Mary Anderson Plays Macbeth in Broadway

American Actress Mary Anderson takes to the Stage in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Broadway

Fundraiser for the Relief of Belgian Artists

100 years ago today, during the afternoon of Tuesday 27th August 1918, the Lifford Memorial Hall in the Cotswold village of Broadway was full to capacity for an afternoon of music and drama arranged by Mary Anderson de Navarro in aid of the Fund for the Relief of Belgian Artists. The relief fund was established to ensure that individuals and families who remained in Belgium during the First World War would receive money but it also ensured that those who had sought refuge in the United Kingdom would be well looked after.

Performance of Macbeth at the Lifford Memorial Hall

Mary Anderson de Navarro
Mary Anderson de Navarro

The event was arranged by the ‘celebrity’ American stage actress and Broadway resident, Mary Anderson de Navarro. During the First World War, Mary Anderson carried out a number of fund-raising performances in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Worcester and Evesham and this performance of Macbeth in Broadway met with great acclaim.

Fellow American opera singer Murray-Davey (who lived at Willersey House in the nearby village of Willersey) helped organise the event. The first half included performances of Ede Poldini’s La poupée valsante and Ange Flegier’s Le Cor and pieces by Brahms and Bach performed by a string quartet; Messrs. Désiré Defauw, Lionel Tertis, Emile Dochard and Harold Samuel. Instrumentalists included Lady Sykes and Lady Maud Bowes-Lyon (also a resident of Broadway and Aunt of HRH Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother).

Edward Hugh Southern
Edward H. Southern

The second half included scenes from Macbeth with Mary Anderson as Lady Macbeth and the American Shakespearean actor Edward Hugh Sothern, who specialised in dashing, romantic leading roles, as Macbeth. They were supported by Miss Hare, Shakespearean actor and director Sir Philip Barling ‘Ben’ Greet, Mary’s son Lieut. ‘Toty’ de Navarro and the English actor Sir John Hare.

Broadway’s Artistic Heritage

Broadway was fashionable amongst artists at the time and had been since the late 1880s when the sleepy picturesque Cotswold village had attracted a number of English and American artists, writers, painters, musicians (the ‘Broadway Colony’).  John Singer Sargent, Francis Millet, Edwin Austin Abbey, Alfred Parsons and Henry James (to name just a few) gave Broadway its artistic heritage that visitors today continue to enjoy and is celebrated biennially by the Broadway Arts Festival.

Broadway Manor Cottages

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Beautiful Broadway, a very old English Village

Beautiful Broadway: A Very Old English Village

Henry James, an American writer who settled in England, was a frequent visitor to the Cotswolds. James described Broadway in 1889 as a ‘very old English village, lying amongst its meadows and hedges, in the very heart of the country, in the hollow of the green hills of Worcestershire’ and that ‘much of the land about it are in short the perfection of the old English rural tradition.’

The geese on the village green that James went on to describe may be missing today but the village’s ‘broad way’ lined with horse chestnut trees and honey-coloured Cotswold limestone buildings, many dating back to the 16th century with some parts of The Lygon Arms appearing to date back to the 14th century, still does not fail to charm visitors to this most picturesque and beautiful English village.

Broadway still delights. The village is a centre for the arts steeped in history with a unique heritage of a world-famous colony of artists, writers and musicians collectively known as the Broadway Colony who worked and visited the village during the late 19th century. The Colony included Henry James and Frank Millet, John Singer Sargent, Alfred Parsons, Mary Anderson de Navarro to name just a few.

Alfred Parsons RA, RI, PRWS (1847-1920)

My interest in gardening grew after obtaining an RHS Certificate in Horticulture which then led me to a qualification in Garden Design in 2005. During my studies I studied many great British garden designers including Alfred Parsons, Gertrude Jekyll (who was famous for her herbaceous borders and greatly influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement), Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, landscaper Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Rosemary Verey to name a few. I was also fortunate to visit many of the gardens which were originally designed by these great designers, many of which are located in the Cotswolds. I now live in the picturesque village of Broadway in the North Cotswolds which was also home to Alfred Parsons in the late 19th century.

Alfred William Parsons, English landscape painter, watercolourist and illustrator was born on 2nd December 1847 in Laverton near Frome, Somerset. Alfred was the second of seventeen children of Dr Joshua Parsons and Letitia Harriet Parsons (née Williams). His father was a doctor with a keen interest in growing alpines which no doubt sparked Alfred’s early interest in plants and gardening.

Although Parsons started work in 1865 as a clerk in the Post Office after 2 years he left to pursue studies at the Kensington School of Art. Parsons.  went on to become well known as a fine botanical painter, engraver and painter of English rural landscapes exhibiting at various galleries including the Royal Academy (1887), the Grosvenor and the New Gallery.

Whilst living in London, Parsons shared his home with Edwin Austin Abbey and they painted alongside each other in adjacent studios. Parsons was introduced to Broadway by his friend Lawrence Dutton who was a frequent visitor to Broadway Tower, the holiday retreat of William Morris, Dante Rosetti and Edward Burne-Jones. Parsons was so taken with the village that he decided to move out of London joining the Broadway colony of artists in residence in Broadway in the late 1880s. Parsons became a good friend of both John Singer Sargent and Francis Davis Millet (Frank and Elizabeth Millet named their youngest son John Alfred Parsons Millet after both Parsons and Sargent) and introduced Abbey to the Broadway colony.

