Westonbirt Gardens are an outstanding example of high Victorian landscape design which incorporate both formal and picturesque styles.
Robert Stayner Holford who, after inheriting the property in 1839, took on the enormous task of enlarging the park and gardens, which had originally been laid out by his father George Peter Holford (d.1839) and the picturesque improver William Sawrey Gilpin.
R S Holford was assisted by the landscape gardener William Broderick Thomas and the famous firm of James Pulham & Son. Planting large areas of woodland on previously arable ground (initially for game cover – the Duke of Beaufort’s hunt was based at the adjacent estate of Badminton), Robert Holford laid the bones for his extensive arboretum, which included the ancient Silkwood.
During his lifetime (1808-1892) Robert Holford amassed a huge collection of trees, many of which were new introductions into the country. Rather than planting his trees according to a scientific scheme, he positioned them in an aesthetic fashion, thus continuing to adhere to the style of planting promoted by W S Gilpin. Robert Holford also built up an important collection of orchids which his son George (1860-1926) developed to even further heights.