Fodor’s Travel calls the part of Britain known as the Cotswolds, “….rural England at its best” and it is. Its main city is Bath. Its name comes from 2 words. Cot means a sheep enclosure and wold means hill. This reflects the Cotswold’s history since it has been known for wool production since the Middle Ages. My favorite Cotswold town is Broadway. Busses from Cheltenham and Stratford-upon-Avon take you there. A train from London stops at Evesham, five miles away. My favorite attraction in Broadway is its museum and art gallery. Neither Broadway nor this museum is an ordinary place.
Practically the first thing you see in the Broadway Museum is what is laughingly called The Cotswold Lion seen above. This is a traditional breed of sheep. They are descendants of the Longwood sheep introduced into this part of England by the Romans, who seemed to love this part of their Empire. The Cotswold Lion’s wool, known as golden fleece, was prized by wool merchants and was found throughout Europe by the Middle Ages.
The Broadway Museum is in a Tudor house on High Street built in the 17th century as a coaching inn. It opened as a museum known as the Ashmolean because of its partnership with the famous Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. New exhibits that were decidedly local were introduced in 2017. There is more emphasis now, for example, on the wool trade, hence the sheep greeter. The fascinating Broadway Artists’ Colony Room opened the next year on the top floor although most of the visitors were more interested in local artist Wiillard Wigan’s occasionally changing micro sculptures. This unusual exhibit began in 2019 and is so popular that it’s becoming permanent. Other rooms contain furniture, glassware, ceramics, and 17th century curiosity cabinets from the Ashmolean.
Wigan began making homes for ants because he decided they needed some place to live and his mother said, “The smaller your work, the bigger your name will become.” That’s why Wigan segued into putting objects and sculptures into the eyes of needles. He became so good at this that he’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the world’s smallest hand-made sculpture. Wigan’s artistic output must be viewed through microscopes. Ruth was especially enchanted by them.
I was too but spent more time upstairs learning about Broadway’s 19th century, mostly American art colony that included John Singer Sargent. Visitors included writers Henry James and J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. This colony was started by Frank and Lily Millet. Frank, who had been a Civil War drummer boy and was a Harvard graduate, died when the Titanic sank in 1912, but Lily lived for another 20 years. Sargent painted her.
This story becomes intertwined with the Broadway Tower. Called “a folly built for the 6th Earl of Coventry in 1798” by one brochure, this tower was tall enough to become a unique vantage point for spotting enemy planes over England during both world wars and, later, it became a nuclear bunker.