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In Broadway you can buy antiques that only the Getty Museum can afford. It resembles Burford on the other side of the Cotswolds in the quality of goods on sale, the weight of traffic rumbling through the village, the number of tourists, and the beauty of the buildings.
The village was not always like this. It began as a possession of the Benedictine Abbey of Pershore, and a royal charter from King Edgar dated 972 AD still exists and describes the boundaries of Broadway. It remained a possession of the Abbey until the reformation in 1539, when it was sold by the Crown and passed into private hands.
Until the time of the railways the village was an important coaching stop on the main London-Worcester route, where teams of horses were changed for the steep climb up Fish Hill onto the Cotswold escarpment. The railways killed that, and the village became, not to put it too subtly, "dead as a doornail". Not a lot happened. Not a lot changed.
Things did change when William Morris stayed with a couple of Oxford tutors, one of whom, Carmel Price, had rented Broadway Tower, a folly with superb views over the Severn valley. Morris had a wide circle of artistic friends, and it did not take long for the sleepy rural perfection of Broadway to become known in that circle. Two American artists, E.A. Abbey and Frank Millet leased Farnham House on Broadway Green, and from then on the village was so crowded with famous artists that you had to rent space on the Green for your easel, and a camel train arrived from Gloucester daily laden with linseed oil, canvas, turpentine, pig's bristles, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Umber, Rose Madder, and nubile young ladies. Broadway became the most famous, undiscovered village in England.
The main part of Broadway village is set about a broad village green, and that is where most of the tourists stay, but it is easy to miss the beautiful cottages and houses in the Upper Church Street where the Stow road climbs up Fish Hill - the Shakespeare Cottages (once called Flea Bank!), Orchard House and Court House among others.
The villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter are separated by less then one mile along the course of the River Eye, which joins the Windrush just west of Bourton-on-the-Water. Bourton itself is an easy walk of just over a mile. Car parking space in these popular little villages is very limited, so during peak periods in the summer there is a lot to be said for using the large car parks in Bourton.
The name of these villages has nothing to do with the civil war, and nothing to do with motorists arguing over parking spaces. It is derived from the Old English slohtre, a slough or muddy place. Of the two villages, Lower Slaughter is the prettier. The stream wraps around the village like a drape on an artist's model, showing off the cottages to best effect, and the little stone bridges are reminiscent of a smaller-scale Bourton. The Old Mill is probably the most picturesque spot, the water running over the mill-wheel leaving the air cool and fresh.
Take your time over these places, walk along the footpath between the two villages and see the English countryside at its best. There are more kinds of beauty than one can see, but they take time to seep in through the senses. Those of us who learned our history at school were taught about kings and queens and invasions and battles. Archaeology tells a different story. The current archaeological picture of the Cotswolds stresses continuity, not sudden change.