Arthur Benson gave up Alpine climbing following an accident in 1896 and devoted his future vacations to discovering his own country by bicycle. From 1897 to 1925
he kept a diary, amounting to five million words and extracts have been published as Edwardian Excursions. His Cotswold’s holiday in 1904
began happily: "Being warmly welcomed at the Lygon Arms, Broadway, by a nice landlord, a gentlemanly young man interested in antiques – anxious to restore his house".
"We have got a perfectly enchanting panelled room, full of china, to sit in. Out of this opens my bedroom, about thirty feet long, with a huge white dome in the ceiling, painted with orange stars: a piano etc… The Cromwell room has a fine stone fireplace and a plaster ceiling. He slept here before or after some battle". (Cromwell spent the eve of the battle of Worcester here. By dinner-time next day the civil war was over).
Edward Frederic Benson, Arthur’s younger brother, also visited Broadway. In his 1920 novel Queen Lucia, Broadway appears as the peaceful Elizabethan village of ‘Riseholme’ and the Lygon Arms as ‘The Ambermere Arms’. In this story he introduced Mrs. Emmeline (Lucia) Lucas, Queen of Riseholme high society. And in 1922 in ‘Miss Mapp’, Benson gave us another great social leader, Elizabeth Mapp in the town of ‘Tilling’ (based on Rye in Sussex). He finally brought these two great ladies together in ‘Mapp and Lucia’ (1931), when the widowed Lucia makes an extended visit (that turns permanent) to Tilling.
Most summers from 1781 to 1794, the hyper critical John Byng left his London home and became a tourist travelling through England, putting up at local inns and alehouses. His notebooks were published in the 1930s as the Torrington Diaries and give us a fascinating view of many aspects of Georgian England. At that time the Lygon Arms was known as The Whyte Harte. Byng mentions visiting on four separate occasions, each time favourably. "There cannot be a cleaner, civiller inn than this". However, by the end of the 19th century the Lygon Arms had been reduced to the status of a village beerhouse.
The gentlemanly young landlord Arthur Benson refers to was Sidney Bolton Russell, who rescued the old building from decades of dereliction. He ripped out former Victorian vandalism, re-fitted mullion windows and original fireplaces and filled the ancient shell with carefully collected antiques to create the beautiful inn you see today.