The Lygon Arms: a Cotswold hotel steeped in history
“I’ve been coming here almost every day for almost a decade, and the view is different every time,” said Chris Rushton of My Broadway Tours, as we surveyed the view from the top of Beacon Hill early one morning. In addition to light, weather conditions can also “change the appearance of everything”. While the mist can add an air of mystery, on a clear day “you can see no less than 16 counties, down to Wales”. If you include Broadway Tower, the folly completed in 1799, it becomes the highest point in the whole of the Cotswolds.
While the view from the top can be spectacular, the city below is even more enchanting. Ruston thinks Broadway history can be divided into three eras. From 972 until the Reformation it was part of the estate of the Benedictine monastery of Pershore. Then from the 17th to the mid-19th century it took advantage of its position to become one of the milestones of the coach industry, before being forced to reinvent itself once more when the railway reached Evesham in 1852 .
Broadway’s late-Victorian revival would come thanks to its American namesake. Whether it was the 19th century equivalent of a satellite navigation error or simply because she fell in love with the area, American actress Mary Anderson’s decision to settle in the village put it back on the cultural map. His arrival coincided with that of a host of famous people, such as the painter John Sargent, the composer Edward Elgar and the author of Peter PanJM Barrie.
Their legacy can be seen in everything from the cricket club to the galleries that populate this Worcestershire village. Other attractions include Snowshill Manor, a house famous for its treasure acquired by eccentric architect and poet Charles Paget Wade.
Virtually all of the most notable people to visit Broadway have stayed at the Lygon Arms, one of the most historic hotels not only in the area, but arguably the entire country. Founded as an inn in 1490, it served as a rallying point for royalist supporters during the Civil War, hosting Charles I on several occasions. Indeed, after finally being captured by the Roundheads, Oliver Cromwell would issue the orders that ended the conflict while remaining at the Inn. At the beginning of the 20th century, it will welcome Edward VII.
Today it is a boutique hotel, with 86 rooms and suites, including the one Charles I stayed in, belonging to the Iconic Luxury Hotels portfolio. Historic features include secret passageways and a plaque marking the resting place of John Noakes, one of the hotel owners who loved the place so much he was buried there. It has all the latest amenities you’d expect from a luxury hotel, including a spa offering massages and treatments, as well as steam rooms, saunas, a swimming pool, and a hot tub.
The Lygon Arms also has the kind of upscale restaurant you would expect from a restaurant run by a team with extensive experience in various mansions and rosette restaurants. I had the delicious English pea and shallot ravioli as a starter, followed by seared sea bass with mussels, saffron, spring onions, leeks and zucchini, washed down with a tall glass of white wine from the local Trois Chœurs vineyards.
In addition to the food and the plush and extremely comfortable rooms, the friendliness and quality of service from the staff also sets it apart. Shortly after mentioning that I was interested in visiting the Broadway Tower, I received a note that they had arranged a guided tour for me. The Lygon Arms also regularly organizes events for its guests, such as the falconry demonstration that took place in the garden the day I arrived. Plus, unlike other hotels that “only tolerate dogs,” The Lygon Arms “actively welcomes them,” says the hotel’s Christina McKenzie. For a small additional charge, the hotel will also provide a dog bed, treats, and bowls for food and water.
Matthew was a guest on The Lygon Arms. From £300 a night, lygonarmshotel.co.uk