Friday, 31 December 2021

Broadway Tower - The Highest Little Castle in The Cotswolds



We've been plagued with damp, grey and dismal weather for over a week but yesterday, keen to escape the confines of home, we threw caution to the wind and drove an hour down the road to the privately-owned Broadway Tower, also known as The Highest Little Castle in The Cotswolds.

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.


Built from the local sandstone, a gorgeous honey-coloured stone commonly known as Cotswold Stone, the tower stands at an impressive 65 feet tall.


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 CoronioI 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



I can vouch for how windy that roof was. Here I am, standing where William Morris used to bathe and clinging on for dear life! 

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.


The two-hundred-acre estate is home to a deer park and some lovely picnicking spots, although with the somewhat inclement weather we opted to eat our sandwiches in the car. There's also a relic from a Cold War, a nuclear bunker buried fifteen feet below ground - currently closed until Spring.






On a clear day, you can see views expanse of a 62-mile radius and up to sixteen counties from the top of the Tower, as far as the Black Mountains in Wales to the West and Buckinghamshire to the East.

Yesterday was misty and grim but the views were still incredible.




William Morris was here!


....and so was Santa!


Massive thanks to Claire for suggesting we visit Broadway Tower, I can't believe we've never heard of it before. If you fancy a New Year trip, HERE'S all the details.



Lord Jon and I are taking advantage of a dry-ish morning and are planting the 175 bulbs we bought in Wilko's sale a fortnight ago.

Wishing all my friends in Blogland - the bloggers, the readers and the visitors too shy to comment - a happy and healthy New Year. See you in 2022!

94 comments:

  1. Interesting place with fascinating history. Imagine being friends of 'The Brotherhood'?Life would never be boring!Happy New Year to you both. Peace and Love for 2022.xxx

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    1. I know! What a wonderful time they must have had in Broadway Tower although I wouldn't fancy the al fresco bathing!
      Happy New Year! xxx

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  2. Review of Peacock and Vine here from a very excellent (and my favorite) Pre Raph resource!
    https://fannycornforth.blogspot.com/2016/07/review-peacock-and-vine-fortuny-and.html

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    1. Thanks so much for that link, Elaine! What a wonderful piece of writing.
      "I now want to know more about Fortuny, and I want to go to Venice in a nice frock." Me, too!
      Happy New Year! xxx

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    2. Happy New Year to you too Vix - I had written an earlier comment thanking you for another fab travelogue and loving your outfit but I keep hitting the sign out button under the text box instead of the publish one - doh.
      Have a safe one everybody xxxxxxx

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    3. Ha! I'm glad I'm not the only one who clicks the "sign out" box after posting a long comment and losing the lot!
      Jon & I were the only people at Broadway Tower not wearing the Cotswold Set uniform of a wax jackets, tweed cap and Dubarry Galway wellies! My dress is a vintage dressing gown! xxx

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    4. Oooh, I'm glad I'm not the only one repurposing dressing gowns as daywear/coats.
      Dubarry Galway sounds like posh cursing lol

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  3. I'm wondering how you learn so much about the places you visit, I can't imagine you buying expensive guide books! This is fascinating. Anyway, just want you to know that since November I've been aiming more and more to eat/move/live more the way you do, you're such an inspiration. I've lost 10lbs so far, which I'm thrilled by. Still have a long way to go, this is a long term project, but your posts keep me going! Thank you so much for all the brilliant content. Happy New Year to you both. May 2022 see the realisation of even more of your hopes and dreams. Lots of love, Jayne xxx

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    1. Hello, Jayne! I try and do loads of research on the 'net before we go anywhere. Admission to the Tower also included a decent guide which had loads of info I didn't find online.
      10lbs is a brilliant achievement, go girl! That must have taken some epic willpower.
      It's so lovely to have reconnected with you. Happy New Year! xxx

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    2. Thank you so much! :) Great idea to do some research before you visit somewhere, it must make the trip much more interesting. I'll try that! Broadway Tower is now on my wish list! Also becoming one of your customers when I'm a smaller size! xxx

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  4. Happy New Year to you and Lord Jon, and thank you for all the posts in 2021. Heather

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    1. Thank you so much, Heather! Much love to you and yours for 2022! xxx

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  5. Happy New Year to you both. If you have already been, Snowshill manor is just down the road from the tower and filled with fabulous treasures and gardens

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    1. Happy New Year, Samantha! We love Snowshill and passed it on the way down to Broadway Tower. It reopens in March and we can't wait to go back. I loved all the treasures within and the chaotic garden planting. xxx

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  6. This has to be my favorite place you have visited yet. Wishing you both a happy new year.

