Broadway Tower – the greatest landmark of the Cotswolds

After being wrapped up in scaffolding for a few months in late 2021, Broadway Tower is now looking beautiful again with all its distinctive exterior features restored and preserved for years to come.


Broadway Tower on top of the hill seen through mature trees
Broadway Tower is an iconic landmark of the Cotswolds

The Tower is undoubtedly among the most iconic, visited and photographed Cotswold’s landmarks. It stands on the top of Fish Hill, also known as Beacon Hill where beacons were lit up on special occasions prior to the late 18th century. It is the second-highest point (after Cleeve Hill) in the Cotswold Escarpment. The Tower stands 1024 metres above sea level and is therefore frequently referred to as the “Highest Little Castle of the Cotswolds”.

The story of Broadway Tower is fascinating and directly connected to such famous people as Capability Brown, James Wyatt and William Morris. I truly enjoyed digging around the internet, finding facts in various publications and putting bits of a puzzle into a single picture.

Having said that, I quickly realised that the format of a blog article could not contain all of those interesting facts I have discovered, as the article would have turned into a long and probably boring essay – not my style!

So I had to really scrunch up the Tower’s history and call it…


…A Brief History of Broadway Tower

The Tower was commissioned by Sir George William, the 6th Earl of Coventry for his second wife Barbara who wanted to see a “beacon” on top of the hill from their estate in Worcestershire 20 miles away. The initial idea of building a folly tower belongs to Lancelot “Capability” Brown who was working for the Earl of Coventry at the time. However, following “Capability” Brown’s death the architect James Wyatt carried out this project almost from the beginning.



Designed by James Wyatt as an ancient Saxon castle, and even built from imported dark stone to enhance the illusion, the Tower was actually completed in 1798. Built as a folly and meant to please the eye, it also had another purpose requested by Lady Barbara: by lighting a rooftop beacon to signal the main residence that her hunting party was returning.


Broadway Tower in full view with turrets, gargoyles and balconies
Designed as an ancient Saxon castle, the Tower was built to please an eye

After Sir George William died, his second son inherited the Tower and surrounding land. Unfortunately, he was barely interested in the Tower and practically gave it away to a neighbouring estate called Middle Hill. The person who inherited Middle Hill was Sir Thomas Phillipps, a well-known collector of books and manuscripts and a very eccentric person himself. He moved a printing press into the Tower and used it for printing catalogues of his collection, which led to the Tower’s nickname “Lighthouse of wisdom” but realistically speaking it contributed to the building falling into disrepair.

Later Sir Thomas had to leave his estate and move to Cheltenham. Broadway Tower was let-out to tenants, including glove makers, until Cormel Price took over the lease on the building. Cormel “Crom” Price was a member of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His fellow friends William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones often stayed at Broadway Tower with their families all together using the Tower as a countryside retreat.

The Tower and its surroundings inspired many William Morris’s design ideas as well as the idea of founding a Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

After Sir Thomas Phillipps’s death in 1872 the Middle Hill estate was inherited by his daughter and sold in 1876. From this point Broadway Tower was occupied predominantly by tenant farmers – until 1949 when the Middle Hill estate had to change its ownership again following the death of Miss Emily Georgina Hingley.

The Tower was offered as a gift to the National Trust but the gift was rejected! An interesting fact from the history of the Tower, which not many of us are aware of. I honestly tried to find out why it was rejected but could not get an answer anywhere! If anyone knows it – please get in touch with me or post it in the comments.

As a consequence of the latter, the Middle Hill estate and the Tower passed to the Batsford Estate. Its owner, the Hon. Frederick Anthony Wills, 2nd Baron Dulverton of Batsford was the first person who decided to open Broadway Tower to the public and create a country park on the surrounding land.

I should briefly mention that during World War II the Royal Observer Post was built in the field adjoining the Tower. Observers hidden in a concrete shelter were tracking German aircrafts and reporting it to Oxford. During the Cold War in the late 1950s, another underground construction was built 50 yards away from the Tower – a nuclear bunker. After decommissioning in 1991, it later became a museum for the public.

In 1980, the Middle Hill estate went on sale again (!) and was purchased at auction by Hans-Eugen Will and his wife Renate. Today their daughter Annette and her family are continuing the work on restoring the Tower and preserving it for future generations. The Will family has added more facilities to the Country Park such as a café, espresso bar, shopping, e-bike hire and also started offering private experiences such as hiring Broadway Tower for marriage proposals or other celebrations.


Top Tips for a Great Day Out Experience

Planning your visit

Broadway Tower, the Country Park, café and barn are open daily. However, opening times vary depending on the season, weather conditions and day of the week. It is worth checking their website for closures and purchasing your admission tickets in advance.

The nuclear bunker can be visited only by prior arrangements on certain weekends. Please check the website for opening hours.

Getting there and car park charges

Unless you are a keen walker, the best way to visit Broadway Tower is by car. The postcode in Google Maps doesn’t take you to the Tower. It would be much more accurate if you type Broadway Tower directly in Google Maps but head to “Morris and Brownie Cafe” marked on Maps. This will take you straight to the car park.

Car park charges start from £3. You can pay at the machine and display your ticket or purchase your ticket online via Broadway Tower’s website.

Tip: if you purchase a ticket for visiting the Tower museum in advance through their website, you will receive complimentary car parking.


Morris & Brown Cafe and open terrace with an extensive outdoor sitting
Morris & Brown Cafe is adjacent to the car park

Visiting the Tower

I would highly recommend visiting the museum inside the Tower. You will get great pleasure seeing the results of the recent interior and exterior restoration, and find out a lot about the Tower history and its occupants.

