The History of the Hotel

One Hotel, Centuries of History

Imagine a hotel where roaring log-burning open fireplaces hint at its roots dating from the 1300’s. Picture a Great Hall with a vaulted ceiling and original wood panelling built in the seventeenth century. Visit a hotel that has been coloured by the characters of history. At The Lygon Arms, you can visit the suite that Oliver Cromwell stayed in the night before the Battle of Worcester in 1651. See the carvings of John Trevis’ name on the arch of the front door, etched into the hotel’s history in 1620. The Lygon Arms has roots reaching right into the 1300’s. It’s a historic hotel in the Cotswolds, with a typically Cotswolds history. The predominantly Tudor coaching inn stands in Broadway, which was a key connection between Wales, Worcester and London in Elizabethan times.

Owners have changed, names have altered, but visitors have always flocked to The Lygon Arms, a charming hotel enshrouded in history. The hotel’s name has changed throughout history, and the first written record refers to it as The White Hart, in 1377. The hart, a mature stag, was a personal symbol of King Richard II (1367 – 1400). The hotel’s name would change several times, reflecting the political changes of each era, showing how much history would shape the enchanting hotel. The coaching inn would come into its own when it would serve as a touch-stone for both sides of the English Civil War in 1649. The English Civil War pit Queen Elizabeth’s cousin Charles I against the forces of the English Parliament, and some of that played out within the very walls of The Lygon Arms itself.

The suite now known as the impressive King Charles I Suite was where King Charles I and his supporters would assemble. The King’s coat of arms stands regally over one of its fireplaces today. Visitors will also notice that the face of the royal lion is missing, presumably hacked off by Parliamentarians. The other side of the English Civil War, the Parliamentary army, also stayed at The Lygon Arms, then known as the White Hart Inn, in 1651. The bedroom now known as The Cromwell Room was where Oliver Cromwell slept the night before the Battle of Worcester. This battle would finally destroy the royalist cause. A copy of his ‘warts and all’ portrait hangs next to a huge seventeenth century fireplace in The Cromwell Room today.

The Cotswold coaching inn would continue to act as a staging post for mail coaches between London and Wales throughout the eighteenth century, offering a change of horses and even providing coach-and-four for guests who needed onward transport. It remained an important stop-off on the trading routes. By the 1900’s, the hotel was owned by Sydney Bolton Russell whose son began to restore antique furniture for the hotel in a loft over the Lygon’s coach house. Gordon Russell would become one of England’s leading designers in the 1930’s, creating the iconic Murphy Radio Cabinet and the seating for Coventry Cathedral. Some of his pieces sit in the hotel still today. As the 1900’s progressed, inventions such as the motorcar and charabanc would elevate the hotel into a destination in its own right rather than a staging post.

King Edward VII motored to the hotel in 1905, as did his grandson, the playboy prince and future King Edward VIII. The hotel became synonymous with the English middle classes who followed suit, and in the interwar years and beyond The Lygon Arms remained a popular choice for celebrities. Big names were drawn to the hotel for its historic prestige and The Lygon Arms boasts one of the most glamorous guest books in the world. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor stayed here in 1963 at the height of the scandal surrounding their affair. Other film star couples followed suit including Mary Pickford and Charles ‘Buddy Rogers’, Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, Moira Shearer who at the time was much better known than her husband Ludovic Kennedy, to name just a few of the famous names who have passed through the doors. Today the hotel’s guest book is still in use and counts not just actors and movie stars, but politicians, prime ministers and even Prince Phillip on its pages.