Broadway History Society’s next meeting and talk will take place on Monday 18th November 2019, when local artist Doug Eyre, will be giving an illustrated talk entitled 1941, HMS Broadway and the Capture of the German Naval Enigma Machine in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway, starting at 7pm.
HMS Broadway (H90), previously USS Hunt, was the first ex-American Destroyer to sink a U-boat during the Second World War. Doug Eyre, Broadway Museum and Art Gallery’s resident artist has painted a picture depicting the important May 1941 engagement in the Atlantic that involved HMS Broadway and resulted in the discovery of the Enigma machine and codebooks on U-110.
Non-members are welcome, £3 on the door. Refreshments will be served during the interval.
Town Class Destroyer HMS Broadway (H90) was first launched on 14th February 1920 and was the first ex-American destroyer to sink a U-boat during the Second World War.
The ship, originally commissioned and launched by Miss Victoria Hunt as USS Hunt (DD 194), was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. in Virginia in the United States. She was one of 50 US Navy destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy from the US Navy as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement of 2nd September 1940.
On 8th October 1940, USS Hunt was commissioned as HMS Broadway in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, for use by the Royal Navy. Like all the other ex-US Navy destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy in 1940, her name was common to a village/town in England and a town in the US. HMS Broadway arrived at HM Dockyard Devonport on the south coast on 29th October for a refit and modification to be used as a Royal Navy convoy escort in the Atlantic.
Following the commissioning of the destroyer, Broadway’s Parish Councillor, Gordon Russell, agreed to give a talk to the BBC on the village of Broadway. However, the Chairman of the Parish Council, Arthur Williams JP, strongly objected to the talk on the grounds that ‘the enemy is likely to vent his wrath in a particular village that has given its name to one of His Majesty’s ships’. On 2nd January 1941, Williams sent a telegram to the BBC who replied that they could not stop the programme going ahead as it had already been publicised. Williams then sent a wire to Herbert Morrison, Home Secretary to the wartime coalition, stating that the airing of the programme would give ‘unnecessary publicity, and possible menace to the village’ and he also sent a telegram to the local Evesham MP, Mr Rupert De la Bère. Following discussions between the two, it was decided that the BBC programme should go ahead as it would not adversely affect Broadway or endanger the village or its residents in any way.
HMS Broadway, Convoy Escort and the Capture of an Enigma Machine
After undergoing initial trials HMS Broadway was taken to Scapa Flow for further preparations and to join the 11th Escort Group. However, she sustained damage during the trials and was repaired in Hull, then at the Clyde and Liverpool shipyards before work was finally completed on her back at Devonport and she was finally ready to go to war as an escort of convoys in the mid-Atlantic passage. HMS Broadway returned to Liverpool from where on 28th April 1941 she joined the 7th Escort Group, Western Approaches Command, in Iceland.
On 9th May 1941, whilst under the command of Lt. Commander Thomas Taylor, RN, and whilst protecting the Atlantic convoys with the help of destroyer HMS Bulldog and corvette HMS Aubretia, she assisted in the capture of German U-boat U-110 between Greenland and Iceland.
U-110, commanded by Lt. Fritz-Julius Lemp1, had successfully sunk two British ships during the Battle of the Atlantic. On the 9th May the U-boat was first detected by HMS Aubretia’s listening device and the corvette subsequently moved to engage the U-boat with depth charges. U-110 survived this first assault but when the two destroyers HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway joined the attack the U-boat was forced to surface and HMS Bulldog’s captain set a course to ram the the boat. Lemp seeing this ordered his crew to abandon ship.
U-110 was captured (the first U-boat capture during the Second World War) and a boarding party was sent from HMS Bulldog under the command of Lieutenant Commander David Balme. On board, Radio Operator William Stewart Pollock noticed a unusual looking typewriter. He gathered it up and later discovered he had taken a German Navy Enigma decoder machine and codebooks, the first operational Enigma machine captured during the war.
