Lan and Jane 'do' Western Europe travel blog

Broadway Museum and Art Gallery

View of the Broadway Hotel

We woke this morning to be greeted by rain and cold. With the rain, the wind had died down almost completely, but it was forecast to stop raining and become windier in the afternoon! Honestly, we can't win!

So we decided to take another break from riding today and just explore Broadway instead. The town is really quite lovely (it is referred to as the “Jewel of the Cotswolds”) and is clearly very popular with tourists. The resident population is only about 2500 but that swells considerably during the warmer months and, indeed, our B&B was fully occupied for the entirety of our stay, despite the crappy weather!

We were first treated to a gorgeous breakfast of locally sourced sausages, bacon, eggs, fruit, etc. The quality of the produce was excellent, and it was all cooked to order by our host and her helpers. The breakfast area is cosy and we chatted amiably to the other guests we had met at drinks, so it was all very convivial.

A stroll down the High Street brought us to the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery. We expected small little local exhibits within (as you do with village museums), so were very surprised that it is quite a gem. Most importantly it was set up by the great Ashmolean Museum, the world's first university museum and possibly the first public museum in Europe, attached to Oxford University. So although the collection is indeed quite small, it is of a very high quality, and clearly a lot of money has gone into curating and maintaining its exhibits (mostly on loan from the Ashmolean).

The Broadway museum is housed in Tudor House, a 1659 coach inn that was one of 30 at that time that serviced the many stagecoaches that passed through the town. The house has been carefully restored and contains exhibits from each century of its existence.

One room contains some of the original specimens from the founding collection of the Ashmolean, which were originally collected from all over the world by John Tradescent the Elder and the Younger. It is thought that Elias Ashmole, who donated these pieces to Oxford University, may have swindled the Tradescents of their magnificent collection, and the surviving wife died under suspicious circumstances after disputing Ashmole's claims to it. So the grand museum has a murky history to say the least!

Broadway itself is thought to have been the site of a settlement for thousands of years and is listed in the Domesday Book, so it has a rich history. In addition to the marvellous pieces from the Tradescents, there was also a small exhibit about the many artists, musicians and writers who lived in Broadway in the 19th and early 20th centuries. At that time, Broadway had fallen from its perch as a busy staging post, due to the arrival of the railway at nearby Evesham, but then it became a quiet, peaceful spot that, as often happens, became much sought after by creative types. John Singer Sargent painted one of his most famous paintings (Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose) there, and other visitors included Vaughan Williams, William Morris and J. M. Barrie. And arts and crafts continue to be important in modern Broadway.

The final highlight of the museum was a wonderful exhibition of rare prints by Manet, Pisarro, Cézanne (he only made 9 prints in his life), Toulouse-Lautrec, Tissot and Cassatt. These were marvellous examples of the skill of these artists, who were able to bring their impressionist approach to etching and printmaking.

After lunch at Market Pantry (again), we wandered around the town for another few hours, exploring the many boutique shops. Jane bought some super duper walking shoes at Landmark Broadway. The Cotswolds is particularly attractive to walkers, as this area is criss-crossed by many of the UK's major and minor walking routes. So it was no surprise that one of the largest stores in Broadway is an outdoor equipment shop!

We spent the rest of the afternoon back at our B&B and had a simple snack rather than a full dinner. We've been eating much too well for our own good!

Entry Rating:     Why ratings?
Please Rate:  
Thank you for voting!
Share |