Robert Stayner Holford

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Robert Stayner Holford (1808–1892), of Westonbirt, in the village of Weston Birt,[1] co. Gloucestershire, MP for East Gloucestershire, was a wealthy landowner, gardening and landscaping enthusiast, and an art collector. With his vast wealth, he rebuilt Westonbirt House from the Georgian mansion erected only decades earlier by his father, and founded the Westonbirt Arboretum after succeeding his uncle and father between 1838 and 1839. His London home was Dorchester House.

Garden front of Westonbirt House
Dorchester House, Park Lane, London, in 1905

Holford served as MP for East Gloucestershire from 1854 when he was elected in a by-election on 19 December on the death of the member Sir Michael Hicks Beach, 8th Baronet (d. 22 November 1854), and continued in that office for eighteen years. He was re-elected in 1857 with Sir Christopher William Codrington and again in 1859 with Codrington (who died 1864 forcing another by-election). He was re-elected in 1864 with the new member Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, 9th Bt. (son of the previous MP). In 1872, he vacated the seat.


Holford was the son of George Peter Holford (d. 1839), himself the second son of Peter Holford (d. 1804) who made an immense fortune by supplying London with fresh water through a canal. The Holfords had been seated at Westonbirt since 1666 when a Holford married the heiress Sarah Crew. Robert inherited Westonbirt in 1838/1839 from his uncle and namesake Robert Holford (d. 1839).[2]

Holford married Mary Anne Lindsay, a daughter of Lt. General Sir James Lindsay of Balcarres (himself grandson of James Lindsay, 5th Earl of Balcarres) by his second wife Anne Trotter, daughter of Sir Coutts Trotter, 1st Baronet. (Mary Anne's sister Margaret had married their second cousin Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford). Holford and his wife had the following children

  1. Sir George Lindsay Holford (1860–1926) who married Susannah West Menzies (1865–1943), daughter of Arthur Wilson of Tranby Croft, widow of John Graham Menzies (1861–1911), mother of Major-General Sir Stewart Menzies.
  2. Margaret Holford (d. 9 February 1908) who married on 17 June 1876[3] Albert Parker, 3rd Earl of Morley, and had three sons and one daughter. The two elder sons succeeded to the earldom as 4th and 5th Earls, and a third son was father of the 6th and most recent Earl of Morley. These collateral successions necessitated death duties and also meant sale of the family estates, including Westonbirt House and eventually Saltram House.
    1. Edmund Robert Parker, 4th Earl of Morley (19 April 1877 – 10 October 1951) who inherited Westonbirt from his maternal uncle and sold the house shortly thereafter. He died unmarried, and was succeeded by his next brother.
    2. Montagu Brownlow Parker, 5th Earl of Morley (13 October 1878 – 28 April 1962), who succeeded his older brother in 1951 and also died unmarried, being succeeded by his nephew.
    3. Hon. John Holford Parker (22 June 1886 – 27 February 1955), married the Hon. Marjory Katherine Elizabeth Alexandra St Aubyn, daughter of the Baron St Levan. Their eldest son, John St Aubyn Parker (b. 29 May 1923), became the 6th Earl of Morley, and has one son.[4]
  3. Alice Holford (d. 22 September 1944) who married on 9 June 1877 Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey (1851–1917), and had five children, one of whom died in early childhood.
    1. Lady Victoria Mary Sybil Grey (9 June 1878 – 3 February 1907) married Arthur Morton Grenfell in 1901, and left children
    2. 5th Earl Grey (15 December 1879 – 2 April 1963), who had two daughters by his wife Lady Mabel Laura Georgiana Palmer. The elder daughter Mary (1907–2002) married the 1st Baron Howick of Glendale.
    3. Lady Sybil Grey (15 July 1882 – 4 June 1966) O.B.E. married Lambert William Middleton (1877–1941) of Lowood House, Melrose, Scotland, nephew of Sir Arthur Middleton, 7th Baronet, and Frederick Edmund Meredith. She was invested as an Officer, Order of the British Empire in 1918, having served as the Commandant of the Dorchester House Hospital for Officers. She was well known for her work with the Red Cross in Russia during World War I, and for her work with tuberculosis sufferers (founding the Lady Grey Society). She was an amateur photographer and filmmaker of note, and recorded village life at Darnick and St. Boswells [1][permanent dead link] . After her husband died she sold Lowood House and moved to Burley, Hampshire. They were the parents of a son and a daughter.
    4. Evelyn Grey, married L.E. Jones
  4. Evelyn Holford (1856–1943)[5] who married the art collector, banker, and art patron Robert Henry Benson (1850–1929), and had children. Their daughter Margaret Winifred Benson married 1915 Major General Sir Hereward Wake, 13th Bt. and had children, including the present baronet. The eldest son Guy Holford Benson (1888–1975) married 1921 Lady Violet Elcho (1888–1971), widow of Lord Elcho, and 2nd daughter of the 8th Duke of Rutland, and had three sons. Another son Constantine Evelyn Benson, a financier, married Lady Morvyth Lilian Ward, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Dudley, and had children including Lady Tompkins (d. 2003).


  1. ^ The house is one word only, the village is two words. However, 'Westonbirt with Lasborough: Introduction', A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11: Bisley and Longtree Hundreds (1976), pp. 283-285 says that the village and parish are also called Westonbirt. Date accessed: 4 February 2008.
  2. ^ Janet H. Stevenson. "Alexander Nesbitt, a Sussex antiquary, and the Oldlands estate"[dead link], in a scholarly paper, traces how one estate descended via the Holfords and other families.

    Oldlands passed to his

    daughter Ann (d. 1795), the wife of Peter Holford (d. 1804). Under the terms of her father’s will she was succeeded by her children Robert (d. 1838), George (d. 1839), Sarah (d. 1811), afterwards the wife of Sir Charles Hudson, Bt, and Charlotte (d. 1839), afterwards the wife of Charles Bosanquet, who held as tenants in common. In 1839 Robert Holford’s nephew and heir Robert Stayner Holford, the son of George, extinguished his mother’s dower in his father’s portion and Charles Bosanquet’s right to hold Charlotte’s by the courtesy of England, and bought that of his surviving tenant in common, the Revd R. W. Bosanquet, son of Charlotte and Charles. It was R.

    S. Holford who sold the estate to Coventry Patmore.

  3. ^ Moseley, Brian (February 2005). "The Earls of Morley". The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History. Plymouth Data. Archived from the original on 2 January 2009. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  4. ^ Since this son, Viscount Boringdon has three daughters, the earldom of Morley is probably destined for his first cousin Edward Geoffrey Parker (b. 1967) who is married, and has two sons. There are no further heirs to the earldom.
  5. ^ "Benson, Robert Henry M.A., J.P." Archived 20 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine CARP: Chinese Art Research Into Provenance, retrieved 21 December 2008


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, 8th Bt.
Sir Christopher William Codrington
Member of Parliament for East Gloucestershire
With: Sir Christopher William Codrington to 1864
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, 9th Bt. from 1864
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, 9th Bt.
John Yorke
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Thomas Henry Kingscote
High Sheriff of Gloucestershire
Succeeded by
Joseph Yorke