Published: 20 December 2023

You might be familiar with Holker Hall. You may even have visited our gardens and had lunch in our café. But because of its superb condition, what many people don’t realise is just how old Holker Hall is, or how far back its history goes. So, come with us on a brief walk through time as we guide you through the history of Holker Hall.

A Brief Journey Through the History of Holker Hall

How it all started

Although there is no fixed date for the construction of Holker Hall, the first records of the building date back to the early 16th century. The land had originally been owned by Cartmel Priory, but following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, it was purchased by George Preston. And it is Preston who initiated the construction of what we now know as Holker Hall.

New beginnings

Throughout subsequent generations of owners, Holker Hall evolved. New wings were added. The facing was changed. The landscape was developed and adjusted, with the gardens being transformed from simple deer park to the formal, manicured gardens we see in some areas of the park now. But nothing made such an impact on the Hall as the events of 1871.

Although much of the original building remains intact, the west wing of Holker Hall is far newer than the rest. A devastating fire broke out in 1871, destroying the entire west wing. While this was disastrous for the building, the family saw it as an opportunity. With William Cavendish, the 7th Duke of Devonshire, then in ownership, plans were made for the rebuilding of Holker Hall. Architects, Paley and Austin of Lancaster, were taken on to return Holker Hall to life. The result is the red sandstone Elizabethan Gothic structure we know and love today.

Beyond the Hall

As well as Holker Hall, the estate plays host to other notable buildings. The Ice House dates back to at least 1732. The stables date back to 1864 – and are now a fantastic place to enjoy a cuppa after your visit. And the North and South Lodges date to the early 19th century. While the Holker Lime tree is regarded as one of the largest and best common limes in Britain, and is believed to be more than 400 years old.

Sadly, a conservatory designed by the illustrious gardener, Joseph Paxton, in the 19th century has since been demolished.

The Holker family

With the exception of a brief hiatus in 1664, when the hall was seized by parliament (before being returned), Holker has remained in the extended Preston family since construction. It has never been sold, instead being bequeathed to subsequent generations.

The last Preston to own Holker Hall was Catherine, the daughter of Thomas Preston. She inherited the hall upon the death of her father in February 1697. A month later, she married Sir William Lowther, 1st Baronet, of Marske. The house remained in the Lowther family until 1756, when it passed by marriage to Lord George Augustus Cavendish.

Lucy Cavendish and her husband Tor McLaren, live in Holker Hall today.

If that’s piqued your interest, why not come along to check out Holker Hall for yourself? The grounds, café, and shop are open every weekend throughout December. And the Hall will reopen in the spring. Get in touch for more information.