Once in the water, Lemp attempted to swim back to the U-boat when he realised that the scuttling charges were not going to detonate and that his boat might be captured and this was the last anyone saw of him.
The original plan was to tow the capturedU-110to Iceland. Fortuitously, the U-boat sank whilst under tow. Had the boat reached Iceland, it seems certain that German spies would have seen it and passed word back to Germany.
Although the German Navy (the Kriegsmarine) developed codes that were more complex after this capture, it gave Alan Turing and the code breakers at Bletchley Park their first insight into the Enigma code. The Bletchley Park cryptanalysts had found this code more complex and secure than that used by the Germany’s army and airforce.
Four officers and men of HMS Broadway were mentioned in dispatches and Lt. Commander Thomas Taylor received the DSC and Chief Stoker Arthur Harry Capelin P/K-46363 was awarded the DSM.
HMS Broadway continued to escort Atlantic convoys during 1942 and 1943 and on 12th May 1943, commanded by Lt. Commander Evelyn Henry Chavasse2, she joined frigate HMS Lagan and aircraft from escort carrier HMS Biter in destroying another German submarine, U-89, which was sunk northeast of the Azores.
After undergoing a refit at Belfast in September 1943, HMS Broadway became a target ship for aircraft and served as such at Rosyth in Scotland until the war ended in Europe, retiring from service during the summer of 1945. HMS Broadway was finally decommissioned and sold for scrap in May 1948.
HMS Broadway received the battle honours, Atlantic 1941-43 and North Sea 1944 for taking part in the sinking of two U-boats and the attacks on many others during which she covered nearly 100,000 miles on duty. She was known for her ‘Magic Eye’ which she had painted on her bows to ward off evil.
Support for HMS Broadway from the Broadway Branch of the British Legion
During the war HMS Broadway was one of two ships adopted by the village (the other being HMS Terrapin3). The Broadway branch of the British Legion undertook to supply HMS Broadway with comforts from the branch’s special war fund. Records, books, games, irons, writing paper, cards and envelopes and a box of football gear from Broadway United Football Club (the club had been suspended for the duration of the war) along with cheques to be spent by the ship’s commanding officer on the crew were amongst items sent. Several fundraisers were held in the village during the war: on Boxing Day 1941, Broadway United Football Club held a dance at the Lifford Memorial Hall to raise money for the crew and £284 was sent to the fund to provide further sports equipment for those on board the destroyer.
In June 1943, a badge made of pear wood was presented to the HMS Broadway by the Broadway branch of the British Legion on behalf of the village (see photo above). The shield was designed by the officers of the ship and partly by the artist, Major W.T. Hart of Chipping Campden. The badge, surrounded by the Naval Crown represents the albatross, being the badge of the US Navy, Broadway Tower and crossed anchors being common to both Navies. The badge was initially on view in J.B. Ball’s shop window on the High Street but is now on the wall in St Michael’s Church. A cast brass shield was also presented by the village to the ship for the ship’s bridge.
HMS Broadway’s Bell
The bell from HMS Broadway was salvaged when the ship was decommissioned. In 1951, in a ceremony at City Hall, the bell was presented by the Admiralty to Mayor Impelliteri of New York along with a leather bound volume relating the exploits of the destroyer after she joined the Royal Navy. The bell was later put into safe keeping at the the Lygon Arms Hotel, in the village, which was under the management of Donald Russell at the time. It was presented to the citizens of Broadway by Captain R.G. Mackay, British Naval representative on the United Nations Military Staff Committee, on behalf of the Admiralty.
The bell is currently on display at the Lygon Arms Hotel, High Street, Broadway, and will shortly be moved to Broadway Museum and Art Gallery, Tudor House, 65 High Street, Broadway.
