Connections to the Holford Family and the Cholmondeley Family of Vale Royal

Grid Ref: SJ 709 755
5 May & 9 September 2000, 10 June 2008, 16 March 2010 & 29 Aug 2015


Holford Hall spacer Holford Hall
A view from the public footpath,  May 2000   View showing house and bridge, June 2008
hall   bridge
Side view of the house in March 2010   Bridge over the moat, March 2010
Holford Hall   Holford Hall
Side view in August 2015   Rear view by telephoto lens in Aug 2015


When we walked past Holford Hall in March 2010, the view was much reduced by the growth of vegetation at the edge of the moat. An application had been made to divert the public footpath from its current route past the hall. Returning in August 2015, we found that the path had been diverted and the hedge grown so high on the part of the footpath still accessible that the hall could hardly be seen at all. Moreover there was a sign indicating that Ladybarn Corporation of Salford was applying for an alcohol and entertainment licence at the premises. By good fortune, a tanker of liquid gas arrived for the central heating and I was able to take a picture through the side gate as shown immediately above.

I am grateful to Patricia Cox of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire who kindly supplied me with the four pictures below. They are from two articles in Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire published in 1907 and 1914.

From the East spacer From the south-east
1. From the East   2. From the South-East
Gable End   Holford Hall
3. Gable End in 1883   4. The part demolished is on the right

Patricial Cox provided the following information from the article in which the pictures appeared with added comments.

1 & 2 Arthur Wolfgang, ‘Holford Hall’ Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 59 (1907), 161. He says little in his note, other than that the hall and estate were owned by ‘a large chemical company’ and that the Manchester Press had reported that the Hall ‘will shortly be pulled down’. (At that date the chemical company would be Brunner Mond, which later became part of Imperial Chemical Industries. There was brine pumping nearby.)

3 & 4 Arthur Wolfgang, ‘Holford Hall’ Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 66 (1914), 255-6. These are photographs taken in 1883 by the late K M Bean shortly before the demolition of one of the wings. The trees seem to have grown since the similar view from 1880 shown in Figueiredo and Treuherz. This article quotes from a letter sent to J P Earwaker by G H Rowbotham in 1892, bemoaning perceived inaccuracies in Philips' etchings of Lancashire and Cheshire Old Halls and also mentions an article in Cheshire Sheaf (reference given as 3rd series, x. 2142) which apparently includes an illustration.


The Holfords and Cholmondleys of Holford Hall

J. P Earwaker wrote a brief account of Holford Hall in 'Views of Old Halls in Lancashire and Cheshire', by N. G. Philips, published by Henry Gray in London in 1893. Earwaker was critical of the view that Philips had drawn and engraved as it was not accurate and missed a distinctive feature of the building. After relating briefly the history of the Holford family he makes the following comments. The house is mentioned by Webb in King's Vale Royal published in 1621. In addition, Elias Ashmole visited the house in 1663 and made notes on stained glass. His manuscripts are now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. All the stained glass had been lost by 1893 but Ashmole noted among others the following arms:

Minshull impaling Shakerley
Leicester of Tabley
Shakerley impaling Beeston
Warburton impaling Holcroft
Booth impaling Anderson
Savage impaling Davey
Calveley impaling Cholmondeley

There were also four large quartered shields of Sir Henry Townsend, Knight (9 quarterings); The Lady Arabella (8 quarterings); Sir Hugh Cholmondeley (9 quarterings) and The Earl of Derby (12 quarterings).

Earwaker notes that the original building had two wings at right angles in the shape of a capital L. The longer side was standing in its original state up to the last seven or eight years but has been pulled down and part rebuilt in plain brick. The destroyed portion had two gables facing the courtyard and a gable overlooking the moat near the bridge. The upper portion of the building had an overhang in the courtyard supported by five fluted wooden pillars. These were not shown in the illustration by Philips.

