William Bankes: something old, something new

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'I must pronounce…. That so far as my judgement goes, there is no staircase in England equal to it in effect… and not many that surpass it in Italy'.

This is what William Bankes wrote to his brother George in 1837 upon the completion of the magnificent Carrara marble staircase at Kingston Lacy in Dorset.

He wasted no time in planning and executing his designs for new and lavish interiors at Kingston Lacy once he'd inherited it. The designs were based on the Italian styles that had influenced Inigo Jones and Roger Pratt in the 17th century.

The transformation of Kingston Lacy

Between 1835-41, William and his architect Charles Barry transformed Kingston Hall. William renamed it Kingston Lacy, (taken from the de Lacy family, medieval tenants of the original estate) and his desire was to make it more convenient for modern life but in a classical style.

The house was clad in Chilmark stone, while a new Balustrade and cupola were added. New dormer windows in the attics and additional chimneys at the corners of the building were also installed.

A new entrance on the north elevation was then added, but at the basement level.  A loggia on the east side gave an extended view of the park and an elegant terrace on the south side provided access to the lawns from the house.

The Spanish Room

Once satisfied with the exterior, William concentrated on the interior, designing a new dining room. He transformed the original dining room into his greatest achievement at Kingston Lacy, The Spanish Room.

William desired a rich, sombre but harmonious setting for the Spanish paintings he had collected as a young man. The lavish gilded ceiling is reputed to have come from a Venetian palace, while the walls were decorated with Italian leather.