Talk on HMS Broadway – 18th November 2019
To find out more about HMS Broadway, on Monday 18th November 2019, Doug Eyre, will be giving an illustrated talk entitled 1941, HMS Broadway and the Capture of the German Naval Enigma Machine in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway, starting at 7pm. All welcome. Non-members of the Society £3.
Doug Eyre is Broadway Museum and Art Gallery’s resident artist and he has painted a picture depicting the important 1941 engagement that involved HMS Broadway and the discovery of the Enigma machine and codebooks.
Broadway History Society
1. Fritz-Julius Lemp commanded U-28, U-30 and U-110 and sank the British passenger ship SS Athenia, in violation of the Hague conventions in September 1939.
2. Reverend Evelyn Henry Chavasse, DSO, DSC (1906-1991) served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander on 1st February 1937 and to the rank of Commander on 30th June 1943. He was ordained in 1954.
3. HMS Terrapin was a British submarine of the third group of the T class. She was built as P323 by Vickers Armstrong, Barrow and Belliss and Morcom Ltd, and launched on 31st August 1943.
4. The Boxing Day Dance raised £55 14s 6d. £28 went to HMS Broadway and the balance to the football club fund.
The cottages in Broadway that comprise Wells Gardens, Leamington Road, were built and named after Thomas Edmund Wells. Thomas emigrated with his father and brother from England to the United States in 1870. He later returned to England to spend his retirement in Broadway away from Chicago, Illinois, where he made his fortune. Thomas is credited with being one of the prominent businessmen who made Chicago one of the leading cities in the world.
Thomas’s Early Life in Birmingham, England
Thomas was born in Birmingham on 28th January 1855 the son of John Wells and Diana Wells (née Nash). Thomas’s father, John, was from Rowington, near Warwick, Warwickshire, and his mother had been born at Causeway Meadows Farm1, Dodderhill, near Droitwich, Worcestershire, on 31st October 1826. The Nash and Wells were family friends and John and Diana, whose parents were living at Haselor Farm, Cropthorne, Worcestershire, were married at St Michael’s Church, Cropthorne, by Rev. B. Fawcett on 4th February 1852. After their marriage they moved back to Birmingham where Thomas was born the following year.
Thomas was baptised Thomas Edmund Wells on 3rd June 1855 in St George’s Church, Birmingham. Thomas had a younger brother, Samuel John2, who was born in Birmingham in 1857. Aged 41, their mother died during the summer of 1869 and following her death, John, Thomas and Samuel, emigrated to the United States to join family who had already settled there.
Thomas’s Life in Chicago
By June 1870 Thomas, his father and brother were living in Hyde, an affluent area 7 miles south of downtown Chicago in Illinois. Aged 15 and having finished his schooling, Thomas found work as a bank messenger for the American bank house Lunt, Preston, and Kean. Although young, Thomas excelled and quickly moved up in the business. During the Great Chicago Fire3 which raged across the city a few months later from 8th to 10th October 1870, Thomas just managed to escape the flames before the bank’s building succumbed to the fire and collapsed.
Aged 23, Thomas married his cousin, Mary Nash in Chicago on 17th October 1878. Mary had been born at Rush Farm, Inkberrow, Worcestershire. Mary’s father, Richard Preston Nash4 was Thomas’s mother’s oldest brother who had also emigrated to the US in the 1870s and had made Chicago his home. After their marriage, Thomas and Mary moved to 1733 Vincennes Avenue, Chicago. Thomas had a house built on land he had purchased in what was then a quiet, up and coming suburb of the city. Thomas and Mary had 3 daughters and 4 sons all born in Chicago:
Mary Wells, 1879-1969, who married William Hamilton Noyes of Chicago
John Edward Wells, 1881-1945
Anne Diana Wells, 1883-1957, who married Albert Hamilton Noyes
Thomas Edmund Wells Jr, 1885-1940
Richard A. Wells, who died, aged 6, on 23rd January 1895
Preston Albert Wells, 1891-1974
Eleanor May Wells, 1896-1978, who married George Dresser Smith
In 1873 Thomas started work at William Kirkwood at the Chicago Board of Trade and in 1876 was promoted to partner of the firm which was later known as Geddes, Kirkwood & Company. Thomas was amongst traders known as the ‘English crowd’ trading corn and grain on the Exchange floor alongside Alexander Geddes, William Kirkwood and Robert Stuart, who was actually a Scot. Robert Stuart was one of the three founders of the Quaker Oats Company and Thomas was later involved in the company sitting on the board of Quaker Oats.