Cheshire Notes and Queries; An Illustrated Quarterly Journal, Vol. VII, New Series, 1902 contains an article by Sarah Cork of Delamere on the Holfords and Holford Hall.   No references are given for the origin of the information and it may be drawn in part from Sir Peter Leicester's Historical Antiquities, printed in 1673, or from George Ormerod's The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, first published in London in 1819.   The article has a woodcut illustration of Holford Hall, shown above,  bearing the date 1600, which may be appropriate for the date when rebuilding took place but not for the date of the scene shown from the costumes and the general appearance of the Hall.   Given the photograph dated 1880 shown in Cheshire Country Houses, mentioned below, the view is probably 19th century.    Some of the main points of the article are reproduced below.

Holford village adjoins the ancient manors of Lostock and Plumley.  About 1119 this manor was given by Roger de Mainwaring to the Abbey of Chester under which it was held by Mesne lords until the dissolution.  About 1227, half the manor passed in marriage with Joan, daughter of Richard de Lostock, who was heir to her two brothers, who had died without issue.  Joan married William de Toft, younger brother of Roger de Toft, whose posterity settled at Holford and assumed the name of Holford.  Joan had a son, Roger de Holford.   The Holfords possessed the manor until the death of Christopher Holford, Esq., about 1581 to 1600, when it passed my marriage with his heiress to the Cholmondeley family.

(The heiress was Mary Holford who married Sir Hugh Cholmondeley, the younger, of Cholmondeley in Cheshire, and had five sons and three daughters among whom were: Robert Lord Cholmondeley; Hatton Cholmondeley (died in 1605); Hugh Cholmondeley, from whom the Cholmondleys of Vale Royal; and Thomas Cholmondeley.)

In Peover Church there is a monument to Thomas Cholmondeley late of Holford, Esq., only son of Robert Lord Cholmondeley, Earl of Leinster, son and heir of Mary, daughter and heir of Christopher Holford of Holford, Esq., which said Thomas died 6 January 1667.

Mary Cholmondeley was involved in a forty years law suit with her father's brother George Holford of Narborough over the estate.  Lady Mary Cholmondeley bought Vale Royal.   James I visited, holding court at Vale Royal for three days, dubbing Mary the "bolde lady of Cheshire".   Eventually there was a division of land; Mary Cholmondeley had the manor of Holford and George Holford the manor of Iscoit bordering Flintshire.  Further division took place later with one part of Plumley divided between the Mainwarings and the Leicesters.  The manors of Plumley and Holford were purchased in 1791 by Thomas Langford Brooke, Esq., of Mere from Thomas Asherton Smith, Esq., to whose grandfather Thomas Asherton they were given.

Note that the Cholmondleys descended from Lady Mary Cholmondeley later became the Lords Delamere. Vale Royal, A History of the Abbey and nearby Villages in the Ancient Forest of Delamere was written by a team of local historians under the organisation of Frank A. Latham and published in 1993, (ISBN 0 9522284 1 1) In it you will find information on Lady Cholmondeley's acquisition of Vale Royal and her legal disputes. There is also a photograph of her portrait.

Cheshire Country Houses, by Peter de Figueiredo and Julian Treuhertz, Phillimore, Chichester, 1988 shows a photograph of the hall as it was in 1880 and states:

A very pretty fragment of a much larger moated timber house rebuilt for Mary Cholmondeley nee Holford, after the death of her husband, Sir Hugh Cholmondeley in 1601.  There is a fine double arched stone bridge over the moat.  Mary Cholmondeley lived at Holford until 1616 when she moved to Vale Royal.  (Ormerod i, 672.  Transaction of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, lxvi, 255.)

Picturesque Cheshire, by T. A. Coward, Sherratt and Hughes, Manchester, 1903, 2nd ed. 1926 notes:

The moat bridge remains with circular bays containing stone seats.  Only the central part of the old hall remains.  A lath and plaster wing dating from 1625 fell suddenly one night.  Mary Cholmondeley had recently rebuilt the hall when James I paid a visit to Cheshire.  She was the heiress of Christopher Holford and the widow of Sir Hugh Cholmondeley.

Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, Vol. 44, page 112. Summer Outing to Tabley Old Hall and Holford Hall.

