The Holford Family

Robert Stayner Holford
(1808-1892) Aged c.54

The Westonbirt estate came to the Holford family by means of marriage in the middle of the seventeenth century. As Masters of Chancery based in London, they initially managed the estate as absentee landlords. 

In the early nineteenth century George Peter Holford (d.1839) completely remodelled the property, replacing the old manor with a Regency house.  However, it was his son Robert Stayner Holford (1808-1892), who, backed by wealth from the original legal practice but especially from lucrative shares in the New River Company (which supplied London with fresh water), developed the property further, creating Westonbirt as we know it today.

R S Holford was a scholarly collector of Old Masters, rare books, manuscripts, porcelain and silver. He was one of the most learned judges of quality in the country at a time when Art was becoming an important part of British cultural identity. R S Holford married into an artistic family of collectors when he wed, in 1854, Mary Ann Lindsay (d.1901). They had three daughters, Margaret, Evelyn and Alice and one son, George. The daughters married, respectively, the third Earl of Morley of Saltram in Devon; the banker Robert Benson; and the fourth Earl Grey of Howick. George Lindsay Holford (1860-1926) together with his father, subscribed to international seed and plant collecting expeditions and were the creators of the now world-famous Westonbirt Arboretum. After his fathers death, George continued to expand his father’s tree collection.

As Equerry to various members of the Royal family, George spent much time at Court. He married, late in life, Susannah Menzies (d.1943) but died childless, in 1926. Westonbirt passed to his nephew, the fourth Earl of Morley who sold off most of the estate but who retained the arboretum until his death in the 1950s when it was taken over by the Forestry Commission.