Kingston Lacy - History and Facts | History Hit

Kingston Lacy

Wimborne, England, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

21 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy is a grand country manor house and estate in Dorset, England. For generations, the home was the family seat of the Bankes family who lived nearby at Corfe Castle until it was destroyed during the English Civil War because its inhabitants, Sir John and Mary Bankes, remained loyal to Charles I.

Built by Ralph Bankes in the 17th century surrounded by impressive landscape gardens, the property was left to the National Trust in 1982 and is nowadays open to the public.

Kingston Lacy history

The house at Kingston Lacy was originally built in the medieval period, used as a hunting lodge because of the large deer park to the northwest. Kingston Lacy was leased to those who were in favour with the reigning royals, including John Beaufort whose daughter Margaret, mother of Henry VII, grew up there.

After the Civil War when Corfe Castle was destroyed, the Bankes family moved to the property and had it remodelled. Formerly agricultural land was converted into parkland and the hamlet of Kingston was demolished. By the 1830s, the estate had passed to William John Bankes who had a keen eye for art and collecting. Between 1835 and 1838, William had Kingston Lacy encased in Chilmark stone.

William’s mark on Kingston was a large collection of Egyptian artefacts and masterful paintings, adorning each of the house’s rooms. However, the house could not fully provide William with a sanctuary for his sexuality. In 1833, he escaped punishment for ‘an unnatural offence‘ – relations with another man which was punishable by death.

Thanks to his powerful network and influence William escaped charges, but after a similar incident in 1841, he fled abroad. Before his death in Venice in 1855, it is believed William visited Kingston Lacy one more time. A letter he wrote contained advice for altering one of the doors, a small detail that would only have been noted in person.

Kingston Lacy today

Today, visitors to Kingston Lacy can walk the lavishly decorated halls of the manor house before exploring the estate’s extensive parkland. You can download one of the many walking routes and wander the woods, or enjoy the dedicated silent space of the garden between 3 and 5pm daily.

Highlights across the property are the ‘Seven Treasures of Kingston Lacy’, including the Philae Obelisk that helped to decipher hieroglyphs, and the Vizagapatam cabinet – an exquisite South Asian piece of furniture. The golden painted ceilings and walls lined with great portraits are also guaranteed to inspire awe in any visitor.

Getting to Kingston Lacy

The easiest way to reach Kingston Lacy is by car: head for the B3082 Blandford to Wimborne road. Parking is free. Bus services from Bournemouth and Poole stop at Wimbourne Square. From here you will need to get a taxi for 3 miles (10 minutes) to Kingston Lacy.