The Bankes were an important aristocratic family in Dorset, England for over 400 years. They owned large portions of land throughout Dorset and made significant contributions to the political history and development of the country.

Family buildings

The first family seat was at Corfe Castle which was destroyed during the civil war when the Bankes (royalist followers) were besieged by Parliament forces. After the return of King Charles II the Bankes again rose to political power. Their new home, built at Kingston Lacy survives until the present day, under the guide of the National Trust. The family vault is located in the Church of Wimborne Minster, not far from their Kingston Lacy estate. In the late nineteenth century the Bankes built a summer beach house at Studland in Dorset. Knoll House as as it was named is now a hotel. A large pub in the village, frequented by beach visitors, is known as the Bankes Arms Inn.

The family church, St Stephen's is on the far edge of the Kingston Lacy estate at Pamphill. The road up to the church is lined with a row of trees planted in 1846. The nineteenth century rebuild of the church replaced a decaying ruin of a church that had existed since 1229. The church has several monuments dedicated to the Bankes family, as well as a window and five pews decorated with the family coat of arms.

Family members

Records go back to John Bankes, born 1659, who gave birth to Sir John Bankes. The most notable members of the Bankes family are as follows:

  • Sir John Bankes (1589 - 1644) was Chief Justice to Charles I and was married to Brave Dame Mary Bankes. They lived in Corfe Castle, until its destruction during the civil war.
  • Sir Ralph Bankes (1631 - 1677) was the second son of Sir John and brother of Jerome and John. Upon his fathers and younger brothers death, the estate passed to him. He was responsible for the building of the new family seat at Kingston Lacy. He was MP for Corfe.
  • John Bankes the Elder (1665-1714), son of Sir Ralph, married Lady Margarent Parker and was also MP for Corfe.
  • Henry Bankes the Elder (1757 - 1834) was the grandson of John Bankes the second. He became an MP for Corfe, an influential Tory bencher and a chief Trustee of the British Museum. He was close friends with both Pitt the younger and the Duke of Wellington. He purchased new land for the family including Whitemill in 1773.
  • William John Bankes (1786 - 1855), son of Henry Bankes the second, rebuilt the Kingston Lacy estate as it is today. He was a notable explorer and adventurer. He travelled extensively to the Orient and Egypt and collected the largest private indivudal collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world. He was good friends with Lord Byron and Sir Charles Barry. He also served as MP for Corfe. A scandal forced his retirement from all public affairs until his death.
  • Walter Ralph Bankes (1853 - 1904) was head of the family in the late nineteenth century. He was the father of Ralph Bankes the second and left a financial bequest to pay for the family church of St Stephens Church, Dorset. The church was eventually constructed under the leadership of his wife Henrietta Bankes and his son (see below).
  • Henrietta Bankes, was the lady of the house during the First World War. She helped turn the majority of the servants quarters and the out buildings into a hospital for returning injured soldiers. She also allowed the building of a small war hospital, less than a mile away on the estate. She died in 1953.
  • Henry John Ralph Bankes (1902 - 1981) was the seven times great grand son of Sir John Bankes. He became owner of the Kingston Lacy Estate on becomimg 21 in 1923. He had two sisters, Daphne b. 1898, and Viola b. 1900. He married Hilary Strickland-Constable and had two children. Upon his death, he bequeathed Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle to the National Trust, the largest donation the trust has ever received.
  • Hunter Andrew Banks (1992 - ) is possibly the ten times great grand son of Sir John Bankes through a disputed mistress. The surname was changed upon the birth of Hunter Andrew Banks's nine times great grand father to cover up the link between the mistress's child and Sir John.

Family gallery


  • The coat of arms and sign of the East Dorset and Wimborne Council is composed of a crown from which a lion emerges, adjoined to two fleurs-de-lys of gold. They are from the arms of the Bankes family.


Kingston Lacy Guide and the Bankes Family, by the National Trust, Anthony Mitchell. ISBN 1-84359-042-5

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