In the late 1880s, Thomas ended up with some Texas cattle as collateral on a loan that defaulted. To house the cattle, he purchased from the Union Pacific Railroad, 10,000 acres of land at Rush Creek in the Sandhills area of Nebraska and the cattle were moved to the site from Texas. Thomas and his young family spent their summers at the ranch and in the 1890s Thomas set up the Rush Creek Land & Livestock Company. At one time the family were one of the top ten landowners in the panhandle owning 155,864 acres at Rush Creek. His two sons, Thomas Jr and Preston became the most involved in the ranch with Preston, in the 1940s, acquiring his first Arabian horse to add to the number of horses at the ranch. Today the ranch and the Rush Creek Land and Livestock Company, which is still owned by the Wells family, is famous for breeding Arabian horses.
Thomas left Geddes, Kirkwood & Company in 1896 to become President of the Continental Packaging Company and in 1902 when he set up his own Chicago Board of Trade trading firm, T.E. Wells & Co. Outside work, Thomas was a member and trustee of the Forty-first street Presbyterian Church which opened in 1890 and a member of the Chicago Club, a private members club for prominent Chicago businessmen, politicians and families.
Retirement to Top Farm, Broadway
On his retirement Thomas decided to move back to England and after renting Dr George Haynes Fosbroke’s Georgian house, Rose Place, Claines, near Worcester, for a year or so in 1902. Having fallen for the village of Broadway, Thomas purchased Top Farm from the Capital and Counties Bank, Broadway in 1904. Along with the fine Tudor house were grounds of about 11 acres including fruit orchards, a kitchen garden, dairy, arable fields and several outbuildings and cottages. Thomas spent his time refurbishing the house and outbuildings. The main house was originally designed by the London architect Andrew Noble Prentice and the refurbishment was carried out in 1905 by the Evesham builders, Espley & Co. The gardens at the house were redesigned for Thomas and Mary by Alfred Parsons, RA, of Luggershill (now Luggers Hall), Broadway.
Both Thomas and Mary were actively involved in village life and Thomas became affectionately known as Tommy. They were regular worshippers and supporters of St Michael’s Church and every summer the Broadway Council Schools annual tea and sports day was held in the gardens at Top Farm.
In the early 1900s there was a lack of housing in Broadway for the villagers, so Thomas commissioned Espley & Co. to build the Wells Cottages on the Leamington Road which were completed in 1907 and 1908. The cottages became fondly known in the village as “White City”. Some of the cottages were occupied by workers at Top Farm and many of the cottages are still owned by the family today.
The families and workers associated with Top Farm included; Frank Morgan and Hubert Smithin (Bailiffs), Mr and Mrs T.F. Newbury, David William Stanley (Head Gardener), Mr and Mrs H. Brookes, George Frederick Knott5 (who rented one of the cottages at Top Farm), J.W. and Mollie Donovan (Top Farm Cottages), William and Mary Gardner (Top Farm Cottages), George Gazey Andrews and his daughter Bessie (who lived at Wells Gardens).
