On Saturday 3rd May 1952, Snowshill Manor near Broadway, which had been gifted to the National Trust by owner Charles Paget Wade1 in December 1951, was opened to the public by Professor E.A. Richardson RA.
Wade, an architect and owner of sugar plantations in the British West Indies, purchased Snowshill Manor, an adjacent cottage and 14 acres of land, in June 19162 when it was put up for auction. For generations it had been a farmhouse, and Wade spent much money restoring the house parts of which date back to the 15th century. The major part of the house is Tudor and the front door dates back to 1700. The farmyard was remodelled into an Arts and Crafts garden with the help of M.H. Baillie Scott (1865-1945).
Wade filled the manor house from floor to ceiling with antiques, curios, models and works of art. His eclectic collection attracted a number of visitors including J.B. Priestly, Virginia Woolf and Graham Greene. When Queen Mary visited it is reported that she said that the finest thing in the collection was Mr Wade himself.
- Charles Paget Wade (1883-1956) was an English architect, artist and poet. He married Mary Graham (1902-1999) in 1946 and died suddenly on 28 June 1956 in hospital at Evesham.
- The auction comprising of 8 lots, was held during the afternoon of 21 June 1916 in the Lifford Memorial Hall. The auctioneers were G.H. Bayley and Sons (Cheltenham and Broadway). Wade was serving with the Royal Engineers in France at the time and saw the auction advertised in Country Life Magazine. Lot 1, the house, farm buildings, stables and 213 acres of land sold for the sum of £5,800.
In April 1952, Major the Hon. Frederick Anthony Hamilton Wills, heir to Lord Dulverton of Batsford Park, purchased Middle Hill House and 1,100 acres of land on Broadway Hill.
Middle Hill had previously been owned by the sisters Lucy Miller Hingley and Emily Georgina Hingley who moved to Broadway shortly after the end of the First World War. Lucy Hingley died in 1942 and Emily Hingley in February 1946. By the terms of Miss Emily Hingley’s will (which amounted to £311,922 gross), Middle Hill was to be offered to the Friends of the Poor and if they were not willing to accept the bequest then to the Homes of Rest for Gentlewomen of the Church of England with a request that the house be known as The Hingley House of Rest. However, the Friends of the Poor declined to accept the property because of the huge cost of repairs needed to be spent on the house and ancillary buildings, and following a hearing at the Chancery Division in December 1951, it was decided that the gift had failed and declared that Miss Hingley had died intestate. Broadway Tower and the surrounding fields, also part of Miss Hingley’s estate, were bequeathed to the National Trust.
Following his purchase of the house and land, Wills was granted a £500 licence by Evesham Rural District Council to carry out the extensive repairs to make the house habitable. Wills was married with four children and lived at the house for many years returning the surrounding land to productive farmland.
Born on 19 December 1915, Wills was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford. During the Second World War, Wills served with the Lovatt Scouts. He was an enthusiast about fieldcraft and was one of the Army’s leading experts on sniping. He founded and was chief instructor at a sniping wing at the War Office Advanced Handling and Fieldcraft School in North Wales. He gained the rank of Major in 1944 in the Royal Artillery. He succeeded as the 2nd Baron Dulverton, of Batsford, and 3rd Baronet Willow of Northmoor, Somerset, on 1 December 1956. Wills served as a Master of the North Cotswold Hunt for 8 years, resigning in 1960. He was appointed Commander, Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1974. He died on 7 February 1992 at the age of 76.