Parsons also met Henry Harper through the Broadway Colony which led to him illustrating several editions of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (Harper’s Magazine). Parsons also worked with his good friend Abbey on illustrations of Robert Herrick’s poems and supplied illustrations for Henry James’ essays on Broadway. He also illustrated songs, poems as well as travelogues.

Parsons’ fine watercolours for botanist Ellen Ann Willmott and illustrations for William Robinson, author of The Wild Garden, encouraged Parsons interest and passion in garden design. Parsons had always been an avid gardener and horticulturist and was once a judge at the Chelsea flower show.  Parsons went on to design several great gardens including Great Chalfield Manor, an Arts and Crafts garden near Melksham, Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton and Lamb House, Rye, home of Henry James from 1898 to 1916. Parsons also designed several gardens in Broadway including Court Farm, home of Mary Anderson (Mme de Navarro), Broadway Court with its wonderful yew topiary, Bell Farm, home of the pianist and composer Miss Maud Valerie White and eventually his own at Luggershill.

Parsons became President of the Society of Painters in Water Colour in 1905 and full RA in 1911 on the acceptance of his diploma work, the oil painting Orange Lilies which Parsons painted in his back garden at Luggershill. Orange Lilies was on public display in the ‘Exhibition of the work of John Singer Sargent and members of the Broadway Colony’ at Trinity House, Broadway, during the 2010 Broadway Arts Festival. Parsons died at Luggershill (now known as Luggers Hall), Broadway, Worcestershire, on 16th January 1920.

The next Broadway Arts Festival will take place from 8th – 17th June 2018 and will offer a varied schedule of events including talks, art workshops, demonstrations and exhibitions, music and theatre. The village is a centre for the arts with its unique heritage of the world-famous colony of American artists, writers and musicians – the Broadway Colony.

If you are interested in staying in Broadway during the 2018 Festival please visit our Cotswold holiday cottages in Broadway, just a few minutes’ walk from the centre of the village.

St Eadburgha’s Church and Francis Davis Millet (1846-1912)

The American artist Francis Davis Millet (Frank Millet) has connections with Broadway’s  St Eadburgha’s Church (a Grade 1 listed building dating back to Saxon times) located on the Snowshill Road, Broadway, about 3/4 mile south of the centre of the village opposite Coneygree Lane. The church is a lovely 10 minute stroll from our Cotswold holiday cottages at West End.

The present church of St Eadburgha’s dates back to Saxon times with late 12th century additions and several later additions. The church was subject to extensive repairs in 1866 and more recent repairs following severe flooding in July 2007 floods when the church was flooded by runoff from the Cotswold escarpment flowing down Coneygree Lane, across the Snowshill Road and into the church.

A few yards further along the Snowshill Road above the church is a wonderful lychgate built as a memorial to the American, Frank Millet.  Millet (Civil War soldier, painter, mural decorator, sculptor and writer) was born in Massachusetts on 3rd November 1846.  He spent many years of his life painting and living in Broadway with his wife and family firstly at Farnham House and later at Russell House near the village green.

Francis died in the sinking of RMS Titanic on 15th April 1912 on his way to New York from Rome having boarded the ship at Cherbourg. Millet who was travelling in 1st Class with his friend Major Archibald Willingham Butt (military aide to President William Howard Taft and President Theodore Roosevelt) was last seen helping women and children into the lifeboats. His body was later recovered from the sea by the crew of the cable ship MacKay Bennett and he is buried at East Bridgewater Central Cemetery, Massachusetts.

Millet’s paintings can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Detroit Insitute of Art and the Tate Gallery, London.  Millet was the first director of the American Academy in Rome and his painting Between Two Fires painted c1892, which hangs in the Tate, was probably painted in the refectory of the 14th century Abbot’s Grange, Broadway.  Millet restored Abbot’s Grange from its monastic ruins and it became a studio for the artists’ colony in Broadway he helped create. The Broadway Colony included artists and writers such as John Singer Sargent, Alfred Parsons, Fred Barnard, Henry James, Edmund Gosse, Edwin Austin Abbey and the actress Mary Anderson (Mme de Navarro), to name just a few.

Sargent spent the summers of 1885 and 1886 with the Millet family at Farnham House and then Russell House. It was in these Broadway gardens that Sargent painted Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose which now hangs in the Tate Gallery, London. Millet’s ink drawing  of Mr Sargent at work on Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is owned by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

The tribute to Millet on the lychgate reads:

‘FRANCISCO DAVIS MILLET VIRO IN ARTIBVS LITTERISQVE PRAESTANTI QVI NAVI TITANICA FRACTA DVM SPEM TIMIDIS AFFERT MORTEM LAE TVS OPPETIVIT HOC MONVMENTVM SVAVIS AMICITIAE MEMORES SODALES PONENDVM CVRAVERVNT’

which roughly translated reads:

‘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.’