Thomas died, aged 55, at home at Top Farm, during the early hours of Thursday 4th August 1910 following a bout of appendicitis. The following Saturday a funeral service, conducted by Rev. Francis Morgan, was held at the house. Rev. Morgan who had just retired from Broadway returned to take the service at the family’s request and whilst the service was being held, the minute bell at St Eadburgha’s Church was rung. Amongst the many mourners, which included his widow, Mary, youngest daughter Eleanor, the farm workers and staff were:
Mr & Mrs John Nash6 (uncle and aunt)
Mrs Prudence Nash7 and nieces, Mary Nash, Jane Nash and Jennie Nash
Dr & Mrs Bunting (cousins)
Mr & Mrs Antonio de Navarro of Court Farm, Broadway
Dr G.H. Fosbroke (Claines)
Dr & Mrs Charles T. Standring
Mr Bridge and Mr Seymour (representing Quaker Oats)
Mr & Mrs Frank Morgan
Mr Henry Fowler
Mr G.H. Hunt (Evesham)
A memorial service was also held at St Michael’s Church the day after the funeral service and Thomas’s body was taken to Evesham Mortuary to be embalmed. On 19th August, his coffin was taken by train to Liverpool, accompanied by Henry Fowler. Thomas’s son, Preston, had made the journey over from Chicago and he returned to Chicago with his mother and his father’s body on the SS Baltic on 20th August. Thomas was buried in Winnetka Congregational Church Cemetery, Cook County, Illinois, alongside his son, Richard.
Thomas’s estate was valued around $1,000,000 and amongst his bequests was money for the building of 10 cottages for married old people in Chicago to be known as the “Richard Arthur Wells Memorial”. His widow, Mary, inherited the household, furniture, jewellery, cars and carriages and the rest of his estate was put into trust with his six children receiving $200,000 each a year after his death. Various other family members and workers and servants employed at Top Farm were also beneficiaries.
After his death his widow continued to spend the summer at Top Farm8. Mary died on 6th August 1941, aged 90 at her home 835 Hill Road, Winnetka, a village north of Chicago, Illinois which the family had built in 1926. Mary’s estate was valued at $2,000,000 and Top Farm was inherited by her daughters.
In 1945, nearly 9 acres of arable fields and orchards owned by Top Farm were compulsory purchased under the Housing Acts 1936 to 1944 to provide extra houses for the village. Adjoining land owned by Collett’s trustees was also compulsory purchased at the same time and several council houses were built along Collett’s Fields in the village.
Top Farm remained in the Wells/Noyes family until 1953 when it was purchased by Professor and Mrs Guiting. The house has since been split into two separate houses and the barns and outbuildings along Bibsworth Lane have also been converted into houses.
Debbie Williamson, Chair of the Broadway History Society, will be giving an illustrated talk entitled Thomas E. Wells and Top Farm, Broadway, on Monday 21st September 2020 in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway starting at 7pm.
Broadway History Society
1. William Hill acquired Causeway Meadows Farm (Corsey Meadow Farm) in 1563 when it was rented from the Lord of the Manor, Thomas Carewe. The farm remained in the Nash family until 1880.
2. Samuel John Wells also emigrated to Chicago and married his cousin Helen “Nellie” Nash.
3. The Great Chicago Fire killed approximately 300 people, destroyed roughly 3.3 square miles of the city and left more than 100,000 residents homeless.
4. Richard Preston Nash was born Causeway Meadows Farm, Dodderhill, in 1818. By the mid 1870s he had moved with his wife, Prudence (née Arthars) and family to Chicago. He died in Chicago 29th August 1892 and is buried Winnetka Congregational Church Cemetery, Chicago.
5. George Frederick Knott was a teacher at Broadway Council School and one of the founders of Broadway Athletic Football Club. He died, aged 29 in 1936.
6. John Nash, born 11th October 1837 at Dodderhill, died 10th November 1910 in Cleveland, Ohio, and his wife Winifred (née Fowler) born 1841, died 1917, married Bengeworth, Evesham, Worcestershire on 7th August 1862.
7. Prudence Nash (née Arthars), wife of Richard Preston Nash (married 1851, died 1885 see note 3).
8. Top Farm was put up for auction in London by John D. Wood after Thomas’s death on 14th July 1914, however, it was still occupied by Mary Wells and her daughters until 1953 so was probably withdrawn from the sale.
