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.
It is recorded in the Worcester County Archives that in 1539, at the time of the Dissolution of the Monastries, Ralph Sheldon, son of Baldwin and Jane Sheldon, acquired several acres of land at West End, Broadway, from John Stonywell, a Benedictine Monk, Abbot of Pershore and Bishop of Polizzi.
Ralph Sheldon built himself a manor house and parts of the house as it stands today on West End in Broadway date back to the 16th century. Additions were made to the house at a later stage and the Sheldon Shield of 3 sheldrakes, dated 1768, can still be seen in the gable end of what was once a coach house attached to the main house.
William Sheldon, a descendant, started weaving tapestries in workshops set up in Barcheston, Warwickshire, and the enormity of his work came to light when he died in 1570. Sheldon tapestries from the 16th century are today proudly displayed at stately homes from Sudeley Castle and Chastleton in the Cotswolds to Hatfield House in Hertfordshire and in a number of museums including the Victoria and Albert in London. Some of the most splendid show detailed maps of the Cotswolds, others bear coats of arms and hunting scenes along with the Sheldon coat of arms. Although the tapestry workshops did not last for long after William’s death, his epitaph recorded that ‘he had introduced the art of weaving into England and set aside lands and money for the weavers’ maintenance’.
Today our Cotswold holiday apartment, Rafters (sleeps 2) is on the first floor above the converted coach house. Rafters is a fully self-contained apartment with vaulted ceilings and oak beams that date back to the 16th century. For more information about Rafters click here.