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    1. Happy New Year, Amanda! Isn't Broadway Tower lovely? So cosy and elegant inside! xxx

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  7. I was not expecting the elegance inside. What fascinating evolution of the tower. I'll add this to my site list. Once I get to your country, you'll never get rid of me.

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    1. Stay as long as you like, Sam! There's loads to keep you occupied when you get here! Happy New Year! xxx

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  8. Thanks for sharing this article.

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  9. I'd never hear of that lovely place either... and we are finding that there's a lot of lovely places Tony and I have yet to explore. Happy New Year Vix and John. I hope 2022 brings you everything good that you hope for.

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    1. The Cotswolds is such a beautiful part of the world, Cherie. Definitely worth investigating on your car camping adventures next year!
      Happy New Year to you! xxx

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  10. Happy New Year Vix. Enjoyed the photos. We drove past signs for it when we stayed in Tewkesbury, but we ran out of time to visit. Arilx

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    1. Happy New Year, Aril! There's so much to see in The Cotswolds, isn't there? As Samantha mentioned, Snowshill is round the corner and Tewkesbury a couple of miles down the road. I'd love to live there but I think we'd have to be millionaires! xxx

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  11. What a lovely little castle - I could so easily live there!
    Happy New Year x

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    1. Happy New Year!
      Isn't it sweet? It was so cosy and compact inside. You could hear the wind whistling outside the windows which made it feel even more inviting! xxx

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  12. Another fabulous place! I love the Cotswolds, it's beautiful.
    Happy New Year to you and yours.

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    1. Such a fascinating history, too! I do love The Cotswolds, oh for a ancient house in that honey coloured stone.
      Happy New Year to you, too! xxx

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  13. Happy New Year Vix. And here's to lots more adventures in 2022. xxx

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    1. Happy New Year, Norma! I hope for lots more adventures in 2022 - hopefully further afield! xxx

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  14. You drove a mile down the road? If I do that, I'm in a swamp! The views are magical.
    HAPPY NEW YEARS to you. (I haven't forgot about the post cards)

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    1. An hour, I wish it was a mile, I'd walk there every day!
      Happy New Year! No rush, I don't know about you but our post is all over the place at the moment, Covid and public holidays! xxx

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  15. I so enjoy reading your blog! Happy New Year to you and Lord Jon!!

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    1. Thanks so much, Claudia! Happy New Year! xxx

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  16. So glad you enjoyed it! I can feel the wind through your photographs. I think it was a similar day in January when we visited, but with a little snow on the ground too as I recall. We shall have to revisit with a decadent picnic on a clear day in the summer. xxx

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    1. Thank you so much for the recommendation, we loved Broadway Tower. I'm so glad you mentioned the wind beforehand, my orange fedora would have ended up in Cheltenham had I worn it!
      Loving the sound of a decadent picnic!
      Happy New Year! xxx

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  17. How is it possible that I was unaware of the existence of this highest little castle? Thank you for sharing Broadway Tower with us. It's absolutely gorgeous. Plus, it has a really interesting history. Williams Morris was an interesting guy for sure. I have a picture of him being irritated by the wind getting in the way of bath time engraved in my mind now.
    Your outfit is fabulous. Those yellow doc Martens look great worn with that wonderful maxi.
    Happy 2022 to both of you!!!

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    1. I didn't know about it until my friend mentioned it! I've got no excuse with it being so close to home. I loved the peaceful & elegant interior, such a contrast to the "ruined" exterior!
      Those are my Ilse Jacobsen wellies - they were an essential yesterday, it was so muddy!
      Happy New Year! xxx

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  18. I didn't think there were too many places left in your country that you hadn't already visited. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate every vicarious trip that you take us on with all of your lovely photos and historic information and only wish I could see it in person. This had an unexpected and inviting interior, despite it's rugged outer appearance. Very nice. I have enjoyed all of your adventures and thank you for sharing them with the rest of us. I do hope 2022 is a good year for all of us. Happy New Year to you and Jon. Ranee (MN) USA

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    1. Happy New Year to you, Ranee!
      We're spoilt in the Uk, so mnay historical properties and,living where we do, in the centre of England, there's so many within an hour's travelling distance.
      The constrast between the exterior and interior of The Tower was so surprising. Inside you could hear the wind whipping around and howling menacingly. xxx

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  19. I've heard of Broadway Tower, but have never visited, although we did admire it from afar when we were holidaying in the area. What an intriguing and atmospheric place! I'm loving the William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones connection, and bathing on the roof makes for quite a story! My mind boggles at it being used as a farmhouse, though. I'm rather loving the misty and grim views! Happy New Year to you and Jon! xxx

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    1. I bet Broadway Tower is wonderful on a hot's Summer's day when you can see for miles although we still enjoyed our trip in the mirky drizzle, it helped us visualise William Morris trying to take a roof top bath and getting cross when the soap suds blew away! A fab trip out, I'm longing to go back and explore the nuclear bunker!
      Happy New Year, Ann & Jos! xxx

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  20. I love your photo of the deer and the sheep-in fact all of them-You both always look as though you are the owners of whichever grand home you are visiting-but then again you are Lord Jon and Lady Vix-Happy New Year xx

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    1. Happy New Year, Flis! I couldn't belive how tame those deer were. That sheep was mesmerised by my hat or maybe because she recognised me as lady of the manor? xxx

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  21. A very happy and healthy New Year 2022 to you and Jon Vix! Thank you so much for all the pictures and history you have sent throughout the years, I thoroughly enjoy your blog! We had about 11 inches of snow here on the Washington coast, it is starting to melt after 4 days, and quite cold, however the sun is shining and it is beautiful. Onward to the New Year!!!!

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    1. Happy New Year to you, Chrystal!! I'm so glad you enjoy reading the blog.
      11 inches of snow! Goodness me, our country would come to a grinding standstill with half that amount. I'm glad it's starting to melt and that you've got some sunshine, we've seen the sun for the first time in days today, it's been glorious and, at 15°C, the warmest NYE since records began! xxx

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  22. What a wonderful place! I would love to live there (with electricity and running water, pleasethankyou). I laughed at the pic of William Morris bathing (looks like he's washing his bum).

    You look amazing in your wonderful outfit, Vix! I've been looking for a fur hat like yours for ages, and yours is the "gold standard."

    A very Happy New Year to you, Lord Jon, Stephen Squirrel, Jacob, and to all your friends and family and loved ones. Here's to a fresh start in 2022.

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    1. I thought it would be a great place to live - with all the modern day comforts! That picture of William Morris did make me giggle. Having experienced that windy roof, I can understand what he was going through!
      My sheepskin hat is like having my own eco-system, one of my best finds ever!
      Sending you lots of love for a Happy New Year! xxx

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  23. How lovely to have a day out, even it was only a virtual one for us. I’ll have to check out this one when we next visit our Jill.
    Happy new year you two lovelies. Looking forward to more of your adventures in 2022
    Lots of love from us two xxxx

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    1. I hope freedom and feeling better isn't too far away now, Lynn!
      Sending you and Philip lots of New Year love! xxx

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  24. Happy new year vix. I really enjoy your adventures. X

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    1. Thank you so much! Wishing you a Happy New Year too! xxx

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  25. Happy 2022, Vix and Jon! I'm looking forward to reading more of your adventures throughout the coming year. X

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    1. Thanks so much, Jules! Here's to a happier and healthy 2022! xxx

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  26. Happy New Year Vix - you have been such a brilliant blogger all through 2021, I can't tell you how much I looked forward to your posts in particular during lockdown - your routine, gardening, food, lovely home, fabulous wardrobe - and a lot of laughs and fun along the way. You are a generous and kind spirit and I wish you and Jon good health and happiness for 2022 - love from Betty x

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and friendship, dear Betty! Wishing you a very Happy New Year with lots of fun, adventures and TRAVEL! xxx

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  27. You write the best travelogues. Your photos and descriptions make it unnecessary for me to travel. I loved Greece but England is pretty great too. Happy New Year to you and Jon.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rita, that's so kind of you! Wishing you a very Happy New Year! xxx

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  28. That sure is lot of books and writings. It not windy here, but cold. Just a hair above 0. Gee I just learn something. I didn't know your country had counties. Jon looking good by the sleigh.
    Wishing both a bright and sunny 2022
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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    1. I know - it makes me feel a bit better about my bulging bookshelves!
      Wishing you a very Happy New Year, Dora! xxx

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  29. The sketch of Morris in the tub and the thought of his soap suds flying around the county tickled me - it must have been a little fresh on occasion!
    Happy New Year, may 2022 be kind, gentle, healthy and happy xx

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    1. Happy New Year, Kate! Isn't it a sweet little sketch? xxx

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  30. have a happy healthy blessed new year!

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  31. Another wonderful place to visit, thanks for taking us with you. It's 11:30pm where I am (Arizona) and we're getting an absolutely drenching rain (with a freeze warning this weekend) but by next Friday we should be back up to about 70 deg F. I love living here but I would love to visit England; my great-grandmother was from Manchester, 'til then I'll keep visiting you :) Happy New Year to you and Jon. Karen

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    1. Happy New Year, Karen! I bet you can't wait to get back to those 70°F temperatures in Arizona. I can cope with cold but that drenching rain is hard to deal with (some your Mancunian Great)grandma would have been used to!) xxx

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  32. A wonderful post, Vix!! Thanks for taking me on such lovely trips this past year. Hope to continue in 2022!!You've inspired me to start doing something similar here in Catalonia, my hubbie thinks it's a great idea! Wishing you and Jon a very Happy New Year!! xxx

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    1. Happy New Year, Diana! Thanks for being a virtual companion along the way. I hope you get to visit loads of new places in Catalonia this year - I bet there's some amazing stuff to see! xxx

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  33. And a very Happy happy and bright New Year to you Vix! Well new favourite pic alert - you at the top of the tower in the wind - it somehow captures your spirit! What a place and the pictures as always as well as your commentary take us there with you. Love it. Well way too much booze and food this end and what a lovely twixmas week it has been hmm better not get used to doing nothing. You certainly won't be 175 bulbs!! I am trying to gee myself up to put my last few in. Here's to more adventures in Vix world in 2022 hugs Shazxx

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    1. Thanks so much, Shaz! Happy New Year to you.
      That's me alright, clinging on for dear life no matter what gets thrown at me.
      I'm so glad you've enjoyed your festive season and had a chance to properly relax. We got those bulbs planted but I've just uncovered another bag so I'd better get them in while its still so mild.
      Loads of love. xxx

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  34. I loved this post Vix . I am just wondering why the National Trust didn't want the gift.
    Happy New Year XXXX

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    1. Thanks, Jane and a Happy New Year to you! I bet the NT are kicking themselves now, they acquired Croome, part of the same estate, in 2007. xxx

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  35. What a place!!! It's so dramatic and I love the history you shared of it!

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    1. I loved the history of Broadway Tower, so varied! Happy New Year, Kezzie! xxx

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  36. We are having the same grey, damp and chilly weather as you are and it would be lovely to be able to visit somewhere unusual like that tower. The view is beautiful, even if it's a bit gloomy. Wishing you and Jon a peaceful and healthy 2022.

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    1. Happy New Year, Shelley! I'm sorry that your weather has been as dismal as ours. I can cope with cold but eternal drizzle is so draining! xxx

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  37. happy new your to you, vix and jon and stephen!!!
    what a wonderful place! loads of creative energy soaked up by the walls i guess...... love the sketch of mr.morris in the bath :-D
    gorgeous photo of you on in the winds on the roof - with your flowing dress and hair and all the opulence of the outfit the pre-raphaelites would run after their sketching materials to bring this sight down to paper......
    much love! xxxx

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    1. Happy New Year, Beate!
      Isn't Broadway Tower incredible, That rich history, the elegant interior and those astounding views! xxx

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  38. That's the sort of place I'd dream of inheriting and living in. I'd fill it with books, too! The views from the tower were incredible. What a gem.
    xxx

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    1. Happy New Year, Vronni! What were the National Trust thinking when they turned it down? Even on a gloomy day those views were amazing! Broadway Tower is my dream home, too - I'd love to live in The Cotswolds! xxx

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  39. Happy New Year to you and Lord Jon.
    That tower is something! Wouldn't be my first choice of a bathing spot.

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    1. Happy New Year! A fabulous place to live but I think I'd be inclined to stick with wet wipes (plastic-free, naturally) until running water was installed! xxx

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  40. Good grief, I’d never heard of it either.
    What a fabulous place!
    Happy New Year to you both xxx

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    1. Happy New Year! How did we miss this gem? Definitely well worth a visit! xxx

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  41. Happy new year dear Vix! Wow, what an incredible place. They really knew how to do 'outhouses' back then didn't they ! What fun it must have been to have a bath on the top. The nuclear bunker sounds interesting (I have a weird fascination with them and even tried to buy one once! ). Here's to a fab 2022 xXx

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    1. I'm dying to go back and see the bunker! xxx

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  42. That looks like a perfect day out! What a wonderful place full of lots of my favourite things. Magical. Zxx

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  43. A belated Happy New Year to you both too! I rarely comment but love reading your blog and it cheers up many a lunch break :-)x

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    1. Hello and thank you so much for the comment! Hope your 2022 has got off to a good start! xxx

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  44. I'd love to live somewhere like that - once it had running water installed! What a fantastic little place.

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    1. I love the Cotswolds, living there would be my dream, too! xxx

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Lots of love, Vix