The Lygon Arms: a Cotswolds hotel full of history
The Lygon Arms in Broadway is such an impressive hotel that some people never want to leave, says Matthew Partridge.
“I’ve come here nearly every day for nearly 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. As well as the light, the weather conditions can also “change how everything looks”. While the mist can add an air of mystery, on a clear day “you can see no less than 16 counties, right through to Wales”. If you include Broadway Tower, the folly completed in 1799, it becomes the highest point in the entire Cotswolds.
While the view from the top may be spectacular, the town below is even more enchanting. Ruston believes that Broadway’s history can be divided into three epochs. 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 location to become one of the major staging posts for the coaching industry, before being forced to reinvent itself yet again when the railway reached nearby Evesham in 1852.
Broadway’s late-Victorian revival would come courtesy of its US namesake. Whether it was the 19th-century equivalent of a sat-nav error, or just because she fell in love with the area, the decision of American actress Mary Anderson to settle in the village put it back on the cultural map. Her arrival coincided with that of a host of famous figures, such as painter John Sargent, composer Edward Elgar, and the author of Peter Pan, J.M. 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 trove acquired by the eccentric architect and poet Charles Paget Wade.
Playing host to royalty
Virtually all of the most notable figures to visit Broadway have stayed at The Lygon Arms, one of the most historic hotels not only in the region, but arguably also in the entire country. Established as an inn in 1490, it functioned as a rallying point for royalist supporters during the Civil War, hosting Charles I on several occasions. Indeed, after it was eventually captured by the Roundheads, Oliver Cromwell would give the orders that brought the conflict to its conclusion while staying at the inn. In the early 20th century, it would host Edward VII.
Today it is a boutique hotel, with 86 rooms and suites, including the one that Charles I stayed in, owned as part of the Iconic Luxury Hotels’ portfolio. Historic features include secret passages and a plaque marking the resting place of John Noakes, one of the hotel’s owners who loved the place so much he was buried there. It has all the latest amenities that you’d expect from a luxury hotel, including a spa offering massages and treatments, as well as steam rooms, saunas, a pool and hot tub.
The Lygon Arms also has the sort of top-notch restaurant that you’d expect from a restaurant run by a team with extensive experience in various manor houses and rosette restaurants. I had the delicious English pea and shallot ravioli as a starter, followed by the pan-fried sea bass with mussels, saffron, spring onion, leeks and courgette, washed down with a large glass of white wine from the local Three Choirs Vineyards.
As well as 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 telling me that they had arranged a guided tour for me. The Lygon Arms also regularly hosts events for its guests, such as the falconry display that took place in the garden the day I arrived. What’s more, unlike other hotels that “only tolerate dogs”, The Lygon Arms “actively welcomes them”, says the hotel’s Christina McKenzie. For a small supplement the hotel will also provide a dog bed, treats and bowls for food and water.
Matthew was a guest of The Lygon Arms. From £300 a night, lygonarmshotel.co.uk