A Brief History of the Lygon Arms in Broadway

Dine Online - the UK Restaurant guide

The Lygon Arms, situated in the beautiful Cotswold village of Broadway, is well known throughout the world as one of the oldest and most celebrated inns in England. The history of The Lygon Arms can be traced back through hundreds of years, from before the time of King Henry VIII to the present-day Queen Elizabeth II, and through such great events as the Gunpowder Plot, the Civil War and the Restoration. Today, The Lygon (pronounced Liggon), is famous for its superb hospitality and modern-day luxury, while maintaining the traditional style and service for which it has always been known.

The first recorded date in the history of The Lygon Arms (then the White Hart Inn) is in 1532, when the Broadway Parish Register noted its owner as Mr Thomas White, a local wool merchant. However, there are clear indications that it is much older than this. In one of the bedrooms, for example, there is a stone fireplace, built into one of the four-feet thick walls, which appears to be of 14th century craftsmanship. Other parts of the original building remain, though careful additions and improvements have been made over the years. The fine front doorway dates from the 16th century and the four gabled frontage is thought to have been built by landlord John Trevis and his wife Ursula, who carved their names into it in 1620 - the year the Mayflower sailed for the New World.

The wool trade played an important part in the economy of the Cotswolds in the 15th and 16th centuries, which in turn created a rapidly expanding need for resting places, such as the White Hart Inn, for the merchants who frequently travelled between the prosperous wool towns of Broadway and Chipping Campden.

Oliver Cromwell, who became Lord Protector of England in 1653, stayed at The Inn on 2nd September 1651, the night before the Battle of Worcester, the final and decisive battle of the great Civil War, fought between King Charles I and his "Cavaliers" and Parliament's "Roundheads". The first-floor room where he slept, and which is named after him, has an Elizabethan fireplace, richly decorated early 17th century plasterwork on the ceiling and frieze, and splendid antique furniture.

Charles I met his Cavalier supporters after the great Battle in one of the Inn's first floor rooms, now named the Charles I Sitting Room. Here, there are still remains of the original 17th century oak panelling and the ancient staircase used by the King. (But since the King was executed in 1649, the meeting referred to could not not have taken place after the battle of Worcester).

In the 18th century, The Inn became an important staging post for coaches travelling through Broadway along the main road from London to Wales. To cope with the volume of business, the White Hart Inn was expanded and stabling for over 30 horses was built. The landlord at this time was said to have been Giles Atwood, who was commended for his fine management by Lord Torrington, a recognised diarist, and after whom The Lygon's Torrington Room is now named.

In 1820, General William Lygon, who had served under Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo and who was part of an old and distinguished Worcestershire family, bought the estate on which The Inn stood, for 1,580 pounds. Before his death, Lygon promoted his butler, Charles Drury, to manager, and it was he who named the Inn as The Lygon Arms, in tribute to the family whose patronage he had enjoyed him. The first official record in which the White Hart is listed as "the Lygon's Arms" is in the 1841 Broadway Census.

In the 19th century, hunting became a popular sport and Drury found that huntsmen were soon an important part of his clientele. In response to their needs, he built an Assembly Room for the hunt gatherings and balls. Drury also established the hunting tradition which remains to this day - whereby The Lygon Arms provides the Stirrup Cup at the opening meet of the North Cotswold Hunt each November. Sadly, this looks like another great old British tradition that is soon to be swept away if the hunt sabateurs finally get their way.

At the turn of the 20th century, The Lygon Arms was bought by Sydney Bolton Russell for 6,000 pounds. Russell had the idea of restoring the somewhat run-down Inn to the magnificent coaching Inn it had once been, and one of his first moves was to rebuild the old Assembly Room of which Charles Drury had been so proud. Sir Aston Webb, a noted architect of the time, was commissioned to design a new room that could be used as a dining room in the summer and a ballroom in the winter. Webb immediately relocated the entire room to achieve more space and to make room for a garden behind. Thus The Great Hall, now The Lygon Arms' award-winning restaurant, was established.

During the 1930's, Russell passed the management of The Inn to his son Donald, who inherited his father's love of English food and country hospitality. Soon after he took over, World War II broke out and Donald spent the ensuing years cheering up the lives of the servicemen who stayed at The Inn. Among these visiting servicemen was a young Australian named Douglas Barrington, who struck up a warm friendship with Donald Russell. In 1945, after the war had ended, Barrington returned to The Lygon Arms and was appointed to the Board of Directors in 1946 and later to Managing Director in 1956.

In 1986, the Savoy Group acquired The Lygon Arms at a cost of Stg 4.7million. Kirk Ritchie was appointed Managing Director and General Manager, having been at The Inn since 1975. His constant aim has been to continue the policy of preserving the old Lygon traditions while enhancing them with modern comforts. In 1971, The Lygon Arms became the first country hotel to be honoured with the Queen's Award for successful appeal to overseas visitors. In 1985 the honour was repeated when the award was again presented to The Lygon Arms. The Inn has also been awarded four Red Stars by The Automobile Association and its restaurant has three rosettes. It was nominated as the very first Egon Ronay Hotel of the Year.

The Lygon Arms
Broadway, Worcestershire WR12 7DU, England
Telephone 01386 852255 Facsimile O1386 858611

If you have visited The Lygon Arms, please let us have your comments:

Back to Dine Online Home Page

Dine Online Copyright Clifton Media Associates 1998, All rights reserved.

Views or opinions expressed by authors are not necessarily those of the publishers, Clifton Media Associates. While every care is taken in compiling this publication, the publishers cannot assume responsibility for any effects arising therefrom.