Standing on the second-highest point in The Cotswolds (1024 feet above sea level), the tower was originally intended as a folly, a purpose-built ruin beloved by wealthy landowners in the Eighteenth Century. Commissioned by William George, the 6th Earl of Coventry, the Saxon Tower was the brainchild of England's Greatest Gardener, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown who was responsible for the landscaping of George's seat, Croome Court (which we lasted visited HERE). The proposed tower, some twenty-two miles away on the outskirts of the village of Broadway, would be visible from Croome and built on land belonging to the Earl. Unfortunately, Capability failed to realise his plan as he died on the way home after having dinner with George at Croome in 1783 and so the task fell to the architect, James Wyatt, who completed the tower in 1798. Broadway Tower was a love token from the Earl to his second wife, Barbara, a famed society beauty who adored the English countryside, but the gift was short-lived as she died in 1804 with William following her in 1809.
The Earl and the Countess used the tower for entertainment but, unlike many follies of the age, Broadway Tower (then known as Beacon Tower) was a serviceable space and over the years had many uses. In 1818 the Tower was purchased by Sir Thomas Phillipps, a wealthy eccentric obsessed with books. In 1822 he established a private printing press and used the space to house his collection of 50,000 books and 60,000 manuscripts. In later years he relocated to the nearby town of Cheltenham, the move took two years, 230 horses and 160 men. Sir Thomas must have been a demanding boss, between 1818 and 1871, the year before he died, 42 printers were listed as working at the Tower.
Following the departure of Sir Thomas, Cormell "Corm" Price took up the tenancy of the Tower in 1866 paying £9 (just over £1000 in today's money) to have the premises repaired and redecorated. As an Oxford undergraduate Corm was part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, alongside Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. The Brotherhood soon became familiar with Crom's Tower. In the Summer of 1876, William Morris wrote to his artist friend, Aglaia Coronio, I am up at Crom Price's Tower among the winds and the clouds.
|William Morris with Edward Burne-Jones (SOURCE)|
A lasting legacy of William Morris's frequent visits to the Tower was the growing passion for the ancient and historic buildings around him. On a journey through the nearby Cotswold town of Burford, he noticed the poor standard of repairs being carried out on a church and wrote, in a letter dated 4th September 1876 of the vandalism of Burford Church, leading him to found The Society for The Preservation of Ancient Buildings in 1877.
|William Morris in the bathtub by Edward Burne-Jones (Fitzwilliam Museum, Oxford)|
There are many accounts from Morris's friends of their time at the Tower, not least how the winds around the Tower blew away the cobwebs and Morris's comic rage at the soap flying in gusts as he was having a bath on the roof of the Tower.
The most inconvenient and the most delightful place ever seen...The Tower was certainly absurd - the men had to bathe on the roof, when the wind didn't blow the soap away and there was water enough...but how the clean aromatic wind blew the aches out of our tired bodies, and how good it all was.
- May Morris, William Morris's daughter
By the beginning of the Twentieth Century the wealthy Bohemians, eccentrics and free-thinkers had vanished and the Tower took on a surprisingly humdrum role as a farmhouse for a succession of tenant farmers who worked the surrounding land. The Hollingtons, a couple who arrived at the start of the 1930s, lived in the Tower until 1972, without electricity or running water. During WW2 a Royal Observational Corps was set up in close proximity but Mr Hollington and two members of the corps were unable to save the Canadian and British airmen whose plane crashed on the hill below on 2nd June, 1943.
In 1949, the Tower and land came up for sale after the National Trust declined to accept it as a gift. It was purchased by Lord Dulverton, who decided to turn the area into a country park with Broadway Tower as its centrepiece. The Broadway Tower Country Park opened to the public in July 1974. The estate was sold in 1980 to Hans-Eugen Will, an entrepreneur and aviator, and just like with William and Lady Barbara, it was a love token to his wife, Renate. The estate now belongs to the couple's daughter, Annette.