The Daily Telegraph
Landowner who revitalised his family estate, Hole Park in Kent
DAVID BARHAM, who has died aged 95, restored his family house and estate, Hole Park, in the Weald of Kent.
The estate, earlier known as “The Hole”, had been the ancestral home of the Gibbon family, of which the historian Edward Gibbon was a scion, and subsequently the Gibbon Moneypenny family, until Thomas Gibbon Moneypenny MP was bankrupted in the middle of the 19th century; Hole Park was acquired by his mortgagor, James Morrison MP, at that time one of the richest men in England.
In 1911 it was sold to Colonel Arthur Barham who, with his father Sir George Barham and brother Titus, had a controlling influence in the dairy trade through their family businesses Express Dairies and the Dairy Supply Company.
Hole Park was a pseudoelizabethan house built in 1837 around a Georgian core, and Arthur Barham devoted his time to improving the house and estate, as well as creating the now renowned gardens, one of the first in the National Garden Scheme, which began in 1927. The house was requisitioned during the Second World War; then, skipping a generation, the estate was offered to Arthur’s grandson David.
David George Wilfrid Barham had been born on October 6 1926, one of six children of Arthur’s surviving son, Harold, whose brother Wilfrid had been killed at Ypres in 1915; his mother was Dulcie, née Taylor.
He was educated at Malvern College, which in 1942 was evacuated to share lodgings with Harrow School, where he had a fine view of St Paul’s Cathedral while on firewatch duties, observing V-1 doodlebugs falling on London.
He was due to join the Royal Horse Guards, but was told in 1943 that due to a lack of casualties there was no longer a place for him. He cycled to Combermere Barracks in Windsor in his OTC corporal’s uniform and demanded to see the colonel, who was so impressed that his place was immediately restored.
Commissioned in 1945, he arrived for duty at Menden, near the Ruhr, in a Germany devastated by war. For the British officers, there were no female companions and no cars, but a very advantageous exchange rate that made any delicacy that could be found very cheap. Appointed Regimental Signals Officer, he left the Army in 1947, arriving home in his brown demob suit on Christmas Day.
He was still only 21 when his grandfather offered him Hole Park; he surrendered a place at Clare College, Cambridge, to read Engineering and went instead to the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester – completing the course by correspondence when the agent at Hole Park died and he had to take over at once.
Farming life was hard graft before mechanisation truly arrived, but when it did, Hole Park was in the vanguard. Techniques which would now be frowned upon – hedges grubbed, land drained, meadows ploughed up – transformed the historic landscape into a productive farm. Award-winning woodlands were established, as well as pioneering crops of Christmas trees.
The house itself remained empty until 1959, when Barham and his wife Catherine demolished much of it, returning it to its former Georgian form, and rejuvenating its 16 acres of gardens.
In 2011 Barham was trampled by his own cattle while protecting his Jack Russell. It was his second brush with death, having been hit by a car in 1978, an accident that led in time to five hip replacements.
He served as High Sheriff of Kent in 1974 and subsequently Deputy Lieutenant. He was also a JP, and active in the Country Land and Business Association and the National Farmers’ Union.
David Barham married, in 1955, Catherine Bucknall, who survives him with their daughter and three sons.
David Barham, born October 6 1926, died June 17 2022