The earliest records of Holker Hall on date back to the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Estate, found at Cark-in-Cartmel, has never been bought or sold but has passed by inheritance through just three families: the Prestons, the Lowthers and the Cavendishes, with each generation leaving its impressions, either by planning and altering the landscape or by changing the house by adding, re-facing, embellishing or even rebuilding – as was necessary after a disastrous fire of 1871.
The fire destroyed the entire west wing, including numerous paintings, pieces of furniture, statues, portraits and valuable books. Undaunted, William Cavendish, the 7th Duke of Devonshire, began plans to rebuild the west wing on an even grander scale, and employed the architects Paley and Austin of Lancaster. Built in red sandstone, it was subsequently described as the best Elizabethan Gothic in the north of England.
This wing is the part of the house that is now open to the public. It covered the same site as the previous wing, and despite its emulation of Elizabethan architecture, it remains unmistakably Victorian.
The gardens at Holker have evolved over many hundreds of years, under the guidance of generations of the Cavendish Family. Each owner has made their mark, adding new features and plantings, to create a garden that is now rich in character and beauty. At its heart, it remains a family garden and while its scale is grand, it retains an intimacy in its planting and design.
The 23 acres of immaculately kept gardens comprise of a series of formal gardens set within a more informal landscape of interesting trees, shrubs and meadows. They are planted to offer year round inspiration for casual visitors and keen gardeners alike.
Fun fact | The last time I had been to Holker was in the early 1980s for the estate’s Rose Show. The guest of honour was HRH Princess Margaret and in those days, crowds could get quite close to royalty. I remember that she passed me by at no more than an arm’s length away. She was tiny (and bear in mind I was probably only about eleven or twelve), had really thick make-up, wore a beautiful yellow floral silk dress and a FUR STOLE. In July!