Charles Broad was born on 23 September 1828 in London, England, the eldest of 15 children of Elizabeth Brooker and her husband, John Broad, a Baptist minister. Charles Broad received a good education and was well versed in English literature. His scholarly interests later led him to found libraries at Brighton and Reefton on the West Coast of New Zealand. It is not known when or why Broad went to Australia; however, on 20 May 1850 he married Leonora Evelyn Liardet at St James Church, Melbourne. He was 21, while she was 12 years old.
The young couple settled in Williamstown, where the first of their 11 children was born in March 1851. Broad joined the civil service in Melbourne and by 1856 he was senior assistant immigration officer, with an annual salary of £400. Demoted after the amalgamation of government departments, he took a year's leave in July 1863. At the end of his leave he resigned.
From August 1863, however, while on leave, Broad was employed as gold receiver at Mt Ida in Otago. Lowther Broad, his younger brother, was goldfields warden at Queenstown. Later that year Charles Broad became a justice of the peace, resident magistrate and warden for the Otago goldfields. In 1867 he was appointed to the south-west Nelson goldfields district as resident magistrate and warden. He was stationed at Brighton and visited Charleston regularly.
As warden, Broad was required to exercise tact, firmness and discretion. It was his responsibility to issue miners' and business licences, settle disputes, receive prospecting applications, adjudge fines, award damages and make regular reports to the goldfields commissioner. As resident magistrate, he passed judgement in civil and criminal cases. He usually had other responsibilities; for instance, registration of births, deaths and marriages.
In 1872 Broad was transferred to Reefton as first resident warden with responsibility for the Inangahua district. Broad worked efficently under very difficult conditions. Barkers Hotel was venue for the warden's court and by evening the building was crowded to suffocation. The police station, a building 18 feet by 12 feet, served as lock-up and police quarters as well as office and record room. Prisoners, police, clerks and resident magistrate all slept on the floor together.
While at Reefton, Broad was an acknowledged leader of the community. He helped establish a Sunday school for the Church of England, a race course and a cricket reserve. He was always concerned about social issues and supported the idea of establishing a 'benevolent asylum' for ill and aged miners. Broadway, Reefton's main street, was named after him.
Broad left for Westport in 1876, and in 1879 transferred to Greymouth, which he regarded as an easy district. However, within a few weeks he was reported ill, and died of a heart attack on 12 November 1879 at the age of 51 years. His obituary in the Grey River Argus concluded, 'he was, above all things, an honest, hard-working genial magistrate and friend.'