NB: You will need to conquer a narrow spiral staircase to each floor (3 floors plus a rooftop) – 60 steps in total, but it is certainly worth it!


Refurbished dining room  decorated in the Regency style
Beautifully restored dining room

Louise O’Hara, an interior designer commissioned to carry out restoration works has achieved brilliant results in preserving all original features like windows, doors, floors and fireplaces whilst complimenting it with textiles and designs representing the Regency period. The interiors are beautiful; the views from the Tower windows are stunning!



Included in the entrance price, the interactive audio-video guide delivers plenty of fascinating stories from the past about Broadway Tower’s occupants. You can listen to it at your own pace. The number of visitors is restricted, so nobody will breathe down your neck. No rush, just enjoy.

As you reach the rooftop, you will be in for a treat (of course, British weather permitting!). The view is breathtaking. It is now claimed that on a good day you can see 16 counties around you. The audio-video guide comes in handy here as well helping to identify what is on the horizon. Don’t forget to listen to the story of the rooftop bath which is hidden away in one of the turrets.


A view from Broadway Tower rooftop over 16 counties
A view over 16 counties

Morris & Brown Café

Located by the main car park, within a 5-min walk from the Tower, this café offers indoor and outdoor seating and a nice variety of food for brunch, lunch or just a cuppa and cake (menu and opening times vary depending on the season). It also has a small shop on site selling Morris & Co. gifts and souvenirs, don’t forget to have a little browse around!



Morris & Brownie Shepherds Hut Cafe

Little handy addition to Morris & Brown Café – a shepherd’s hut transformed into a kiosk selling takeaway drinks and snacks. Open from April to October on weekends, bank holidays and school holidays.


A Shepherd's Hut transformed into a kiosk selling takeaway snacks and drinks
A Shepherd's Hut transformed into a kiosk

Broadway Tower Circular Walk

This easy circular walk around the Country Park takes approx. 20 minutes to complete (distance ≈0.8 miles) without stops. But let’s be honest: who is interested in non-stop walking where there’re many lovely spots for a great shot? Whether that be to enjoy the resident Red Deer herd, or the Tower itself, or Broadway village beneath Fish Hill, or simply the beautiful surrounding Cotswolds countryside itself!



On a stretch of the walk between the Tower and Morris and Brown Café, you will see a memorial to the aircraft crew who tragically died on 2nd June 1943. The plane – a military bomber was returning to the base after completing some exercise and waiting for a “green light” to land. On its second circle of waiting the plane crashed at this very spot.


A memorial stone with a plaque commemorating a crash of a bomber in 1943
Memorial to R.A.F. bomber crash

Part of this walk linking the Tower, café and Tower Barn is gravelled, the rest of the pathway is grass, and that bit which goes down the hill from the Tower consists of stones worked into the soil. It is the most challenging bit of the walk (slippery in wet weather), and you will thank yourself for wearing footwear with a good grip.

Tower Barn

Also located alongside the walk, Tower Barn hosts a shop with a lovely selection of stylish clothing, footwear, accessories and some interior items.



Tower Barn Espresso Bar offers a very tempting range of cakes and pastries accompanied by hot and cold drinks and it is a great pit-stop place on your way. Depending on the season, relax in the stylishly decorated lounge in front of a wood burner or enjoy the sun and fresh air on the terrace with beautiful views.

Fancy riding an e-bike? Here at the Barn you can hire one for 6 hours at a cost of £35. A dedicated team will be happy to demonstrate how to use the bike and suggest scenic routes.



Walking down to Broadway Village

NB: Totally optional, depending on whether you wish to transform your Broadway Tower experience into a day out.

Just below the Tower, through the kissing gate, Cotswold Way takes you down the hill to Broadway village (follow Cotswold Way signs, approx. distance 1 mile).


View from fields over Broadway village beneath
Broadway village lays beneath Fish Hill

Broadway is one of the most beautiful and sophisticated villages in England, visited by Royals, celebrities and artists. It is well worth a dedicated blog post, so I won’t sidestep you from here.

Have a stroll along the High Street, browse quirky shops and definitely stop for food or drink at one of many Broadway food establishments.



Ready to go back to your car? Here are a few options to get back to, depending on how you feel.

Energised?

  1. Walk back the same way as you came to Broadway (don’t forget: this time it is up the hill!)

  2. Walk back a slightly different way but still up the hill. Click here for a detailed walk map and description.

Tired?

No worries. Stay where you are and call a taxi to take you back. Broadway Taxis 07407 70 70 44 (please note: we have no affiliation with this company).

Tip: If you are planning the whole day out, it might be worth considering reversing the order of things.

Park your car at one of Broadway’s car parks (additional charges apply), walk uphill to the Tower with bags of energy, explore the Tower and the Country Park and then walk back. At least you will be walking downhill when you are not feeling so energetic.

Tip: Parking at Broadway? On-street parking is usually difficult due to lack of spaces and plenty of drivers willing to take them. I suggest parking at one of the council car parks. Parking charges in 2022 - £4 - £5 per 10 hours. Machines do not take cards. Make sure you have enough change or download the RingGo app in advance and pay on the spot (mobile signal might be poor).

I hope I have inspired you to visit Broadway Tower and the Country Park or maybe take one of the walks. Take it from someone who never tires of returning!


Broadway Tower

https://broadwaytower.co.uk/

Middle Hill

Broadway

Worcestershire

Cotswolds

WR12 7LB


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Google Maps with directions from Graziers Cottage to Broadway Tower

CLICK HERE TO GET NOTIFIED WHEN A NEW ARTICLE IS PUBLISHED

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