Westonbirt Gardens

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After the latter’s death in 1926 the arboretum continued to develop in the hands of his nephew, the fourth Earl of Morley, and under the guidance of its first curator W J Mitchell, aided by the botanist A B Jackson. Over the past fifty years, the arboretum has been successfully managed by the Forestry Commission.

The parkland has long since been divided between different owners but survives largely intact.  The gardens too survive in their entirety although the planting has suffered from a degree of ‘benevolent neglect’ and the tree collection reached maturity some time ago.  Little remains of the walled kitchen gardens with their glasshouse ranges, the exception being the Palm House (now the school’s music room) and the adjacent Camellia House, recently restored with assistance from The Holfords of Westonbirt Trust.

Robert Stayner Holford who, after inheriting the property in 1839, took on the enormous task of enlarging the park and gardens, which had originally been laid out by his father George Peter Holford (d.1839) and the picturesque improver William Sawrey Gilpin.

R S Holford was assisted by the landscape gardener William Broderick Thomas and the famous firm of James Pulham & Son. Planting large areas of woodland on previously arable ground (initially for game cover – the Duke of Beaufort’s hunt was based at the adjacent estate of Badminton), Robert Holford laid the bones for his extensive arboretum, which included the ancient Silkwood.

During his lifetime (1808-1892) Robert Holford amassed a huge collection of trees, many of which were new introductions into the country. Rather than planting his trees according to a scientific scheme, he positioned them in an aesthetic fashion, thus continuing to adhere to the style of planting promoted by W S Gilpin. Robert Holford also built up an important collection of orchids which his son George (1860-1926) developed to even further heights.