When I think of folly I think of foolishness, of mistake, of one big “oops.” So when I learned that Broadway Tower is a folly, I wondered what the owner, architect, or builder did that was so wrong. Silly me.
Architecturally, a folly is a building or structure built for a purpose other than what its purpose would appear. For example, a cottage never meant to be lived in, a temple never meant to be a place of worship, or a tower never meant to defend anything. Instead, a folly’s purpose is something other, such as its aesthetic appeal, as a statement, as adornment, or, perhaps, just to see if it can be done.
Let’s have a look, shall we?
Although Broadway’s “Saxon” tower sits atop a beacon hill and features battlements, gargoyles, and turrets, its large, un-medieval windows and elegant balconies indicate that the tower’s real purpose was not defense. I’m beginning to think that the purpose of this folly was to improve the view; I’m liking what I see.
The Tower’s ground level houses a small but well-stocked gift shop and entry to a bright and airy spiral stairway that seems from an all-together different era. The stairway climbs up one of the turrets, providing access to each of the three upper levels, which feature exhibits on the Tower’s history, William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, the Royal Observer Corps, and the Tower’s uses during the World Wars and the Cold War.
Too cute! But then again, I’d heard about the breath-taking views from the roof and was anxious to see them.
Broadway Tower’s official website states that as many as 16 counties can be seen on a clear day from the top of the Tower. I’m not sure if I could see all 16, but I’ll bet it was close.
No one is sure why George William, 6th Earl of Coventry, decided to carry out the vision of the great 18th-century landscape designer Capability Brown and the designs of renowned architect James Wyatt. Some say that it served as a signalling station to notify the staff at Croome Court, some 12 miles (19km) away, that the Earl and his wife were on their way from the nearby Spring Hill residence. Others speculate that the tower was built for Lady Coventry as she wondered if a beacon on the hill could be seen from her house in Worcester (which it could).
Built atop the second highest point of the Cotswolds (second only to Cleeve Hill), I’d like to think that perhaps the tower was built simply to take advantage of these stunning views.
And then full of sunlight.
But as lovely as the views are, it can get a bit windy up there and hunger does tug. Fortunately, a cafe sits beside the car park or the town of Broadway and all it has to offer is just a short drive away.
Before I leave, I think, “Thank goodness for the Earl of Coventry’s folly.”
Much of the information for this post was taken from plaques within the Tower and from the Broadway Tower brochure available for download on the Tower’s official website.
If you’d like to see a 360° view from the roof of Broadway Tower, check out 360cities.net.