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  #181  
Old 13th August 2014, 07:21 PM
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History of the Westonbirt Arboretum

The Holford Family


The Holfords are thought to have come to Britain at the time of William the Conqueror and were granted land in Cheshire by one of the Barons who helped William to subdue the English. They anglicised their surname in 1316, from de Runchamp and are thought to have chosen their name “Holford” from a small hamlet near their land located in the Plumley area.

The earliest of the Holfords known in Gloucestershire was Richard, a 29 year old barrister who married Sarah Crew a 16 year old girl who had been left Westonbirt Manor by her father, John Crew. At this time the estate consisted of arable and pasture producing wool and grain. The dew pond dates from this time. Little is known of Sarah after her marriage and she is thought to have died young and childless. Richard eventually had three wives, the third wife being Susannah.

On Richard's death, the estate passed to his son, Robert, who by his own account was not entirely happy with the estate. Indeed in 1730 he wrote:

“When my father died he left me a small estate in Gloucestershire about 3 miles from Badminton with a large house upon it, and entailed it so that I could not dispose of it, for it being a good way off and I having no great liking to ye country, I did once think of endevouring by Act of Parliament to disencumber myself of it”

Thankfully this ensured the estate remained in the family, and it duly passed to Peter Holford (1719-1803) when Robert died in 1753. Peter was the grandfather to Robert Stayner Holford (1808-1892) the original creator of Westonbirt Arboretum. He was also at one time the Governor of the New River Company – the source of the Holford’s wealth.


Robert Holford inherited Westonbirt aged 31 in 1839. His wealth was considerable – he had inherited a million pounds and six estates from a batchelor uncle in 1838. It is also rumoured that a wheelbarrow full of gold was found in the cellar of the house that his uncle had owned on the Isle-of-White. This allowed Robert the freedom to develop the arboretum as we see it today.

His son George Holford (1860-1926) continued his work and is responsible for many of the original maple and rhododendron plantings. Sir George is also credited with expanding the arboretum across the valley into Silk Wood. Planting here involved clearance of the semi-natural woodland that had occupied the site for many centuries. The three drives, Willesley Drive, Broad Drive and Waste Drive, were created with wide verges and bays for ornamental trees.

Sir George Holford died in 1926 leaving no heir and the estate passed to his nephew, the Fourth Earl of Morley. In 1927 the mansion was sold to become a girls school and so the estate was split. The Fourth Earl died in 1951 and the estate passed to his brother, the Fifth Earl. By now, lack of maintenance, greatly exacerbated by the war, had left the arboretum in a poor state and the new owner decided to part with it. In 1956 the entire 240 hectares (600 acres) were handed over to the Forestry Commission and a new chapter in its history began.

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  #182  
Old 13th August 2014, 07:22 PM
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Here are a few pictures of my day at the Westonbirt Arboretum ...








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Old 13th August 2014, 07:23 PM
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Old 13th August 2014, 07:23 PM
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Old 13th August 2014, 07:24 PM
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Old 13th August 2014, 07:25 PM
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Old 13th August 2014, 07:25 PM
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Old 13th August 2014, 07:26 PM
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Old 13th August 2014, 07:26 PM
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Old 13th August 2014, 07:27 PM
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