Holford Hall, ascribed to Lady Mary Cholmondeley, heiress of Christopher Holford, Esq., dates probably from the last quarter of the 16th century.  Situated within a broad moat the building appears to be three sides of a quadrangle.  One side collapsed through storm and neglect as recently as 1884.


Holford Family History

Sir Peter Leicester in his book Historical Antiquities, published in 1673, gave the following family tree of the Holfords and Cholmondleys to his time. This family tree is presented as a list of successive owners of the estate. I have made a few additions in brackets.

1. William Toft, younger son of Roger de Toft, Lord of Toft, married Joan, daughter of Richard de Lostock, and sister and heir to Richard and Thomas her brothers, 1277, by whom he had issue Roger de Holford, Henry and Walter. After the death of William Toft, Joan married Thomas Vernon, about the year 1316, (if this is true she must have married William Toft while still a child, not uncommon at that time) and had issue by Thomas, Richard Vernon, from whom the Vernons of Haslington in Cheshire. And after the death of Thomas Vernon she married, William Hallum of Hallum, in Newton juxta Daresbery, in the year 1337.

2. Roger de Holford, son and heir of William Toft and Joan Lostock, living 1316. He assumed the surname of Holford from the place of his residence, as was the manner of those ages, which surname his posterity ever since retained, 1666. He married Margery, daughter of Richard le Dispenser, but died without issue in 1330.

3. Henry Holford, brother and heir to Roger, married Margery daughter of ------- and had issue, William, eldest son and Roger Holford, younger son, to whom his father gave lands in Plumley in 1344.

4. William Holford, son and heir of Henry had to wife Isabel, daughter of ------ and had issue John Holford, son and heir. This William died in the lifetime of his father. Isabel his widow was living in 1347.

5. John Holford, son and heir of William, married Joan, daughter of Roger Bruyn of Stapleford, 1347, and had issue Thomas Holford. John recovered the manor of Holford against Richard Vernon of Lostock-Gralam, 42 Ed III, and sealed usually with his coat of arms, to wit, A Cheveron between three Text Tees; which Cheveron gives the distinction from Toft of Toft, who bear that coat without a Cheveron. John Holford died in 1408

6. Thomas Holford, son and heir of John, married Alice, daughter of William Buckley of Oateworth, and died before his father, to wit, 12 Richard II, leaving issue William Holford.

7. William Holford of Holford, son and heir of Thomas, living 1423. He married Margaret, daughter of Richard Venables of Kinderton and has issue Thomas, son and heir, John and Hugh, Jonet, wife of Randle Brereton of Malpas and Margery. William died 1459.

8. Thomas Holford of Holford, Esq. son and heir of William, married Joan, daughter of Richard Legh de West-hall, in High Legh, and had issue Thomas Holford. Thomas the elder died in 1464.

9. Thomas Holford the younger, Esq. son and heir of Thomas the elder, married Maud, a daughter of William Buckley, Deputy Judge of Chester, 1444, and has issue, George Holford, son and heir; Randle Holford, second son, who had issue Humphrey and Richard; Robert Holford, third son, who had issue John, Philip, Bartholomew, Owen, Matthew and Bryan. Thomas the younger died about 1473.

10. Sir George Holford of Holford, knight, son and heir of Thomas, married Isabel, widow to Lawrence Warren of Pointon in Cheshire, and daughter of Robert Legh of Adlington, Esq. 1475, and had issue John Holford, son and heir; George Holford, another son, 22 Henry VII; Constance who married William son of Edward Bradshaw, 1511. Sir George had four bastard sons - Thomas, Arthur, from whom the Holfords of Davenham; Raufe, and Robert, also Ellen a base daughter, all living 22 Hen VII. Sir George was sheriff of Cheshire, 1524. He bore Lostock's coat in his seal, to wit, A Greyhound, over which, corner-ways, on the dexter angle of the escutcheon, on a helmet, wreath and mantle, a Greyhound's head couped, written above the seal - S. George Holford, militis.

