"Rugeley, the largest and handsomest town in the Cuttlestone Hundred, and the only one which retains its market, is situated at the north-eastern extremity of the Hundred, in a pleasant vale, bounded on the west by the hills of Cannock Chase, and on the north east by the River Trent. It is on the high road between Stafford and Lichfield, and has a station on the Trent Valley branch of the London and North-Western Railway, nine miles ESE of Stafford, and seven miles NW of Lichfield. A brook flows through the town from Cannock Chase, and near it is the railway, and a commodious wharf on the Trent and Mersey Canal. The town has long been noted for the manufacture of hats, and has two large iron foundries, and agricultural machine manufactories, belonging to Mr T Hatfield and Mr J Mellard, a large brass foundry and plumbers brass works manufactory, belonging to Messrs Bladen and Nash, and a large sheet iron and tin plate mill, belonging to Messrs Cheshire and Manners. Each of these establishments employ about 50 hands. Here are also three corn mills, a tan yard and a brewery, and in the parish are extensive collieries belonging to Earl Talbot and the Marquis of Anglesey.
Rugeley parish contains 3774 inhabitants, and over 7000 acres of land, of which more than 4500 acres are unenclosed heath in Cannock Chase. It is all in the manor of Cannock & Rugeley, of which the Marquis of Anglesey is lord, except the small manor of Hagley which is the seat and property of the Hon Robert Curzon.
The town has been much improved during the last 30 years and has several good streets and many well stocked shops. Many of the houses are elegant, being occupied by wealthy families. Heron Court is a large and handsome mansion, in the Gothic style, erected in 1851 by Joseph R Whitgrove, Esq, for his residence.
Dr Wilkes considered the name to be a corruption of Ridgeley, from the ridge of hills which terminate Cannock Chase, on the west side of the town. It was anciently possessed by a family of its own name, one of whom, Simon de Rugeley, was high sheriff of Staffordshire in the reign of Edward III, and at the same time, another of his family was one of the two knights of the shire.
Brereton, on the Lichfield road, one and a half miles SE of Rugeley, is a large village with several well built houses, mostly in Rugeley parish, and partly in the parishes of Armitage and Longdon. It is occupied partly by miners employed in the extensive collieries belonging to Earl Talbot and the Marquis of Anglesey, in the adjacent parts of Cannock Chase, from which there are tram roads down to the Trent & Mersey Canal.
Hagley Hall, the extensive and picturesque mansion of the Hon Robert Curzon, stands about a mile W of Rugeley, under the hillls of Cannock Chase. After having passed through various branches of the Weston family, of Weston-under-Lizard, whose paternal estate it was from the time of Edward III, Hagley became the property of the late Viscount Curzon, from whom it passed, in 1820, to its present possessor, who is a member of the ancient family of the Curzons, one of whom is Baron Scarsdale, of Derbyshire, and another Earl Howe and Viscount Curzon, the latter being grandson and heir to the late Viscount."
[From History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, William White, Sheffield, 1851]