After the Norman Conquest six new market towns were founded in Broadway, Chipping Campden, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford and Northleach. Winchcombe was the head of a small shire before this. The Normans built a stone church in nearly every manor and more than half the land was owned by monastries. The closure of the monastries brought new gentry, whose gabled stone houses are an important legacy. The concept of land ownership strengthened as the open fields were whittled away or abolished by Acts of Parliament. More corn was grown by the farmers and less sheep were kept. Farms became larger, employing more labourers (whose cottages survive today), whilst the trade of the towns declined.
The Lygon Arms is steeped in history. It is intriguing to think that, during the Civil War, King Charles I conferred with his confidants here and Oliver Cromwell actually slept at The Inn. Formerly The White Hart and privately owned since 1532, The Lygon Arms became part of a Group of Hotels in 2005. The hotel is now owned by London & Regional Properties who have started an extensive refurbishment plan.
The font and pillars at Old Broadway Church are Norman, but as the church is dedicated to the Saxon St Eadburgha, it is possible that a wooden church previously existed. The church is only used in the summer months.
The street through Broadway was an ancient 'ridgeway' and and the main road from Worcester to London. It remains a wide street or 'broad way' hence the name.
Broadway became a busy stage coach stop on the route from Worcester to London and later Broadway was home to various artists and writers including Elgar, John Singer Sargent, J.M. Barrie, Vaughan Williams, William Morris and Mary Anderson.
Broadway Tower and William Morris
Broadway Tower is an 18th century folly tower inspired by Capability Brown whilst landscaping Croome Court for the 6th Earl of Coventry. James Wyatt was commissioned as architect for the folly and completed the building in 1798.
The architecture used a large range of influences in one small building ranging from castle battlements and fortified walls to balconies with French windows and roof viewing platform.
Broadway Tower has enjoyed a number of well-known owners and occupants. William Morris, member of the Arts & Crafts movement, famous architect, designer, poet and revolutionary, used the Tower as a holiday retreat together with his friends Edward Burne-Jones and Rosetti.
Morris felt strongly about the damage caused by some architectural restoration. In 1876 the vicar of Burford had a public argument in the church with William Morris, who disapproved of how the church had been repaired. The vicar is said to have told Morris that it was his church, and he would stand on his head in it if he wanted. It was from Broadway Tower that significant letters were written by Morris leading to the founding of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) in 1877. The letters no longer exist but a full letter from William Morris was published in The Athenaeum (a liberal weekly arts newspaper) printed 5th March 1877 (information in this sentence is courtesy of The William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow).
John Singer Sargent
Sargent’s first major success at the Royal Academy came in 1887, with the enthusiastic response to Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, a large piece, painted on site, of two young girls lighting lanterns in an English garden in Broadway, The Cotswolds. The painting was immediately purchased by the Tate Gallery.
After the First World War Barrie sometimes stayed at Stanway House (5 minutes drive from Broadway). He paid for the pavilion at Stanwaycricket ground. Barrie founded an amateur cricket team for his friends.
Francis D Millet
American painter, illustrator, writer, muralist & journalist born 3rd November 1846. Millet's artwork has been overshadowed by his colourful and energetic life: He served as a drummer boy and later as a surgical assistant (helping his father, a surgeon) during the American Civil War. He graduated from Harvard and worked as a newspaper editor before enrolling in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts at Antwerp, Belgium. Served as a journalist during the Russian-Turkish War and was decorated by Russia and by Romania for bravery under fire and services to the wounded. He went down on the Titanic in 1912 and was last seen helping women and children into lifeboats.
In the 1880s Frank Millet was a member of the Broadway Colony of Artists - an Anglo-American group including Alfred Parsons, Edwin Abbey & John Singer Sargent, keen to escape the squalor or the Industrial Revolution and seek old English rural tradition. Frank Millet rented Farnham House and then purchased Russell House. John Singer Sargent paid his first visit to Broadway in September 1885 and it was in the summers of 1885 and 1886 that Sargent painted 'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose' in the gardens of Farnham House and Russell House. Frank Millet acquired Abbots Grange in the late 1800s, at that time a deteriorated 14th century priory, which he converted into studios. Millet gradually restored Abbotts Grange with advice from William Morris. His finest work ‘Between two fires’ was painted in The Great Hall at Abbots Grange. The painting is now housed at the Tate Gallery in London.
Francis Davis Millet Lychgate: In 1932 Millet's son Jack donated £120 to St Eadburgha's Church for the construction of lychgates in his father's memory. The lychgates form the entrance to the cemetery on Snowshill Road just south of Broadway, 200 yards south of the main churchyard and St Eadburgha's Church. The lychgates are of wooden construction, with a tiled, pitched roof. The four tie-beams of the lychgates carry the following carved inscription in Latin that translates as: In tribute to Francis Millet a man of excellence in the Arts and Literature. He met his death with fortitude as the ship Titanic sank whilst still giving hope to those who feared for their lives. His dear friends sought the dedication of this memorial in fond memory of his treasured fellowship.
Mary Anderson was an American stage actress. Ordered to rest after her breakdown, Mary Anderson visited England. In 1890 she married Antonio Fernando de Navarro, an American sportsman and barrister of Basque extraction, who was a Papal Privy Chamberlain ofthe Sword and Cape. They settled at Court Farm, Broadway, Worcestershire, where she cultivated an interest in music and became a noted hostess with a distinguished circle of musical, and ecclesiastical guests. A devout Roman Catholic she had a chapel built in her attic, with stained-glass windows designed by Paul Woodroffe. She has been cited as a model for characters in the Lucia novels of E F Benson, either the operatic soprano Olga Bracely or Lucia herself, as well as the prototype for the heroine of William Black's novel The Strange Adventures of a House-Boat.
She resisted encouragements to return to the theatre, but did a number of fund-raising performances during World War I in Worcester, Stratford and London. The latter included roles as Galatea, Juliet and Clarice in W. S. Gilbert's play Comedy and Tragedy.She published two books of her memories, the 1896 A Few Memories and the 1936 A Few More Memories, and collaborated with Robert Smythe Hichens on a 1911 New York stage adaptation of his novel The Garden of Allah.
She died at her home in Broadway, Worcestershire, England, in 1940, aged 80.
The village of Willersey, just 1.7 miles from Broadway, also has a very interesting history. Willersey manor house was home to the Roper family, William Roper becoming son-in-law to Sir Thomas More. Then in 1577 Queen Elizabeth I granted tithe land in the village to the great composers Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. For more history about Willersey visit http://www.willersey.org/history.htm.