Holst archive

Scope and Content

This archive primarily comprises the personal papers and music manuscripts of Imogen Holst (1907-1984), composer, writer on music, educator, 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. The Gustav Holst papers include music manuscripts, published music, libretti, correspondence, engagement diaries, notebooks, lecture notes and contracts.

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.

Imogen Holst's papers, amassed throughout her life, document her wide ranging achievements and passions, from her own compositions to her work on her father's music, from her love of folk song and dancing to her active promotion of music in the community. 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.

The first seven sections of this collection were deposited by the Holst Foundation: an eigth section has been added to these papers. These are papers which did not form part of the original Holst Foundation deposit but have subsequently been added to the archive at the Britten-Pears Foundation from various sources. Much of this is correspondence from Imogen and Gustav Holst, there are also some Imogen Holst manuscripts presumably given by her to friends and now donated back to the collections, as well as other papers deposited by individuals who knew Imogen Holst. These materials complement the Holst Foundation deposit.

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 to work as Britten's music assistant, a post she held until 1964 when she decided to concentrate on editing and promoting the music of her father. She was artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival 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.


Material in this collection had already undergone substantial arrangement, either by Imogen Holst or later by Rosamund Strode and other members of the Holst Foundation, prior to accession. Where possible, we have retained the original order and filing system used by the creators. However, where the original order has been deemed inadequate for cataloguing standards we have re-arranged the series with a note on original order.

Much of the material in this collection was organised into files/bundles of related information. Where no original order is present at the series level, we have instituted an order but always retained material in their relevant files/bundles as ordered by the creators of this collection.

Access Information

This material is made available under the standard conditions of the Britten-Pears Foundation. Readers will be required to produce proof of identity and to sign a Reader’s Undertaking form.

Other Finding Aids

Some series have additional finding aids and these are indicated where relevant

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Judith Ratcliffe.

Custodial History

Sections HOL/1-7 were given to the Britten-Pears Foundation by the Holst Foundation. Since Imogen Holst's death these 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.

Items in section HOL/8 have been deposited from various sources and this section is being added to with new accessions.

Related Material

See the Holst Project website http://www.imogenholst.org/ for an overview of the collection, details of digitised items available and further resources for researchers.

The Dartington Hall Trust Archive, www.swheritage.org.uk/devon-archives

Holst Birthplace Museum, Cheltenham, www.holstmuseum.org.uk

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


Imogen Holst: A Life in Music, revised edition, edited by Christopher Grogan 2010 (first published 2007)Side by side with Imogen Holst by Ronald Blythe, The Guardian, 30 May 1988PRS Profile 3/Imogen Holst by Ursula Vaughan Williams, Performing Right magazine, April 1966, pages 12-13Imogen Holst by Peter Cox, Making Music, No. 21, Spring 1953The older one gets the more work there is to do, Ipswich Evening Star, 5 Feb 1968Beyond the Planets, Imogen Holst talks to Willa Petschek, Woman's Guardian, 1 Jun 1972Reverberations by Rosamund Strode in Peter Pears, a tribute on his 75th birthday edited by Marion ThorpeImogen Holst 1907-1987, pages 147-150, The Pandora Guide to Woman Composers Britain and the United States 1629-present by Sophie Fuller.Obituaries:Remembering Imo by Malcolm Williamson, Aldeburgh Festival programme book, 1984, pages 14-15Obituary - Imogen Holst, Paulina, 1984 editionImogen Holst by Rosamund Strode, Royal College of Music Magazine, Vol LXXX, No.2, p.69-72 (Summer Term 1984)Remembering Imo by J.M. Thomson, NZ Listener, 7 Apr 1984, page 27Imogen Holst by Ursula Vaughan Williams, Folk Music Journal, 1984, Vol 4 no.5Miss Imogen Holst, Times, 10 Mar 1984Holst, Imogen Clare by Rosamund Strode, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.An enduring spirit, Christopher Grogan on Imogen Holst and the Aldeburgh Festival, article printed in the programme book for the 60th Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts, 2007Imogen Holst at Dartington edited by Peter Cox and Jack Dobbs, The Dartington Press, 1988.Working for Benjamin Britten by Imogen Holst, The Musical Times, March 1977, p. 202-4.