History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Associations with William Morris
Broadway Tower is a late 18th century folly, built by Lady Coventry on the top of Fish Hill, overlooking the north Cotswold village of Broadway. Sometimes called Fish Inn Tower, for a pub that used to stand atop the hill, the tower stands 62 feet high and offers wonderful views over 16 counties. On a clear day you can see the spires of Worcester Cathedral and the towers of Warwick Castle, which is not too surprising when you consider the tower stands on the second-highest point of the Cotswold escarpment, at 1024 feet.
But why build the tower at all? One story suggests that it was built because Lady Coventry wanted to know if she could see her Cotswold estates from her house at Croome Court (National Trust). A beacon was lit atop Fish Hill and the light was easily visible from Croome Court. The Earl had the tower built to mark the occasion, which gave rise to another alternate name, Beacon Tower.
The Tower stands on the route of the Cotswold Way National Trail, and is a popular destination for walkers. Beside the tower is a deer park, where you can easily spot deer wandering at any season. To the north is Clump Farm, a lovely area of countryside owned by the National Trust. The Cotswold Way leads through Clump Farm to Dovers Hill, 3 miles away, where the annual Cotswold Olympicks are held.
Lady Coventry was the wife of George Williams, the 6th Earl. They called in landscape architect Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to construct a neo-classical tower, easily visible from the surrounding area. Brown, though best known for his landscape garden designs, was an accomplished architect, and was often asked by his patrons to design mock temples, grottos, and towers to embellish his gardens. At Broadway the initial vision is Brown's, but he died in 1783 and the tower was primarily designed and completed by his great rival, James Wyatt, and finished in 1798.
Wyatt called the design a 'Saxon tower', though anything less Saxon would be hard to imagine. It is a peculiar design of elements chosen almost at random from different historical periods and brought together to create a slender, castellated tower with balcony windows and grotesque carvings at the parapet level. The sign outside the tower entrance calls it the Highest Little Castle in the Cotswolds, though there is nothing of a castle about it save the decorative crenellations.
Though it was not initially intended as a residence, the tower has been home to some famous and innovative characters since it was built. Sir Thomas Phillips, a collector of rare books and manuscripts, purchased the tower in 1827. Phillip's intention was to own a copy of every book in the world. He didn't achieve this ambitious plan, but he did build the largest collection of manuscripts in the 19th century.
Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones rented the tower with his friend William Morris, and it became a popular country retreat for artists including Dante Gabriel Rosetti and other early members of the Arts and Crrafts movement.
The tower is most famous for its association with Arts and Crafts founder William Morris. Morris set up a printing press inside the tower, and one entire floor is set up as an exhibit covering his life and association with Broadway. He is said to have been inspired by the tower to found the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877 (though a similar tale has been told about Burford church).
The Secret Nuclear Bunker
During Word war Two the Royal Observer Corps used Broadway Tower to track enemy airplanes, a task made easier by the wide vantage point atop Fish Hill. Following the war the military constructed a secret bunker just below the tower as part of an early warning system in case of nuclear attack. The bunker was in continuous use from 1961 until it was decommisioned in 1991. It remains fully equipped, and within the past few years the bunker has been opened to visitors, and you can now take a guided tour underground when the tower is open (an extra charge may apply).
The tower has exhibits on three floors, with stairs leading to a viewing platform on the crenellated top.
A short distance from the tower, just off the path from the car park, is a memorial to the crew of an RAF bomber that crashed near the Tower while on a training flight in 1943. Five crew members were killed.
There is an entrance fee to the tower, but the country park is open at any time. The car park has limited hours, but you can easily park along the roadside. You haven't really seen the north Cotswolds if you haven't visited Broadway Tower!
About Broadway Tower
Address: Broadway Tower Country Park, Middle Hill, Broadway, Worcestershire, England, WR12 7LB
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: In Broadway Tower Country Park, just off the A44 at the top of Fish Hill. Open daily. Car park, cafe, and WCs.
Website: Broadway Tower
Phone: 01386 852390
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Broadway, St Eadburgha's Church - 1 miles (Historic Church)
Snowshill Manor - 1.8 miles (Historic House)
Snowshill, St Barnabas Church - 1.9 miles (Historic Church)
Buckland, St Michael - 2 miles (Historic Church)
Saintbury, St Nicholas Church - 2 miles (Historic Church)
Gordon Russell Museum - 2.3 miles (Museum)
Chipping Campden Market Hall - 3 miles (Historic Building)
Chipping Campden, St James Church - 3.2 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Broadway Tower: