Today, on our tour of the Cotswolds we visited Broadway Tower which is a fascinating folly situated on Broadway Hill.
In case you’re wondering what a folly is, it’s defined as “a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.”
Broadway Tower is styled in the form of a castle and is the second highest point in the Cotswolds. Its base is 1024 feet above sea level.
The Tower was the brainchild of the great 18th Century landscape designer, Capability Brown. His vision was carried out for George William 6th Earl of Coventry with the help of renowned architect James Wyatt and completed in 1798. The tower is built on a ‘beacon’ hill where beacons were lit on special occasions. Apparently Lady Coventry, who lived 22 miles away, wondered if a beacon lit on Broadway Hill could be seen from her house and financed the construction of the folly to find out.
The location for the Tower was wisely chosen, a dramatic outlook on a pre-medieval trading route and beacon hill.
Wyatt designed his “Saxon Tower” as an eccentric amalgamation of architectural components ranging from turrets, battlements and gargoyles to balconies.
Throughout the centuries, Broadway Tower has always inspired and with this inspiration came a large number of uses. One example is as home to the printing press of Sir Thomas Phillips, perhaps the greatest collector of manuscripts and books in history. Indeed it was whilst staying at Broadway Tower that William Morris started his campaign for the preservation of historic monuments and founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877.
Members of the Arts and Crafts movement used Broadway Tower as a holiday retreat. Pre-Raphaelite artists William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones were frequent visitors. Now the tower is a tourist attraction with a gift shop, restaurant and which houses many exhibitions throughout the year. And there are, of course, breath taking views from the roof. As we shared on another post about our Cotswold Tour, it is reported that you can see 16 counties from the top of the tower, which must surely be a record!
Visitors on our tour of the Cotswolds, agreed the views were stunning and some of them spotted deer too!