|Henry Bankes the Younger by Pompeo Batoni (1779)|
In the library at Kingston Lacy
Henry Bankes (19 December 1757 - 17 December 1834) was a Tory MP and a trustee of the British Museum. He owned Kingston Lacy and the Corfe Castle estate in Dorset.
Henry Bankes was born on 19 December 1757, the son of Henry Bankes, a wealthy Dorset landowner, and Margaret Wynne, daughter of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The Bankes estate encompassed Corfe Castle and the surrounding Dorset countryside including the family seat of Kingston Lacy near Wimborne. The family also owned a lucrative black lead
mine in Cumberland. Henry inherited the estate on the death of his father in 1776.
Henry was educated at Westminster Hall and went up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1773 where he became friends with William Pitt. In 1778, he went on the Grand Tour and had his portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni in Rome in 1779. Whilst in Rome, he met John Soane and Robert Furze Brettingham, two young English architects who both drew up designs for remodelling Kingston Hall.
From 1780 to 1831, Henry served as a Tory MP, representing Corfe Castle (1780-1826) and then Dorset (1826-31). He was a great opponent of the American War of Independence and became a fierce enemy of Catholic Emancipation and other political reforms which led to his failure in the 1831 election.
|Corfe Castle, Dorset|
On 26 July 1832, the Tories held a dinner for him in Dorchester to celebrate fifty years of parliamentary service.
A man of principle
Although Henry generally supported the government of his friend, William Pitt the Younger, his “attachment to his friend was always restrained and regulated by high public principle” and his “independent mind revolted at every sacrifice of principle to private friendship”(2). He was also a friend of the Duke of Wellington.
|William Pitt the Younger|
from Posthumous Memoirs of his own time
by N Wraxall (1836)
Nathaniel Wraxhall described Henry Bankes in his Memoirs:
“His talents compensated by their calm solidity, for the want of brilliancy; his enunciation, slow, formal, precise, and not without some degree of embarrassment, was nevertheless always controlled by judgment, caution, and good sense. No man displayed more rectitude of intention, independence of mind, and superiority to every private object of interest, or of ambition.”(2)However, he went on to describe Henry’s manners as “altogether cold, repulsive, and destitute of amenity”.(2)
On 18 August 1784, Henry married Frances Woodley, a celebrated beauty and the daughter of William Woodley, the governor of the Leeward Islands. She brought the sum of £6000 to the marriage.
|Frances Woodley by George Romney (1780-1)|
In the drawing room at Kingston Lacy
Kingston Hall remodelled
After his marriage, Henry embarked on the huge task of altering Kingston Hall according to Brettingham’s design. The revised layout included the creation of a new entrance on the east side of the building, a kitchen block outside of the main house, a new dining room and a magnificent ballroom.
In December 1791, the Bankes family held a ball to celebrate the completion of the building works.
|A reenactment of Frances Bankes' ball|
at Kingston Lacy (2013)
Henry was a trustee of the British Museum and was active in parliament on its behalf.
|The hall and staircase of the British Museum|
from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
|Tregothnan House, Cornwall,|
from Devonshire and Cornwall illustrated
by J Britton & EW Brayley (1832)
from The Beauties of England and Wales
by J Britton & EW Brayley (1803)
(1) This journal comprises 177 notebooks which are in the archives of the Dorset records office.
(2) From Posthumous Memoirs of his own time by N Wraxhall (1836).
Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph, and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 1-3 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Britton, John & Brayley, Edward Wedlake, Devonshire and Cornwall illustrated, from original drawings by T Allom, WH Bartlett etc with historical and topographical descriptions (1832)
Britton, John & Brayley, Edward Wedlake, The Beauties of England and Wales (1803, London)
Farrell, SM, Bankes, Henry (1757-1834) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 3 Oct 2013)
The National Trust, Kingston Lacy (guidebook) (1994)
Wraxall, Sir Nathaniel William, Posthumous Memoirs of his own time (1836)
Photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato