Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Bankes's of Kingston Lacy

The Bankes family owned Kingston Lacy from around 1636 (at first known as Kingston Hall, the King part relating to its one time ownership by the King and the Lacy part from its medieval ownership by the de Lacys).

The Bankes owned Corfe castle, not far away, which was eventually destroyed by Cromwellian forces and which was returned to the family in the restoration. They of course never lived there again and devoted all their attention to Kingston.

Since the period we are most interested in spans the long regency, I wanted to talk a bit about the two prime figures during that period. Sir Henry Banks, 1757 - 1834 and his son William Banks 1786-1855 who added many interesting artifacts to the house and whose travels and life were exceedingly interesting.

Sir Henry, having undertaken the grand tour, married a wealthy and beautiful woman, undertook major modernization of the house between 1784 and 1791. As mentioned in earlier posts, much of those changes were swept away in the 1830's by his son William, but we have looked at the parts that were in place during the regency.  When the renovations were complete it was celebrated with a ball. Around 140 people danced from nine in the evening, sat down to supper at midnight and danced again until seven in the morning. Entertainment on the grand scale.

William was Sir Henry's second son. From Harrow, he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1804 and became Lord Byron's (yes that Lord Byron) friend for life.

He was one of the leading lights of the 1812 London season, something I must put in a book one of these days. This miniature was completed in that year by George Sandars in this year. During this year, he proposed to Annabella Milbanke, the bluestocking heiress who later married Byron. It was William who gave her his copy of Childe Harold.  She married Byron in 1815.

In the meantime, William followed in Byron and William Beckford's footsteps traveling to Portugal and Spain in 1812 and spending two years there acquiring paintings and living the Bohemian life. He also served as an Aide de Camp to Wellesley (Later the Duke of Wellington) during this time.

He went from there to Egypt and then to Italy in 1814 and back to Egypt in 1815. Kingston Lacy houses one of the sole surviving gentleman's collection from the early days of British Egyptology. More about this to come. Until then Happy Rambles.