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Bankes miscellanea

The following pictures of Corfe Castle have been kindly provided by Tim Sandberg

Corfe Castle in 1643
Corfe Castle in 1643

Corfe Castle in 1984
Corfe Castle in 1984

Sir John BankesSir John Bankes, who purchased Corfe Castle with all its manors, rights, and privileges in 1635 from the Lady Elizabeth Coke, was the first of this family to settle in the county of Dorset. His ancestors for many generations held property in and near Keswick in Cumberland. The Title deeds and grants from the Crown of the black lead mine at Borrowdale date back as far as Henry VI. and Edward IV. and seem to have been again renewed under the seal of James I. The greater share of this mine (though now very different in value from those of olden times) is still in the possession of the family representative, and there still exists in Keswick the old manor house now converted into a shop, where an ornamental ceiling has been preserved, richly decorated with the armorial bearings of the family of Bankes. Sir John was admitted a commoner of Queens College, Oxford, in 1604, at 15 years of age, but left the university before he took a degree, and settled in Gray's Inn, where he distinguished himself by his uncommon application to the study of the law, in which he acquired great eminence and reputation. He was Lent reader and treasurer to that society, and received the honour of knighthood. He was also appointed attorney to Prince Charles. In September 1634 he became attorney-general to the King, which situation he held during the litigation of Mr. Hampden's famous cause of ship money; and his argument upon that great question is still extant. In January 1640 he was made lord chief justice of the Common Pleas, and afterwards followed his majesty from Westminster to York; having left his lady to defend Corfe Castle, which she did with great courage, until it was betrayed into the hands of the rebels. His name is signed to the engagement with the lords at York, in June 1642. In the same year he was sworn of the privy council, and the degree of LL.D. conferred upon him at Oxford, where he died 28th December 1644, aged 55, and was buried in the cathedral of Christ Church, where is a monument to his memory, with the following inscription:

Hoc loco, in spem
futuri sæculi, depositum jacet
qui Reginalis Collegii in hâc academiâ
eques auratus ornatissimus,
attornatus generalis,
de communi banco cap' justiciarius,
e secretioribus consiliis regi Carolo,
peritiam, integritatem, fidem
agregiè præstitit.
Ex æde Xti in ædes Xti
transiit mense Decembris 28,
An. Dom. 1644,
ætis suæ 55.

Lloyd says of him, that though he went himself, and brought over as many persons as he had interest in, to the King, yet he fell under no extraordinary displeasure from the contrary party, which appears to have been true during the first years of the civil war; for he was named by the two houses, in 1641, as one of the persons fit to be employed in carrying their ordinance for settling the militia into effect, as Lieutenant of the Isle of Purbeck and constable of Corfe Castle; and into the propositions made to the King at Oxford, in February 1648, he was recommended by both houses to be continued in the Common Pleas; and during the negotiation of that projected treaty, he was one of the persons whom the King consulted, though it appears to have been broken off contrary to his and their advice and expectation.

His property, however, did not escape the sequestration to which the royalists were in the end subjected; and a committee was appointed for that purpose in the year 1643. In 1644, he was at first mentioned in the list of those persons meant to be excepted out of the general pardon; his name was afterwards struck out of that list, but he was notwithstanding impeached of high treason.

On the south wall of the chancel of Ruislip church, Middlesex, is a monument to Lady Bankes, with this inscription:

To the memory of LADY MARY BANKES, the only daughter of Ralph Hawtery, of Riselip, in the county of Middlesex, esq. the wife and widow of the Honourable Sir John Bankes, knight, late Lord Chief Justice of his Majesty's Court of Common Pleas, and of the Privy Council of his Majesty King Charles I. of blessed memory, who, having had the honour to have borne with a constancy and courage above her sex a noble proportion of the late calamities, and the restitution of the government, with great peace of mind laid down her most desired life the 11th day of April 1661. Sir Ralph Banckes her son and heir hath dedicated this. She had four sons: 1. Sir Ralph; 2. Jerome; 3. Charles; 4. William (since dead without issue), and six daughters.

Sir Ralph Bankes

Sir Ralph Bankes (1631-1677)

Henry Bankes (1698-1776)

Henry Bankes (1757-1834)

Since the time of Sir Ralph Bankes, the two most conspicuous members of the family have been Henry Bankes, esq. who died 1834, and the late Right Hon. George Bankes. The former was the only surviving son of Henry Bankes, esq. Commissioner of Customs, and his lady Margaret daughter of the Right Rev. John Wynne, Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, and sister of the Right Hon. William Wynne, LL.D. principal official of the Court of Arches. He was educated at Westminster and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and entered Parliament in 1780 as member for Corfe Castle, for which he continued to sit until in 1826 he was elected for the county of Dorset. At the general election of the same year he was re-chosen, but at that of 1830, after a severe struggle, he was defeated. He was for many years an active member, generally supporting Mr. Pitt, and the life-long personal friend of that eminent minister, and of William Wilberforce. An accomplished scholar, intimately acquainted with ancient and modern literature, and of a refined and acknowledged taste in the arts, he was enabled to fulfill his duties with particular grace. He was a most active and zealous trustee of the British Museum, of which he was generally regarded as the organ and advocate in the House of Commons. In the welfare of his native county he took the warmest and most active interest. He was a staunch supporter of all our national institutions in all their efficiency, but was never reluctant to assist in the removal of proved abuses. He was author of "The Civil and Constitutional History of Rome from the Foundation to the age of Augustus" 2 vols, 8vo. 1818.

The Right Hon. George Bankes was also educated at Westminster School, from whence he went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, of which foundation he became a scholar, and afterwards was elected to a fellowship, soon after taking the degree of B.C.L. In 1813 he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn; in 1822 he was appointed one of the Commissioners of Bankruptcy, and afterwards Cursitor Baron of the Court of Exchequer, (an office which has since been abolished); for some time recorder of Weymouth; he for the last twenty years of his life held the position of Chairman of the Quarter Sessions of his native county, in which his courteous urbanity, knowledge of law, and clear sense of justice, tempered as it ever was with mercy, will for some years to come hold a place among those who were associated or brought into contact with him in the discharge of his magisterial duties.

Returned as M.P. for Corfe Castle in 1816, which seat he continued to hold until the disenfranchisement of that borough under the Reform Act in 1832, he first entered into official life under the Duke of Wellington's administration, when he was appointed Secretary of the Board of Control, and in 1830 Junior Lord of the Treasury and one of the Commissioners for the Affairs of India.

In 1841, having been brought forward by a requisition signed by upwards of 2,000 electors of Dorset, he was returned member for that county without a contest, and during the eventful struggles of those days, with consistent and unwearied care for the interests of his constituents and his county, he took a prominent place among the staunchest of those supporters of Conservative principles who were to the last opposed to the newly adopted commercial measures of Sir Robert Peel in 1846.

In March 1852 Mr. Bankes was appointed a member of the Privy Council, and to hold the office of Judge-Advocate-General during the administration of Lord Derby's government. Having been re-elected in every successive parliament, he continued to represent the county up to his decease in 1856. The last public occasion in which he was destined ever to take part in Dorsetshire was in January of the same year, when at a large public meeting and dinner held in the town hall of Dorchester, a magnificent piece of plate was presented to him as a testimonial of regard from his friends of all ranks and political opinions in the county.

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