An enduring symbol of devotion, craftsmanship, and preservation, the Holker Estate and Gardens is an extraordinary property that has been passed by inheritance through the family line since the sixteenth century. Situated in Cumbria, amidst the beautiful countryside of England’s South Lakeland region, the residence today is a remarkable reflection of ancestral dignity and historical integrity for the thousands of patrons who visit each year.
Photography Kate Sears
A house believed to be favored by Providence and enhanced with more natural beauty than any other place on earth, Holker Estate and Gardens has been the home of only three families since the sixteenth century and has never been bought or sold. Located in northwest England’s Cumbria, near Grange-over-Sands, and tucked amid the scenic woodlands and parkland of South Lakeland, Holker (a Norse word meaning “a rising in marshy land”) has been persistently restored and lovingly imbued with a sense of purpose for more than four hundred years. Currently the home of Lord and Lady Cavendish, who have opened a portion of the estate and gardens to thousands of visitors annually, the rose-colored neo- Elizabethan mansion is now known as one of the best-loved stately homes in Britain. With each passing generation since the earliest records of the house, the families of Preston, Lowther, and Cavendish have all added their own signatures to the property by refurbishing, adding, and embellishing the estate and surrounding landscape.
In 1871, it was necessary to rebuild a portion of the manor after a devastating fire destroyed the entire west wing, along with paintings, furniture, books, and other valuable collections. William Cavendish, the Seventh Duke of Devonshire, decided to reconstruct the damaged section on a much more elaborate scale. Built with red sandstone in majestic Elizabethan Gothic style, the new annex—Holker Hall—embodies all the grandeur of the Victorian era, while still paying homage to the splendor and outstanding craftsmanship of the original structure. The many rooms of Holker Hall are rich with history and exude a noble atmosphere of affluence and personality. The library boasts some 3,500 books, among them works by the reclusive scientist Henry Cavendish (1731–1810), who discovered nitric acid and the properties of hydrogen by way of his many important scientific experiments. Exquisite antiques are scattered throughout such opulent spaces as the drawing room and the gallery, and the elegant Wedgwood bedroom—with its regal Hepplewhite four-poster bed and Italian bombé commodes—houses a superb collection of blue-and-white Wedgwood jasperware. Some of the most visually compelling features at Holker are the sprawling grounds that comprise the estate—25 acres of immaculately kept Victorian-style gardens and 200 acres of breathtaking natural parkland. Through the changing seasons, visitors can experience an abundance of colorful blooms; an awe-inspiring collection of plants, trees, and shrubs; and the magnificent 400-year-old Holker Great Lime tree. Nurtured, restored, and planted anew by generations of passionate and gifted gardeners, Holker Gardens is a living symbol of the property’s everlasting vitality and prosperous spirit of renewal.
Above right: A Copeland Spode jug and washbasin are part of an exquisite collection in the Gloucester dressing room. Above left: Queen Mary’s bedroom is embellished with curtains, bed hangings, and chair covers that were created from a William Morris design.
To read more on the Holker Estate and Gardens, see “Of Pride and Prosperity,” in our September/October 2010 issue.