Kingston Lacy

Just a few minutes drive from Wimborne Minster on the B3082 you will find the main gates of Kingston Lacy House & Estate, a Dorset gem that should not be missed.

Kingston Lacy lies at the heart of a huge working estate, which includes the ancient hill fort of Badbury Rings and the charming villages of Shapwick and Pamphill, criss-crossed by over 70 miles of footpath and bridleways, perfect for a gentle stroll or the serious walker.

Details of walks across the estate can be downloaded from the website

The manor of Kingston Lacy has roots dating back to the Saxon era, when Kingston served as an administrative centre for a royal estate within Wimborne manor.

Around 1636 the estate was purchased by a Cumbrian lawyer named Sir John Bankes, who bought Corfe Castle around the same time. Sir John Bankes played a key role in the events leading up to the Civil War, and served as Attorney General, and later, as Chief Justice of the Common Plea under Charles I.

In 1663 Ralph Bankes, son of Sir John and Lady Mary, built a new manor house at Kingston Lacy, and it is this house, albeit substantially remodelled as tastes and family fortunes changed over the centuries, that we see today. The collection of art gathered by Sir Ralph Bankes forms the basis of the wonderful collection that fills the house, though this was greatly expanded by subsequent generations as they amassed artwork from travels on the European continent and the Middle East.

The most intriguing personality in Kingston Lacy’s history was William John Bankes, eminent explorer and collector. He spent much of his life travelling acquiring the first British collection of Spanish paintings and whilst in the Middle East helped to decipher hieroglyphs and collect many Egyptian artefacts. When he inherited the estate in 1834, he commissioned the fashionable architect Charles Barry to transform Kingston Hall into an Italianate palazzo. He was forced to live in exile from 1841 due to his homosexuality, spending the next 14 years making the finishing touches to Kingston Lacy from a distance – designing and commissioning everything from marble carvings to a new bed.

The entire interior of Kingston Lacy is filled with exquisite artwork, with paintings and sculpture of the highest order. The rooms are sumptuously furnished to show off the art, along with the original Bankes family furniture. The house is set in spacious grounds, with a sunken garden, kitchen garden, and lovely walking trails to enjoy.

The last owner of the Lacy house, Henry John Ralph Bankes, was the seven times great-grandson of the original creator Sir Ralph Bankes.

Upon his death in 1981 he bequeathed Kingston Lacy to the National Trust, its largest bequest to date. The estate boasts not only a great house, garden and parkland, but 11 working farms spread over 8,500 acres.

The house is shown today as it was in its Edwardian hey-day, reflecting the influence of Walter Ralph and Henrietta Bankes. In the care of the National Trust, work has continued to restore parts of Kingston Lacy which have become lost over time and are making for an exciting period in the centuries-long history of the property. The Victorian Kitchen Garden is being returned to its former glory with the recent addition of a restored orchid house. See the community allotment plots or take a stroll to the Edwardian Japanese Tea Garden.

Events throughout the year include exhibitions, open air theatre, guided garden tours, autumn walks, Easter activities and Christmas festivities. Truly, any visit always leaves you looking forward to your return!

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