Select Holt Miscellany

Here are some Holt stories and accounts over the years:

Holt Origins

Holt appears in England from Anglo-Saxon times and also in Germanic and Scandinavian languages as a word meaning wood or copse. 

The Holt name can also be found in Viking history.  "Holt the axe" was a Viking king, said to be cursed to remain immortal until he had physically died twenty one times and been reborn twenty one times (this number representing the number of priests he had slaughtered when he was king).  He appeared in different decades always as the same man, aged 40 and wielding the same axe.

Sir Thomas Holte and the Cook

In 1608 Sir Thomas Holte of Aston obtained damages against one William Astgrigg for a slanderous statement which alleged:

‘Sir Thomas Holte took a cleever and hit his cook with this cleever upon the head, and clave his head, that one side thereof fell upon one of his shoulders and the other side on the other shoulder, and this I will verify to be true.’

On appeal, however, it was ingeniously argued that although it had been stated that the halves of the cook’s head had fallen on either shoulder, there was no statement that the cook had in fact been killed.  The judgment of the King’s Bench was consequently given in favor of the appellant.

This slander gave rise to the curious local tradition that Holte murdered his cook in a cellar at Duddeston ‘by running him through with a spit’ and was subsequently compelled by way of punishment to adopt the red hand on his coat of arms.

The Holts of Gristlehurst

Ralph Holt obtained the estate by marriage in 1449.  Gristlehurst Hall was a large half-timbered house with thirteen hearths.  The high fireplaces had chimney place beams that were carved with armorial crests.  The house itself had gable ends and long casements and was set in seclusion in 127 acres.

These Holts married well and this gave them a prominence and rank above other Holts in the area.  However, the estate was squandered away by Thomas Postumus Holt in the late 17th century.. 

The Holts of Balderstone

The Balderstone land lay in the manor of Rochdale in the county of Lancashire.  Henry Holt lived in a Hall of some pretension there, but died without issue in 1520.  Balderstone then had several owners until the Holts of Stubley acquired it in 1582.

This Holt family were farmer-weavers.  The wool would probably have been fulled by hand or foot and stretched out on tenter frames to dry.  Charles Holt farmed thirty acres around the Hall in the early 1600's. He built himself a water-powered cornmill sometime before his death in 1628. 

The Holts sold the mill along with the estate in 1713.

Alfred Holt and the Blue Funnel Line

The history of Alfred Holt's Ocean Shipping Group began in 1865 when Alfred and his brother Philip set up this company and its famous shipping subsidiary, the Blue Funnel Line.  Its purpose was to provide a regular steamship cargo service from England to China, at first via the Cape of Good Hope and then via the Suez Canal. 

At that time the steamship was not considered an economic long-distance cargo carrier.  But Alfred, who had studied as a marine engineer, came up with a new design for a compound engine and screw propellor in an iron-clad ship which would result in a competitive long-haul steamer.

Three Blue Funnel ships using this new design had been built for the Holts by Scotts of Greenock: the Agamemnon, Ajax, and Achilles.  These ships began sailing to China in 1866.  More ships were added to the fleet over the years as the trade and competition increased.  In 1935 Blue Funnel acquired the Glen Line, a company that had traditionally been a great rival in the China tea trade. 

The trade with the Far East continued until the late 1980's when the company's traditional ships gave way to containerization.  But the Blue Funnel ships - with their familiar tall vertical blue funnel and black top - will always be remembered with affection by those who served in them.

Holt Places in America

Named after:
Holt county, Missouri
local politician Dr. David Rice Holt
Holtsville, New York
Postmaster General Joseph Holt
Holt county, Nebraska
Postmaster General Joseph Holt
Holt, Michigan
Postmaster General Joseph Holt
Holtville, California
city planner and community founder W.F. Holt

Edwin Holt's Cotton Mill

Edwin Holt built his home Locust Grove in the 1830's on the plantation where his ancestors had fought the battle of Alamance in North Carolina.  His sister married a man named Carrigan and he and Carrigan started a cotton mill in Alamance.  When Carrigan left North Carolina for Arkansas in 1851, Edwin wrote to his son Thomas, who was then living in Philadelphia, to return to Alamance to help him manage the mill.

Thomas Holt later recalled:

"In 1853 there came to our place of business on Alamance Creek a Frenchman who was a dyer and was hard up and out of money.  He proposed to teach me how to color cotton yarns, that is if I would pay him the sum of one hundred dollars and give him his board.  I persuaded my father to allow me to accept the proposition and he immediately went to work with such appliances as we could scrape up (including a large cast-iron washpot and an eighty gallon copper boiler which my grandfather had used for boiling potatoes).

As speedily as possible we built a dye house and acquired the necessary utensils for dyeing.  The Frenchman remained with me until I thought I could manage by myself.  I got on very well, with the exception of dyeing indigo blue.  Afterwards an expert dyer in blue came from Philadelphia and he taught me the art of dyeing in that color.  He then put two negro men to work with me."

Henry Holt the Brick Collector

Henry Holt accidentally found a brick marked "E.H. & Co. Accrington" in 1963 and it generated an interest.  In 1964 he found another marked "E. Holt & Co. Rosendale" and he was a convert to brick collecting!  By the end of 1977 he and his wife Mary had a collection of over nine hundred bricks.  They were to be involved in cataloguing them for nearly thirty years.  In the spring of 1996 Henry (by then a widower) moved part of his collection out of a rented garage into his own back garden and greenhouse.  He died at the end of that year.

Henry seemed to have been primarily interested in the bricks themselves and where they were made.  His interest in the buildings from which they were removed was apparently very high for many of the local and Lancashire sources, but less so for sources out of the area.  He would make several visits to some big demolition sites, photographing them and adding bricks to his collection in the process.

Mary was primarily responsible for writing up the catalogue enties whilst Henry sought out the bricks and the information about them.  The catalogue of the collection was handwritten onto both sides of a mixture of A4 and quarto feint ruled sheets filed in ring and lever arch files.  The bricks were numbered sequentially according to the order the bricks had come to hand.  Each brick was given a unique number applied to it, using yellow Harbutt's waterproof marking crayons.  The numbering sequence ran from one to 5,103. 

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