11. Sir John Holford of Holford, knight, son and heir of Sir George, married Margery, sole daughter and heir of Raufe Brereton of Iscort in Flintshire, not far from Whitchurch in Shropshire, 1507, and has issue Thomas Holford, son and heir; Christopher Holford, younger son who married Margaret daughter of Thomas Danyell of Over Tabley, Esq. 1555, from whom the Holfords of London and Essex; Alice a daughter, married Piers Leycester of Nether Tabley, Esq. 1529. I find he was a knight 21 Henry VIII. He was a sheriff of Cheshire, 1541, and died about 1545. Margery his widow married Sir Henry Sacheverell of Moreley in Derbyshire, 1547.

12. Thomas Holford of Holford, Esq. son and heir of Sir John, married Margaret daughter of Sir Thomas Butler of Bewsy, in Lancashire, near Warrington, by whom he had issue Christopher, son and heir. After the death of Margaret, Thomas married Jane the widow of Hugh Dutton, son and heir of Sir Piers Dutton of Dutton and Hatton both, and daughter of Sir William Booth of Dunham Massy; by whom he had issue George Holford of Newborough in Dutton, gentleman; Thomas and John; also Ellen, married to John Carrington of Carrington in Cheshire, Esq.; Dorothy, married to John Bruyn of Stapleford in Cheshire, Esq. and Elizabeth, married to Charles Manwaring of Croxton in Cheshire, Esq. 1560. Thomas died 24 September 1569.

13. Christopher Holford of Holford, Esq. son and heir of Thomas, had also two wives. The first was Anne, daughter of Hugh Dutton and Jane aforesaid, (thus he married his stepsister) by whom he had issue Thomas Holford. John and Ann (presumably two additional children) who died young. The second wife of Christopher was Elizabeth the widow of Peter Shakerley of Houlme juxta Nether-Peover, the daughter and co-heir of Sir Randle Manwaring of Over Peover. They married 13 July 1561 and had issue Mary Holford, baptised at Nether Peover, 20 Jan 1562, who became sole heir to her father. Christopher died 27 January 1581. (Mary Holford built the Holford Chapel at Lower Peover.)

14. Thomas Holford, son and heir of Christopher, married Dorothy daughter of Peter Shakerley of Houlme Esq. and Elizabeth aforesaid the 13th July 1561. (Thus Christopher also married his stepsister). Thomas died without issue and was buried at Nether Peover, 25th Feb. the next following and Dorothy his widow afterwards married Adam Leycester of Tabley Esq. 9 Jan 1582. (Thomas's sister Mary Holford then became heiress.)

15. Sir Hugh Cholmondeley, of Cholmondeley in Cheshire, the younger, married Mary daughter and sole heir of Christopher Holford of Holford, aforesaid, and had issue, Robert Lord Cholmondeley; Hatton Cholmondeley, second son, who died at London, 1605; Hugh Cholmondeley, third son who died before his eldest brother, whose issue afterwards became heirs of Cholmondeley lands; Thomas Cholmondeley, fourth son, from whom the Cholmondleys of Vale-Royal in Cheshire; Francis, died in infancy; Mary, eldest daughter, married Sir George Caveley of Lea nigh Eaton-boat; Lettice married Sir Richard Grosvenor, of Eaton-boat, afterwards baronet; and Frances, youngest daughter, was second wife of Peter Venables of Kinderton, Esq. commonly called baron of Kinderton. (Note that Sir Hugh Cholmondeley and his wife Mary were buried at Malpas and my page shows their effigies.)

