The Ruby Red Devons

The herd of Ruby Red Devons at Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy’s collection is perhaps unrivalled for its richness and diversity. It includes the more obvious fine and decorative art, but some are surprised to discover that it also encompasses buildings, archaeology and living collections across the gardens, parkland and wider estate. Among the living collection is Kingston Lacy’s special herd of North Devon (known as Ruby Red Devon) cattle.

Walter Ralph Bankes (father of Henry John ‘Ralph’ Bankes who gifted Kingston Lacy to the National Trust) introduced North Devons (also known as Ruby Red Devons) to Kingston Lacy in the nineteenth century. Since then, they have remained a cherished part of the estate and an important feature of the landscape. The cattle are still used to graze the parkland and are key agents of estate management.

There’s more to these cattle than meets the eye. The rich ruby red of their coats inspired the use of ‘Bankes red’ paint. You will see this colour on buildings everywhere across the Bankes estate; it’s an important reminder of its scale, but also of the herd’s significance.

A young Henry John ‘Ralph’ Bankes with his mother and sisters and the Ruby Red Devons in the background, Bankes Archive (deposited with Dorset History Centre)
A young Henry John ‘Ralph’ Bankes with his mother and sisters and the Ruby Red Devons in the background
A young Henry John ‘Ralph’ Bankes with his mother and sisters and the Ruby Red Devons in the background, Bankes Archive (deposited with Dorset History Centre)

Ralph Bankes was especially fond of the Red Devons. The paintwork of his last Rolls Royce was chosen to match the ruby red of their coats. When Ralph gifted Kingston Lacy to the National Trust, he expressed a wish that a herd of Red Devons would always be maintained on the estate.

Kingston Lacy’s Red Devons can be seen grazing in the parkland at various times throughout the year. Will you spot them on your next visit?    

Video

Kingston Lacy's Red Devon herd join the digital age

We are using GPS technology to track the Red Devon herd as they graze Holt Heath in the spring and summer months. This natural way of managing the heathland is helping to improve biodiversity on this SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).