After visiting Sezincote India House and gardens, we headed to the next place in our itinerary – Broadway. Located in the county of Worcestershire, England, this little town lies between Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh, close to the Gloucestershire border. The beautiful settings of the town has earned it the nickname Jewel of Cotswolds.
We reached the place, parked our car at the carpark and walked to the city centre.
Why is it Called Broadway?
The moment we saw the high street, we could understand why it got the name. Before us was a wide street with grass centred walkway lined with horse chestnut trees and the now familiar honey-coloured Cotswold limestone buildings on either side. The road itself was narrow, but the sidewalks were so broad and green with buildings dating from the 16th century standing majestically on both sides.
The high street of Broadway gave the town its name. It is one of the longest streets in England. This was a toll road and a prominent stagecoach stop in the 18th century, with several boarding houses catering to the travellers. Interestingly, in the beginning, the road was just a drove way – a route to drove livestock from one place to another. It might have been unusually wide as two small streams ran on each side of the main street. People built houses on either side of these streams with the road in the middle.
During winter, the mud from the road piled up and in the summer grass grew on them. Although water flowed from the hills straight through the village, the streams were hidden in underground pipes. As a result, we cannot see the streams.
Evolution of the Town
Historians state that people lived in Broadway even in Mesolithic times. Beakers, Romans, Mercians and Anglo Saxons lived here during different periods. A place that continued to prosper through times, Broadway became a borough during the 13th century. In the next three hundred years, it became a centre of wool and sheep trade, much like other parts of Cotswolds. It also spearheaded the silk industry for a short span in the first half of 19th century.
By the 1600s Broadway became a busy stagecoach stop on the way from Worcester to London. Broadway offered all the services required such as grooms refreshments, extra horses, and more (there were 33 public houses in those times compared to the three the town has now). But by mid 1900s railways became so popular that it took over most of the transportation. The opening of railway in Evesham in 1852 sounded the death knell of travel by stagecoach.
Art and Crafts Movement
Although the arrival of railways meant Broadway lost its significance as a stagecoach stop, it soon became a sought out destination to relax and refresh. Victorian artists flocked here to enjoy the calm and tranquil surroundings. Soon, the art and crafts movement took root here. Famous artists such as Elgar, John Singer Sargent, Edwin Austin Abbey, J. M. Barrie, Vaughan Williams, William Morris, Mary Anderson and many more made Broadway their home.
Noted American artist and writer, Francis Davis Millet also lived here. He was one of the people who died onboard when RMS Titanic sank in 1912 during her maiden journey. He had boarded the ship from Cherbourg, France, as a first class passenger on his way to Washington via New York.
At the turn of 20th century, the arrival of motor cars made Broadway more popular than ever. Soon it became one of the most visited Cotswolds villages. It continues to attract people from far and wide even today.
Other Attractions in Broadway
Broadway is home to several art and craft galleries and antique shops. At the town centre is a War Memorial dating back to 1920s to mark the deaths of locals who died fighting in World War I (and World War II). Broadway also houses the Gordon Russell Museum to celebrates the work of the 20th-century utility furniture maker Sir Gordon Russell MC. Likewise, the Ashmolean Museum Broadway displays objects from the 17th to the 21st centuries in Tudor House (an erstwhile coaching inn of the 1700s). Another unmissable attraction in Broadway is the Broadway tower, where we headed next.
Broadway Tower is a folly (a building constructed primarily for decoration) on the Broadway Hill. It is at the second-highest point of the Cotswolds and stands tall at 65 feet. It was built for Lady Coventry who wondered if it could be seen from her own house in Worcester, around 35 km away. Although the tower was mainly for decorative purpose it served various purpose during different periods.
Nowadays, the tower is a huge tourist attraction. It stands at the centre of a country park with various exhibitions open to the public. There is an entrance fee to go up the tower. It is said that on a clear day, you can see 16 counties from the top of Broadway tower. Unfortunately, we reached there late in the evening and so were unable to go to the top.
But the view from the ground itself was breathtaking. The weather was sunny and very windy with clouds starting to gather. So we walked around a bit, clicked some snaps and bid bye to Broadway tower soon.
Another attraction in the Broadway Tower is an erstwhile nuclear bunker that was a part of a wider network of similar structures all over the UK. The purpose of it was to study and report the effects of nuclear explosions and the resulting radioactive fallout. It ceased functioning in 1991. You can see this relic of cold war when you visit Broadway tower. There is a guided tour lasting 45 minutes.
There is a War Memorial on the site to honor the brave airmen who lost their lives on 2nd June 1943 when a Whitley bomber on a training mission from Honeybourne airfield, crashed here. A memorial stone marks the spot where the bomber crashed, killing all the crew members.
End of a Memorable Trip
Broadway Tower was our final stop during this trip. We enjoyed every moment of the three days we spent in the Cotswolds. It was the best way to relax and refresh ourselves after a difficult year. We found some semblance of life before pandemic times during this trip. We needed that reassurance badly after spending so much time away from our near and dear ones. Although we don’t know when will we be able to actually get together with them, this trip gave us hope.
We explored and learned a lot – about the places and ourselves – during this trip. We lived in the moment and let go all our worries. Cotswolds gave us some wonderful sights and memorable moments of our lives. All that makes this one of the most wonderful three days of our lives.
We know that there is much more to see and explore in Cotswolds. So, with the promise that we will be back again, we set off for home. Our journeys will take us to new places and give us new experiences. But this one will remain fresh in our memory for a long time to come.
Until next time, stay happy and keep exploring!
To watch our vlog on Broadway, click here.