Between Lady Mary Cholmondeley, and George Holford, of Newborough in Dutton, brother to Christopher Holford, and now next heir male of the Holfords, happened long and tedious suits concerning Holford lands, which continued above forty years; as last the matter was composed by mediation of friends and the lands parted between them. The Lady Cholmondeley had the manor house of Holford, with the demesne lands thereof, and George Holford had the manor of Iscoit in Flintshire. The lands and tenements of Lostock Gralam, Plumley and Nether-Peover were parted promiscuously, as they are now enjoyed, 1666. George Holford married Jane daughter and heir of Charles Awbrey of Cantriff in Brecknockshire, and widow of Henry Masterson; and by her had issue Thomas Holford and John, twins; Edward, third son, Peter, fourth son, George, Charles and William; also Mary who married William Harcourt of Winshaw, gentleman, 1629, both yet living, 1666. George Holford died 1635 and Thomas Holford of Iscoit, son and heir, died without issue-male. Wherefore his inheritance is descended now unto James Holford of Newborough, son and heir of Peter, the fourth son of George; for all the other brothers of Peter died without issue; but the manor of Iscoit was sold by Thomas Holford, the eldest brother, to Mr. Adams of London. The Lady Mary Cholmondeley survived her husband and lived at her manor-house of Holford, which she built anew, repaired and enlarged, and where she died about 1625 aged 63 years or thereabout. King James termed her The Bold Lady of Cheshire.

16. Robert Cholmondeley of Cholmondeley, son and heir of Sir Hugh and Mary, was created baronet in June 1611, and afterwards created Viscount Cholmondeley of Kells in Ireland, about 1635 and lastly Lord Cholmondeley baron of Wich Malbeng, i.e. Nantwich in Cheshire and also Earl of Leinster in Ireland, 5 March 1645. He married Catherine, sister of Charles Lord Stanhope of Harrington, but had no issue by her. Robert died 1659, aged 75 years, without lawful issue of his body, leaving Robert, eldest son of Hugh Cholmondeley his brother, to succeed in his inheritance. Which Robert was created Viscount Kells in the County of Meath, in Ireland, 29 March 1661. But this Robert, Earl of Leinster, estated Holford lands, which came by his mother, on Thomas Cholmondeley, his son by one Mrs. Goldston, to whom (as some think) he was affianced, though never married to her. (i.e. he died without legitimate issue.)

17. Thomas Cholmondeley, of Holford, Esq. son of Robert Earl of Leinster, married Jane daughter of Edward Holland, of Eyton in Lancashire, Esq. and had issue Robert Cholmondeley, eldest son, aged fifteen years, 1667; Thomas Cholmondeley, second son; Richard, third son, died young in the year 1665. Thomas Cholmondeley died at Holford on 6 January 1667 and was buried at Nether-Peover on Thursday, 15 January 1667.

The generations after Sir Peter Leycester's time come from the account by Earwaker in 'Views of Old Halls in Lancashire and Cheshire',

18. Robert Cholmondeley, son of Thomas, was High Sheriff of Chester in 1687 and died June 1727. He was succeeded by his son Robert.

19. Robert died without issue in 1728. However, his widow, Jane, the daughter of Thomas Lord Ashburton married Seymour Cholmondeley of Astle Hall near Chelford, a younger son of the Vale Royal family who died in 1739.

Holford then passed through various hands. The manors of Plumbley and Holford with Holford Hall were purchased in 1791 by Thomas Langford Brooke, Esq., of Mere, from Thomas Asheton Smith, Esq., to whose grandfather, Thomas Asheton, Esq., they were given by Mrs. Cholmondeley.(History of Cheshire by J. H. Hanshall, published in Chester, 1823.)

The Holfords and Cholmondleys used the church of St. Oswald at Lower Peover. The chapel on the north side, which now holds the organ, is the Holford Chapel. In the church is a diamond-shaped brass plaque which relates to the Jane shown in generation 17 above. A second brass, above and to the left is shown in more detail but it is more difficult to read and to photograph. It includes at the bottom right, the date 1667 when Thomas Cholmondeley in generation 17 died.

Brass spacer Brass
Brass at Lower Peover, 2015   Brass of the Holford family
at St. Oswald's, Lower Peover, 2015

The inscription on the plaque above left reads:  "Here lyeth the body of Jane Cholmondeley, relict of Thomas Cholmondeley and daughter of Edward Holland of Denton in Lancashire, who departed this life December the 16th 1696, aged 78."

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