HOLT, Rowland (?1723-86), of Redgrave Hall, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. ?1723, 1st s. of Rowland Holt by his w. Elizabeth Washington.1 educ. Magdalen, Oxf. 23 Dec. 1740, aged 17; Grand Tour (Italy) c.1746. unm. suc. fa. 25 July 1739.
Holt’s great-uncle, Sir John Holt, L.C.J., purchased Redgrave Hall; the Holts were merchants and lawyers. Rowland Holt, when in Rome in 1746, is reported to have paid court publicly to the Pretender, and to have dined with him.2 In the House he ranked as a Tory. When Sir John Rous thought of standing for Suffolk at the general election of 1761, Holt complained to his colleague, John Affleck, that he feared T. C. Bunbury and Rous ‘would both greatly out-number him, and that he should be laid aside after being made use of by the county for two years only’, as a stop-gap on the death of Cordell Firebrace. A compromise was then arranged, whereby Rous stood down on the understanding that room should be made for him at the latest in 1768, and the election was uncontested.
In October 1761 Newcastle did not send Holt his parliamentary whip, and on 13 Nov. 1762 marked him as ‘contra’; but on 9 Dec. Holt voted against the peace preliminaries. In the autumn of 1763 Jenkinson classed him as ‘pro’; but in the three divisions on general warrants, 6, 15, and 18 Feb., Holt voted with Opposition, and on 10 May was listed by Newcastle as a ‘sure friend’. Rockingham, however, in July 1765 put him down as ‘contra’ and he voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act. In January 1767 Charles Townshend classed him as ‘Administration’, but on 27 Feb. 1767, over the land tax, he voted against the Government. In short, he was an independent Tory country gentleman, voting in accordance with his convictions: ‘he accepted of no place, or applied for any’.3
As the general election of 1768 drew near neither of the sitting Members was prepared to abide by the agreement of 1761, and as Rous was determined to stand, all three were nominated at the county meeting on 6 Nov. 1767. But three days later Holt, reflecting on having at the meeting been forsaken by gentlemen on whose support he had counted, in a letter to the electors took his ‘final leave’ of them, adding:
Gentlemen, be assured you will never receive any further application from me, as a private station of life will become everyday more eligible to a person at my time of life, and of my disposition.
And a further long letter, dated 15 Nov., in which he argued his case and defended his action, he concluded by asking leave for the future to build his enjoyments ‘with more durable materials than the popular breath of such folks as constitute a majority at most public meetings’.4
Nevertheless on the death of Sir John Rous, 31 Oct. 1771, he stood, apparently with support from Grafton and the Administration, against Rous’s son, who, at the county meeting at Stowmarket, 13 Nov., withdrew from the contest. Holt was returned unopposed. Over the royal marriage bill Robinson classed him in March 1772 as ‘pro, present’; and a vote on the Opposition side on making the Grenville Election Act permanent, 25 Feb. 1774, is the only one by him recorded in this Parliament. But at its close he was classed by Robinson as ‘pro’. In 1774 he was again returned unopposed, and in the new Parliament Holt seems as a rule to have sided with Government, although in the division list of 22 Feb. 1775, on the Middlesex election, consistently with his previous attitude, he voted with Opposition; similarly on 21 Feb. 1780, on Fox’s motion for an account of pensions. Over the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, he was listed by Robinson as ‘pro, present’, and in the lists of the four divisions, March-April 1780, he appears as voting with Government. But a list among George III’s papers at Windsor, marked ‘persons generally with who went against’, and clearly relating to Dunning’s motion on the influence of the Crown, 6 Apr. 1780,5 includes his name though with a query against it. Robinson, in his survey of 1780, classed Holt as ‘pro’, and forecast that Rous would stand against him; but in a postscript of 31 July noted that Holt stood higher in the county than Bunbury, and therefore expected him to succeed. But Holt, who at all times seemed unwilling to engage in contested elections, withdrew, and never stood for Parliament again. There is no record of his having spoken in the House during the 18 years he was a Member.
Very little is known about his personal life: he is hardly ever mentioned in contemporary correspondence; the pamphlet on the four Suffolk elections, which on the whole seems biassed against him, suggests that he was parsimonious; and he is said to have been nicknamed ‘Tyrant of Manors’ for too strictly enforcing his manorial rights.6 He died 12 July 1786.