BANKES, Ralph (c.1630-77), of Kingston Lacy, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

1661 - 25 Mar. 1677

Family and Education

b. c.1630, 2nd s. of Sir John Bankes, c.j.c.p. 1641-4, of Corfe Castle, Dorset by Mary, da. of Ralph Hawtrey of Ruislip, Mdx. educ. G. Inn 1656. m. 11 Apr. 1661, Mary, da. and h. of John Brune of Athelhampton, Dorset, 1s. 1da. suc. bro. c.1653; kntd. 27 May 1660.1

Offices Held

Gent. of the privy chamber (extraordinary) June 1660-?d.2

J.p. Dorset July 1660-d., Mdx. Aug. 1660-70; dep. lt. Dorset July 1660-72, 1674-d.; commr. for assessment, Dorset Aug. 1660-74, Carm. and Westminster 1673-4; ld. lt. Isle of Purbeck 1661-d.; gov. Brownsea Castle 1661-d.; freeman, Lyme Regis and Poole 1662; commr. for corporations, Dorset 1662-3, foreshore 1662, oyer and terminer, Western circuit 1665, recusants, Dorset 1675.3

Biography

Bankes’s father, of Cumberland origin, entered Parliament in 1624. A lawyer and royal official, he acquired control of Corfe Castle by purchasing the manor in 1635. His estates in Dorset and elsewhere were valued at £1,780 p.a. by the committee for compounding, but the Purbeck lands alone were worth at least another £200 p.a. He was one of the most moderate and respected of Charles I’s supporters in the Civil War. His wife was the heroine of the siege of Corfe Castle, when she repulsed the parliamentary forces under Sir Walter Erle.4

Bankes was first returned to Richard Cromwell’s Parliament for Corfe Castle and was thus eligible at the general election of 1660. He was duly re-elected but was not active in the Convention. He probably sat on nine committees, the most important of which dealt with the printing of unauthorized Anglican works. His inclusion among the Members chosen to raise a loan in the City shows that his credit was still good, in spite of losses by plunder and fines. Brought up in a devout Anglican household, he was noted by Lord Wharton as an opponent. But a week after his re-election in 1661, he married an heiress worth £1,200 p.a., though she was the daughter of a parliamentary colonel and herself became a Roman Catholic. Though never prominent in the House he was moderately active in the Cavalier Parliament, being named to 70 committees. In the first session he was appointed to those for the security, corporations and regicides bills. His activity diminished during the period 1663-5 when his new house at Kingston Lacy was under construction; nevertheless he served on the committee for the first conventicles bill. His estates bordering on Poole Harbour and his membership of the commission of the foreshore gave him a personal interest in the committee for reclaiming marshlands. In the 1667 session he was named to the committees to inquire into the charges against Lord Mordaunt and to set up a public accounts commission. He participated in an examination of the militia laws, in which his first concern would have been to protect the autonomous status of Purbeck. This may have provided Lord Ashley (Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper) with an excuse for dropping Bankes from the lieutenancy in 1672; the two families had long been embroiled over the enclosure of Holt chase.5

Bankes was noted in 1669 as a supporter of the Court, to be influenced by the Duke of York. He was named to the committee for the continuation of the Conventicles Act; but about this time his financial difficulties began to overwhelm him. Besides the cost of his splendid new home, his will suggests that he was an ardent collector of books, maps, pictures, medals, curiosities and antiquities to adorn it. He sold his wife’s inheritance in 1670, and in the following year conveyed the rest of his land to trustees, who included Robert Coker, Henry Whitaker and his steward Anthony Ettrick. The trustees successfully promoted two private bills, one to clear the title of some Welsh property which they intended to sell, the other to rationalize the estate by exchanging land with a neighbour. The preservation of his property was now uppermost in Bankes’s mind, and it is not surprising that his last committee should have been concerned with river fishing, since he owned the royalty over an extensive stretch of some of the best stocked and most lucrative water in Dorset. His debts now totalled £11,780 (including £2,000 to George Pitt), and his income was insufficient to pay the interest and other charges. He died on 25 Mar. 1677 while endeavouring to arrange further sales. The family’s difficulties were successfully tided over, and his son sat for Corfe Castle from 1698 to his death.