Holst archive: papers of Imogen and Gustav Holst, The Holst Foundation and G and I Holst Estate

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This archive primarily comprises the personal papers and music manuscripts of Imogen Holst (1907-1984), composer, writer on music, conductor, administrator and daughter of Gustav Holst. It also includes important music manuscripts and papers of her father as well as files of the Holst Foundation and of G and I Holst Estate.

Imogen Holst's papers, amassed throughout her life, document her wide ranging achievements, from her own compositions to her work on her father's music, from conducting the Purcell Singers to delivering lectures at the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts. They include music manuscripts for her own compositions, as well as for arrangements, realizations and editions; transcription work; published music of Imogen Holst; scores and parts of Gustav Holst's music marked by Imogen Holst for performance; music manuscripts of other composers; correspondence; engagement diaries; journals, travel diaries and reports; scrapbooks; concert programmes and press cuttings; photographs; personal items such as poems, sketchbooks, passports, address book, and awards; articles and programme notes; notes and scripts for talks and lectures; transcripts of broadcasts; office files relating to Imogen Holst's work promoting, editing and recording her father's music as well as other subjects; books written by Imogen Holst and files relating to these; books belonging to her and recordings.

Gustav Holst's papers, collected by Imogen Holst, document his life as composer, musician and educator, as well as family man and friend. This includes original music manuscripts; extensive series of published music, often annotated or with notes by Imogen Holst; libretti materials for his operas and other works; additional music manuscripts collected by Gustav Holst, including those of other composers; correspondence spanning the majority of his life, with references to compositions, concerts and connections; his engagement diaries and pocket notebooks giving brief details of the many strands of his working and educational career, as well as his several trips abroad; handwritten and typescript lecture notes on a variety of topics; publishers' agreements and contracts, administrative papers, and lists of his compositions.

The Holst Foundation, G and I Holst Estate, Rosamund Strode, Isador Caplan and Leslie Periton papers include office and business files, research files, and an oral history archive.

Administrative / Biographical History

Imogen Holst studied at the Royal College of Music, where she held a composition scholarship for tuition with George Dyson and Gordon Jacob. She initially worked as a freelance musician and teacher until in 1940 she was appointed as a traveller for the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA). In 1943 she resumed her teaching career at Dartington Hall in Devon. In the autumn of 1952 Holst moved to Aldeburgh, Suffolk, to work as Benjamin Britten's music assistant, a post she held until 1964 when she decided to concentrate on editing and promoting the music of her father, Gustav Holst. She was artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts from 1956 to 1977, and conductor of the Purcell Singers, work which involved much editing of Renaissance and Baroque music. Later in life a renewed enthusiasm for composition inspired her to write some fine original works mainly for amateurs.


The archive has been divided into seven sections, based on the creator of papers, namely Imogen Holst, Gustav Holst, G&I Holst Estate Ltd, The Holst Foundation, Rosamund Strode, Isador Caplan, and Leslie Periton. The final three sections are the papers of individuals acting in their capacity as members and directors of G&I Holst and the Holst Foundation.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation. Please email enquiries@brittenpears.org to arrange an appointment to visit the reading room or for further queries.

Acquisition Information

The Holst archive was given to the Britten-Pears Foundation by the Holst Foundation in 2007.

Other Finding Aids

The Holst archive is fully catalogued. The complete catalogue can be accessed on the Britten-Pears Foundation's online archive catalogue - accessed from the Search the catalogues page on the BPF website. Digital images of correspondence, photographs and some other items are available to view from the catalogue records. Further information and resources can be found on the associated Holst archive website.

Conditions Governing Use

Imogen Holst's unpublished music and writings are copyright the Holst Foundation.

Custodial History

The archive was given to the Britten-Pears Foundation by the Holst Foundation. Since Imogen Holst's death the papers had been held at her former home at 9 Church Walk in Aldeburgh, more recently used as an office for the Holst Foundation. The collection was transferred to the strong rooms at the Britten-Pears Foundation in 2008 and catalogued in 2017.

Related Material

In the Britten-Pears Foundation archive: correspondence from Imogen Holst to Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears; Holst music manuscripts given by Holst to Britten or Pears; Early music given to Pears; correspondence from Holst to Bernard Barrell (ref no. BRL).

There is also additional material relating to Gustav or Imogen Holst or created by them which has come into the archive from other sources (ref no. HLA).

See The Holst Archive for an overview of the collection, details of digitised items available and further resources for researchers.

Holst Birthplace Museum, Cheltenham


Imogen Holst: A Life in Music, revised edition, edited by Christopher Grogan 2010 (first published 2007), The Boydell Press, Woodbridge.

Imogen Holst at Dartington edited by Peter Cox and Jack Dobbs, The Dartington Press, 1988.