Holte, Thomas (DNB00)

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HOLTE, Sir THOMAS (1571–1654), royalist, the eldest son of Edward Holte of the Manor House, Duddeston, Warwickshire, by his wife Dorothy, daughter of John Ferrers of Tamworth Castle, Staffordshire, was born in 1571. In 1599 he served as sheriff of Warwickshire, and on 18 April 1603 was knighted by James I. In July 1608 Holte obtained damages against one William Astgrigg for the slanderous statement made by him that ‘Sir Thomas Holte tooke a cleever, and hytt hys cooke with the same cleever uppon the heade, and clave his heade, that one side thereof fell uppone one of his shoulders, and the other side on the other shoulder, and this I will veryfie to be trewe.’ 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 averment that the cook was killed, and the judgment of the king’s bench was consequently given in favour of the appellant (Croke, Reports, 1791, ii. 184). 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 (i.e. the Ulster badge) on his arms. Holte was created a baronet on 25 Nov. 1612, and in April 1618 began the erection of Aston Hall, which was not completed until April 1633, though he took up residence there in May 1631. He was nominated by Charles I ambassador to Spain, but was excused by reason of his age. On the breaking out of civil war he assisted the king with his purse, though he was unable to take active service in the field. In October 1642, shortly before the battle of Edgehill, he entertained the king at Aston Hall for two nights. In December of the following year the hall was attacked by a party of parliamentarians from Birmingham. After a gallant defence Holte was compelled on the third day of the siege to surrender (Life, Diary, and Correspondence of Sir W. Dugdale, 1827, p. 57). Besides being imprisoned, Holte suffered severely for his loyalty, as his monument in Aston Church records. He died in December 1654, aged 83, and was buried at Aston on 14 Dec.

He married first, Grace, daughter and co-heiress of William Bradbourne of Hough, Derbyshire, by whom he had fifteen children. His second wife was Anne, the youngest daughter of Sir Edward Littleton of Pillaton Hall, Staffordshire, by whom he had no issue. His widow survive him, and subsequently married the Hon. Charles Leigh, the third son of Thomas, first lord Leigh, and died on 2 Nov. 1697. Holte outlived all his children with the exception of his daughter Grace, who was the wife first of Sir Richard Shuckburgh of Shuckburgh, Warwickshire, knight, and secondly of John Keatinge, lord chief justice of the common pleas in Ireland, and died at Dublin on 12 April 1677. Holte’s second son Edward, who incurred his father’s resentment by marrying Elizabeth, the elder daughter of Dr. King, bishop of London, was groom of the bedchamber to Charles I. He was wounded at the battle of Edgehill, and died of fever during the siege of Oxford in August 1643. On the death of Sir Charles Holte, the sixth baronet, in March 1782, the baronetcy became extinct. In 1858 Aston Park Company bought the Hall which Dugdale says ‘for beauty and state much exceedeth any in these parts’ (Antiquities of Warwickshire, 1656 p. 639), and some forty-three acres of the park, as a place of public recreation. As the company did not prove a success, the corporation of Birmingham became the purchasers in 1864. Holte left money for the erection of an almshouse in Aston, which was built by his grandson, Sir Robert Holte, in 1655-6. A full-length portrait of Holte by Van Somer was lent by Mr. J. G. Robins to the Loan Collection of National Portraits of South Kensington in 1866 (Catalogue, No. 389). A lithograph of this portrait forms the frontispiece to Davidson's 'A History of the Holtes of Aston.' A half-length duplicate portrait by Van Somer was (1854) in the possession of Mr. Charles Holte Bracebridge of Atherstone Hall, Warwickshire, a grandson of the last baronet.

[Davidson’s Hist. of the Holtes of Aston, 1854, pp. 16-28, 49, 54-5; Dugdale’s Warwickshire, 1730, ii. 871¬3, 880, 881; Colvile’s Worthies of Warwickshire, pp. 420-5; Burke's Extinct Baronetage, 1844, p. 268; Nevin’s Illustrations of old Warwickshire Houses, 1878, pp.1-5; Bunce’s Hist. of the Corporation of Birmingham, 1885, ii. 197-201; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ii. 244, 451, 506-7.]

G. F. R. B.