On Monday 21st October the Broadway History Society looks forward to welcoming Gerard Molyneux, the great great great grandson of Sir Thomas Phillipps to give a talk entitled Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bt (1792-1872) on his eccentric bibliophile relative who lived at Middle Hill and established a printing press in Broadway Tower.
Sir Thomas Phillipps lived at Middle Hill, Broadway, moving to Thirlestaine House in Cheltenham in 1863 where he resided until his death on 6th February 1872. Sir Thomas is buried in the family vault in the churchyard at St Eadburgha’s Church alongside Lady Phillipps and his father Thomas Phillipps. The Cheltenham Chronicle reported on Sir Thomas’s funeral a few days later:
The funeral arrangements were entrusted to Messrs. Shirer and Haddon, and carried out in a simple manner. The funeral cortege left Thirslestaine House early in the morning in the following order: The undertakers, Messrs. Shirer & Haddon of Cheltenham, hearse drawn by four horses; 1st carriage, the Rev. J. Walcott1, Rev. J. Fenwick2 and Mr Fenwick and the Rev. J.H. Cardew3 of Cheltenham, sons-in-law and grandson of the deceased; 2nd carriage, Mr A. Walker, solicitor, Mr. W. Smith, solicitor, Mr W. Lawrence4 and Mr Gale5; 3rd carriage, Rev. W. Phillipps (Buckland), Mr E. Phillipps and Mr C. Phillipps (Broadway); 4th carriage, Mr. W. Phillipps, Mr G. Phillipps (Buckland) and Mr John Phillipps (Broadway); Thomas Holloway and James Rogers6, servants of the deceased, followed. The coffin which was of polished oak, had a brass plate, with the following inscription: Thomas Phillipps, Bt., F.R.S, J.P., D.L., died 6th February, 1872, aged 79 years. There were eight bearers , tenants of the deceased. About 800 people were present, amongst whom were many tenants of the Hon. Baronet.
After Sir Thomas’s burial, the wake was held at the Lygon Arms Hotel, Broadway. As Sir Thomas had no male heirs the baronetcy became extinct. Sir Thomas’s youngest daughter, Katharine, inherited Thirlestaine House and the contents of his library of some 60,000 volumes. His eldest daughter, Henrietta7, who had fallen out with her father after her marriage to James Orchard Halliwell (1820-1899), inherited Middle Hill, Broadway.
Gerard’s talk on Sir Thomas Phillipps on Monday 21st October will take place in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway, starting at 7pm. Non-members welcome, £3 on the door.
Broadway History Society
1. Rev. John Walcot was married to Sir Thomas Phillipps’s second daughter, Maria Sophia Bampfylde Phillipps who died in 1858.
2. Rev. John Edward Addison Fenwick, Vicar of Needwood and son-in-law of Sir Thomas Phillipps. He was married to Sir Thomas’s youngest daughter, Katharine Somerset Wyttenbach Phillipps.
3. Rev. John Hayden Cardew was the Chaplain of Cheltenham General Hospital and one of the Executors of Sir Thomas Phillipps’s will.
4. Walter Lawrence of Sevenhampton.
5. Samuel Higgs Gale, of Charlton Kings, an Executor of Sir Thomas’s will.
6. James Rogers of the printers Rogers and Sons.
7. Henrietta Elizabeth Molyneux Halliwell-Phillipps died in 1879 following a riding accident in 1872.
On Friday 1st December 1899, Broadway’s new Post Office opened to the public at 25 High Street, Broadway. The new building, designed by the London architect, Sir Edward Guy Dawber1, was built in Cotswold stone by Espley and Co. of Evesham2.
