Kingston Lacy’s Paintings: the story of one of the National Trust’s most important collections by Helen Lange.

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy © National Trust

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy © National Trust

Kingston Lacy, in Wimborne, Dorset, was bequeathed to the National Trust by Ralph Bankes (1902–1981) with its estates, including Corfe Castle. It contains an important art collection including a set of portraits by Lely, pictures by Velazquez, Zani and Tintoretto and two full-length female portraits by Rubens. This collection will be the subject of a talk by Helen Lange at Dorset County Museum on Thursday 12th March.

Helen Lange is well-known to many in Dorchester and beyond as the Chairman of the Thomas Hardy Society. She has given many talks on the West Country’s greatest writer, including Hardy’s own interest in art.

The talk will begin with an explanation of the importance of the Bankes’ art collection to the National Trust and to England. Helen will include a brief background on art collecting during the reign of Charles I and trace the history of the Bankes’ collection, from its beginnings at Corfe Castle. She will then focus on several individual paintings, which have their own stories to tell.

After a thirty-five year career in education, Helen Lange retired from her last post as Deputy Head at Sherborne Girls, in December 2008. She then decided to study Art History, in which she had long been deeply interested. She now has an MA in History of Art from Birkbeck College, London University. Whilst working for this, she undertook a research project on the National Trust’s conservation of the Kingston Lacy Art Collection and her final dissertation was on Peter Lely, an artist well represented at Kingston Lacy.

Doors open from 7.00pm for 7.30pm. The talk is FREE and all are welcome to attend. Donations are encouraged to cover costs. For further information visit

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Kingston Lacy’s Roman Amphitheatre

Archaeology National Trust SW

Old John Bankes died back in 1772 and as he wasn’t married his younger brother Henry inherited. Henry only lived another 4 years but he did something remarkable. He commissioned a cutting edge surveyor called William Woodward to make a detailed record of his Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle Estates. This week Francesca kindly digitally photographed the whole survey.
The archive room at Kingston Lacy House. Until the 1980s the Bankes family archive including Willliam Woodward's survey was stored in the mansion and few people had seen it The archive room at Kingston Lacy House. Until the 1980s the Bankes family archive including Willliam Woodward’s survey was stored in the mansion and few people had seen it

Yesterday, I sat in the conference room in Warminster and saw a remarkable aerial and lidar survey of Brownsea Island. The surveyor did whizzy things on the computer and zoomed into and enhanced images, measuring any detail on command. Things have come a long way since the 18th century but Woodward’s surveys are still accurate and detailed and also works of art.

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Bodies in Trenches 2013

Archaeology National Trust SW

A good time to review some of the discoveries of the past year. Much of what we have written here is to do with work that National Trust archaeologists have carried out themselves. However, resources dictate that I usually need to a ask archaeological contractors to carry out recording work.

Here are some of the discoveries from repairs, developments and service trenches that needed excavating this year. At some places, a trench can be dug where there is a near certainty that archaeology will be affected…even when the location has been chosen to avoid it. At others, we do not have enough information to know what will be discovered. Geophysics can help… but often it is difficult to know what lies beneath the ground.

In January, trenching for a new drainage system and fibre-optic cable line around the house at Montacute, Somerset was watched by Mike and Peter of Terrain…

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The Conquest of Badbury Rings

Archaeology National Trust SW

The National Trust looks after about 50 hillforts and promontory forts in the south west.

Archaeologists don’t agree about what they were used for (they don’t tend to agree).

Status symbol for a local celeb? Sacred centre? Administrative hub? Market? Defended settlement? Wealth storage vault? Prison? All of the above?

Over the 500 years or so hillforts were in vogue, I like to think that their role fluctuated over time. In Dorset, I’m pretty sure that the impressive fortresses within the county usually fulfilled their traditionally believed role, as a place people could live in securely, particularly in dangerous times. Digging deep ditches and building massive ramparts with primitive tools would take a long time and surely not something to be done unless there was a real need.

Badbury Rings in Dorset is the highest hill in the area. There are good views out in all directions, surrounded by three…

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Arthur, Badon and Badbury

Archaeology National Trust SW

Each October I lead a walk at Badbury Rings as part of Dorset Archaeology Days. The weather is generally fine, I meet some great people and it’s an opportunity to share the stories of the place.

At the end, we walk up to the top of the rampart, we look out across the hillfort and surrounding landscape and I say.

“Some people believe that the battle of Mount Badon took place here”

blank faces

“But perhaps you know of Arthur. Not the romantic medieval mythical king but the person he’s based on”

Someone smiles “Yes but was he a real person?”.

“Well, there are different views. He’s the hero from a time when the Roman legions had withdrawn from Britain and left her citizens to fend for themselves ( many of them thought of themselves as Roman. Britain had been part of the Empire for nearly 400 years)”.

Badbury lies…

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