The grounds on which the house stands originally formed part of a royal estate within the manor of Wimborne. The original house, greatly developed in the medieval period, stood to the north of the current house and was used as a hunting lodge, with an accompanying deer park to its northwest. Leased to those in favour of the crown, these included the Lords de Lacys, Earls of Lincoln, who held it together with Shapwick and Blandford. By the 15th century the property was leased to John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, whose daughter Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, was brought up at Kingston Lacy. By the 16th century the house was in ruins. In 1603 King James I gave the lands to Sir Charles Blount, whose son later sold the estate to Sir John Bankes in 1636, who in 1634 had been appointed Attorney General to King Charles I. Sir John was born in Cumberland, but through his extensive legal works had acquired the Corfe Castle estate. During the English Civil War from 1642, the Bankes remained loyal to the crown, resulting in the death of Sir John in Oxford in 1644, and after two sieges defended by Mary Bankes, the ruination of Corfe Castle in 1645 after two Parliamentarian sieges. In March 1645 Parliament voted to slight (demolish) Corfe Castle, giving it its present appearance. As it provided a ready supply of building material, its stones were reused by the local impoverished villagers to rebuild their own homes.
After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the Bankes family regained their properties. Rather than rebuild the ruined Corfe Castle, eldest son Ralph Bankes chose to build a new house on their other Dorset estate near Wimborne Minster. The 1784 Enclosure Act allowed Henry Bankes the Younger, the grandson of Ralph Bankes, to create the current estate and park lands footprint. This allowed him to: remove the hamlet of Kingston, situated adjacent to the 16th century Keeper's Lodge; diverted the B3082 Blandford Road; convert the former agricultural land to parkland. He undertook some further minor alterations in the 1820s, before he became an MP for the rotten borough of Corfe. He was a trustee for the British Museum and its parliamentary advocate, and some of his collections which were once part of the house, now reside in the Museum. Bankes often entertained his friends Pitt the Younger and the Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington at the house. His son, the explorer and adventurer William John Bankes commissioned his friend Charles Barry to encase the red brick Hall. The house, which was now to be formally known as Kingston Lacy, was extensively remodelled by Barry between 1835 and 1838: faced the brick with Chilmark stone; added a tall chimney to each corner; and lowered the ground level on one side, exposing the basement level and forming a new principal entrance. He also planted Lime tree avenues along the Blanford Road, of which today some 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) survive.
William John Bankes provided most of the antiquities that currently form part of the house's collections. He travelled extensively to the Middle East and the Orient, collecting the largest individual collection of Egyptian antiques in the world. Most notable is the Philae obelisk, which he brought back and which now stands prominently in the grounds of the house. He also acquired in Genoa, Italy the portrait of Maria Di Antonio Serra, by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, painted on the occasion of her marriage to Duke Nicolo Pallavicini in 1606. In 1841, after being caught in a homosexual scandal that could have resulted in a trial and his death, William John fled the country for Italy. He continued to return items that he collected to the house, and is rumoured to have returned to the house occasionally to view his collection, until his death in Venice in 1855. Volunteer driven ‘leg saver’ transfer service from car park to house, shop and restaurant, 4 wheelchairs and 2 self-drive mobility buggies available for loan (subject to availability). Accessible lavatory in laundry courtyard. Gardens and parkland feature gravel paths. Level access to ground floor of house only (2 rooms accessible). Interactive virtual tour of house available. Induction loop. Braille guide and Large print guide. Assistance dogs welcomed.
Location : Kingston Lacy, Wimborne Minster, Dorset, BH21 4EA
Transport: Poole (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : Nearest stop Wimbourne Square (3.5 miles) then taxi.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 - 16:00; Gardens 10:00 - 18:00.
Tickets : Adults £13.50; Children £6.70
Tel: 01202 883402