Broadway Tower and Snowshill Manor

On Wednesday, the four of us bundled into the car and drove to Broadway to see the local sites. Broadway is one of our favorite villages, with dignified buildings of warm Cotswold stone and a network of wonderful rambling routes all around the area.  

Our first stop was the vilage’s public WC,  conveniently located in the car park. Using the toilets correctly required an advanced degree in …. something.

Having survived the Ordeal of the WC, we walked through the archway of an old coaching inn (now a collection of shops) and out to the main drag.

We strolled shops and houses, enjoying window displays and quirky corners.

The Lygon Arms,  a hotel catering to the wealthy (like most of Broadway). This building dates to the 16th century (Tudor times) but a coaching inn has been on this site since the 14th century. It was the White Hart in those days, the symbol of Richard II.

Banks seem to have largely abandoned English towns and villages (unlike the US where banks seem to be colonizing every empty space in small towns).  We had some old paper 20 pound bills that were no longer legal currency (Britain changed to polymer notes in 2022) and spent time looking for a bank to exchange them. Lloyds bank was operaitng a kind of bankmobile (bank-in-a-bus) which was parked in Broadway for a few hours the day we visited. 

I’m guessing this is a remnant of a pub sign, maybe St. Patrick driving snakes out of Ireland?  

It was a “partly sunny” day, so we decided to visit the Broadway Tower while the weather held.

Broadway to Broadway Tower.

The Broadway Tower is kind of a giant folly built atop the Broadway, aka, Beacon Hill.  Historically, signal  beacons were lit on this hill: picture Return of the King, when the beacon lit by Pippin was repeated all across the land of Rohan to summon the warriors of Gondor to their aid…

….Well, maybe you had to be there.   In any case, back in the 18th century, Barbara, Countess of Coventry, wondered whether a beacon lit on Broadway Hill could be seen at her house in Worcester, about 22 miles away.  She commissioned Capability Brown (architect of many landscape follies)  and James Wyatt to design a “castle”  which was completedin 1799. Yep, she could see the beacon.

The Tower is constructed of an odd assemblage of architectural features that don’t really go together (like turrets, battlements, gargoyles). It houses 3 floors of quirky rooms that were used for various purposes over time. It is now the centerpiece of the Broadway Tower Country Park,with a cafe, picnic area, gift shop, some interesting features and spectacular views.

An underground bunker was built here in the 1950’s to collect evidence of nuclear explosions.  It was decommissioned and restored, and now functions as a Cold War tourist site.

 

By late morning, partly sunny changed to downright glowery.

We left Tower Park and drove over to Snowshill  for lunch at a favorite pub, the Snowshill Arms (photographed here on a fully sunny day).

Broadway Tower to Snowshill.

After lunch, we trekked down the lane to visit Snowshill Manor and Garden, located just behind the pub (although the entrance is down the road about ½ mile.)  The Manor in its present form was created by the artist/architect/craftsman/poet/collector and all around eccentric Charles Paget  Wade between 1919, when he bought the property, and 1951, when he gifted the property and its massive collection to the National Trust.  

The manor was orignally a Tudor building, and a portion survives from around 1550. The Tudor manor was extended in the 17th century and extended again about 1720. Today it is a maze-like series of rooms from different eras.  Wade restored the manor and filled it with 22,000 items, many of which he also restored.   (His motto was “let nothing perish.”) The collection is eclectic, to say the least – Wade seems to have collected everything.  The Trust  has maintained the collection exactly as Wade created it: there are no labels, and no easily discernible organization. The Trust quotes Wade as saying “They are rooms to linger in  – rooms where there is always something to discover- rooms which inspire a thousand fancies.” Yep.  Below are photos of things that took my fancy.

A  notable feature is the eerie room with 24 suits of Japanese Samurai armor.

Souvenirs of an earlier coronation.

 There are model villages inside and out

Embroidery details from ladies’ gowns, plus a lacemaker’s kit.

A schooner inn the boat room and Noah’s Ark in a room filled with toys

Medieval clock

Items from the Saracen collection

A lockable box shaped like a scorpion, used to store potentially dangerous herbal remedies.

I appreciated the many forms of bassoons and smaller double reeds in the music room. 

The Tudor great hall.

Exiting the Manor is always something of a relief for the claustrophobic among us.

 Wade didn’t actually live in the Manor. He lived in a small outbuilding behind the main house, which is just as cluttered.

The former barn(?) turned cottage where Wade lived.
Wade’s sitting room
Kitchen
Bath with early 20th century mod cons
Wade’s bedroom

Wade also designed the gardens, which feel spacious and offer welcome relief after the dark, crowded interiors.  We were blessed with about 20 minutes of full sun before the rain came bucketing down.

The garden is laid out in a series of interlocking terraces.

The outside model village
The kitchen garden

We dashed from the gardens to the entrance tearoom to wait out the rain, then ended the day with a visit to that modern hoarder’s paradise, Tesco.


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