T A Wise, JP – to become Charter Mayor of Rugby in 1932.

C Wheeler –  Headmaster of Lawrence Sheriff School, Hon Treasurer of the Guildhouse until he left Rugby in 1944 and Vice President thereafter until his death in 1972.

Harry Yates, JP – Chairman of the Rugby Urban District Council.

William Whiteley – Hon Secretary of the interim committee and first Hon Secretary of the Guildhouse.

It was not until October the same year that a group of 24 women came to the first Guildhouse classes, hearing a series of talks on Public Health (held by Mr Vaughan’s daughter), Citizenship and going on trips associated with the classes. The Tuesday Women’s Group ran for 40 years, paving the way for many more informal classes such as Poetry Reading, Musical Appreciation, Handicrafts, Play Reading, Folk Dancing, Debating Society and Language classes to name a few. The first year of The Percival Guildhouse was one of pioneering, both educationally and socially, with the creation of a Common Room (Percival Room), open from 10:30am till 10:30pm. The aim was to provide a home to anyone who was likely to pop in, finding someone to chat to or something of interest happening.

For the first couple of years The Guildhouse finances had been guaranteed by various trusts, but the onset of war and the economic depression led to The Guildhouse being put in a precarious position. By 1931, The Guildhouse was providing WEA classes, and organising talks to promote adult educational work outside of its walls as well as many fundraising attempts to keep the organisation running. Funding had always been a limiting factor but the implementation of PGH’s first dramatic production in 1930 proved not only an educational draw, but also increased community interest helping to support its funding and continuity. The Percival Guildhouse plays continued for 25 years.

After the depression of the war and economic downturn, suddenly it seemed there was some official recognition of the value of adult education. With full time employment making a resurgence, adult education was being taken seriously and not merely as encouragement to occupy idle time, therefore PGH started to come into its own. PGH celebrated its 21st birthday with grants from various organisations and fundraising events. Two main events were organised by a special committee to celebrate its birthday in the Autumn of 1946. A dance and birthday supper were proposed with the latter gaining more of a following. Either way, 1946 was a successful year for The Guildhouse lifting spirits and helping to refill Guildhouse funds. However the news that the Warden (Maurice Beresford) and sub-warden (Lillian Redgate) were to leave at the end of the year (1948) dampened spirits. They were revived with the return of Raymond Rowse for his second Wardenship in 1949, raising community spirit and leading to classes and social activities keeping the Guildhouse busy.

Many activities ensued throughout the years at The Percival Guildhouse, notably in Photography, Arts and Crafts, Painting, Drawing, Music and even the Ramblers. Although there were various classes and groups on offer, many individuals enjoyed coming to The Guildhouse to enjoy the social aspect of the ‘Common Room’ (now known as the Percival Room). The Common Room encouraged an informal membership of PGH underpinning the social and friendly aspect of what we know today.

Continued efforts throughout the years have led to the development of The Percival Guildhouse as a hub for education and socialising, helping to reduce loneliness through the encouragement of social inclusion. Many students who attend classes have expressed their greatest fondness for The Guildhouse cultivating friendships and the development of knowledge.

More detailed information regarding Our Story can be found in our book 'Next to the Public Library', written by the late Neil Aspinall.