Since 1848, the post office in Broadway had been housed in an office adjoining Mr Foss’s shop on the opposite side of the street. Following the opening of the new premises the Evesham Standard & West Midland Observer reported:
Broadway like other small Worcestershire towns has prospered and the business at the post office has considerably increased. It is the post town for many villages around, and has become a quite important office. Up to last week the Post Master, clerks, and all the messengers were obliged to do their work in the one small office and little room remained for the public. The new building which has been erected nearly opposite the old office affords good accommodation. There is a general office for the public to transact their business and another well-fitted room for the messengers and sorting. There is a separate entrance from the street for the messengers. The Post Master, Mr A.G. Moulden3, will reside on the premises.
The Old Post Office, as it is now known, is currently occupied by Rikki Tikki Toy Shop with a private apartment above the shop.
Broadway History Society
1. Sir Edward Guy Dawber, RA (King’s Lynn, 3rd August 1861 – London, 24th April 1938) was an English architect working in the late Arts and Crafts style, whose work is particularly associated with the Cotswolds. He was knighted in 1936. Dawber also designed Bibsworth House, Broadway.
2. Charles Edmund Steward of Broadway, an employee of Espley and Co., worked on the building of the Post Office in 1899. His granddaughter, Mary Smith, and great grandson Nigel Smith, will be giving a talk entitled A Builder in Broadway, Charles Edmund Steward, on Monday 17th February 2020 in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway from 7pm.
3. Albert George Moulden (born Reading, 1868).
The Fish Inn is located at the top of Fish Hill above Broadway in an odd triangle of land which is part of Willersey
The next meeting of the Broadway History Society takes place on Monday 16th September 2019 starting at 7pm in the Main Hall, Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway, with an illustrated talk by David Ella entitled ‘The Old Coaching Routes across the North Cotswolds and Vale of Evesham’.
All welcome to attend the meeting. Non-members £3 on the door. Refreshments will be served during the meeting.
September 1919: Broadway’s Women form a Women’s Institute
For women in rural villages such as Broadway, one of the greatest legacies of the First World War was the Women’s Institute Movement. One hundred years ago today, 12th September 1919, a meeting to set up a Women’s Institute for Broadway, was convened in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Broadway.
Proposed by Mrs Katrina L.H. Alexander, wife of Broadway’s GP Dr William G. Alexander1, the meeting, attended by many women of the village, was also attended by Lady Isabel Margesson, from the National Federal Council of Women’s Institutes in London, who gave a talk about the role of the WI and the growing number of WIs across Worcestershire and the country.
Lady Margesson and her daughter, Catherine, like a number of initial WI enthusiasts, had been suffragettes. Lady Margesson had chaired a meeting in Glasgow in September 1914 at which Emmeline Pankhurst had been arrested amidst ‘an outrage’, which bordered on a riot. By 1916, Isabel and Catherine were busy organising women to work on the land or in rural industries and to develop good parenting skills. They saw the WI as closely aligned to these causes.
It was unanimously agreed at the meeting that a WI for Broadway be formed and a working committee was elected to draw up a programme of lectures to be held on the first Wednesday of the month from October onwards. The membership subscription was initially set at 2s per annum and Mary Blomfield of Springfield House was appointed Secretary of the new Broadway WI. It was also proposed that discussions would take place to amalgamate the new WI with Broadway’s Women’s Social Club, after which a new Committee formed from both would be appointed in 1920.
Lady Margesson explained at the meeting that “knitting and needlework were not the only activitities of the Institute. There was boot mending, jam making and the learning of many useful tips in the management of a house or the running of a poultry farm. There would be lectures on subjects of interest such as housing, health, sanitation, concerts, whist drives and sales of work making it continually of interest.”
Meetings of the Broadway WI were initially held at Eadburgha House on the High Street. The newly formed WI flourished and became involved in many activities in the village in particular helping to improve maternal and child welfare in the village. Due to falling membership numbers, Broadway’s WI was disbanded in 2004.
Broadway History Society
1. Dr William and Mrs Katrina Alexander lived at Pond Close, Broadway.