Kingston Lacy explores the life and exile of William John Bankes as part of National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme

Posted by ew205 at Sep 19, 2017 12:49 PM |
Installation involving University of Leicester School of Museum Studies from 18 September to 12 November

Issued by the National Trust on 19 September 2017

  • EXILE - 18 September – 12 November, Kingston Lacy, Dorset

A bold new installation at the National Trust’s Kingston Lacy in Dorset marks fifty years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

It examines the exile of former owner William John Bankes and reveals both its significance for understanding the house that is seen today and its relationship to the ongoing challenges faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LBGTQ) community.

William John Bankes, explorer, scholar and art collector, inherited Kingston Lacy in 1834 and set about transforming the house into a Venetian Renaissance palazzo.

In 1841 he was caught with a soldier in ‘an indecent act’ at a time when intimate relationships between men could be punishable by death.

Bankes had narrowly escaped prosecution for a similar incident a few years earlier, so on this second occasion he felt he had no choice but to leave the home he loved for exile in France and later Italy.

From abroad, however, he continued to commission and collect art and other treasures to send back to Kingston Lacy with instructions on how they were to be displayed and with designs for decorative schemes.

EXILE will enable visitors to learn more about Bankes’ exile and his contribution to the house and its decoration from afar, and also consider his extraordinary story within a broader context of intolerance and persecution of LGBTQ lives from Henry VIII to modern times.

EXILE features three distinct installations, linked by a series of new interpretive panels.  As visitors enter the house, they will encounter ‘In Memoriam’, a tribute to the 51 men who were hanged under laws that criminalised same-sex acts during Bankes’ lifetime. It is a reminder of the brutality of the times and the context of his actions.

Further into the house, the second installation – ‘Displaced’ – uses projection and sound to make connections between Bankes’ story and the ongoing persecution of LGBTQ people, drawing on contemporary experiences of those forced to leave their homes in the UK and abroad.

The final installation – ‘Prejudice, Persecution, Pride’ – sets Bankes’ story within a global history that examines how the law has shaped – and continues to shape – LGBTQ lives. Facsimile copies of legal documents from the Parliamentary Archives will be exhibited alongside a timeline that reveals familiar and surprising stories of persecution and intolerance, liberation and equality.

The installation at Kingston Lacy is part of the National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme which is celebrating the stories of LGBTQ people at a number of its places and acknowledging the contributions they have made to history and society.

The programme has been researched and developed by the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) in collaboration with the National Trust and with support from Stonewall.

John Orna-Ornstein, National Trust Director of Curation & Experience says: “Kingston Lacy holds a story that deserves to be known more widely – as with all those we have researched and shared through our ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme. These stories show how deeply and widely LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history and how this resonates with our lives today.”

Professor Richard Sandell of the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries says: “Historic sites hold enormous potential to tell stories that not only illuminate our understanding of the past but which also offer us opportunities to look differently at the world today.  Our collective aim in researching and developing EXILE has been to offer visitors an enhanced appreciation of the house and its beautiful collections but also the chance to reflect on how that history is entwined with a bigger, ongoing story about the law and LGBTQ equality.”

The rainbow flag will be flown at Kingston Lacy from 18 September, the day that William John Bankes went into exile, until 12 November.

Visitors can see EXILE at Kingston Lacy from Monday 18 September to Sunday 12 November. Entry is by timed entry tickets. For opening times, booking information and further details www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy or phone on 0344 249 1895.

Ends

For further press information and images please contact:

Alison Dalby, Senior Press Officer, Alison.dalby@nationaltrust.org.uk

Jo Atkins, National Trust Communications Consultant jo.atkins@nationaltrust.org.uk

Further information on the Trust’s Prejudice & Pride programme at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/prejudiceandpride

Notes to editors

William John Bankes (1786 – 1855) and Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy in Dorset was the family seat of the Bankes family since 1663, when the house was built by influential architect Sir Roger Pratt.

The family made many improvements over the centuries, but the greatest change came in the 1800’s, when William John Bankes commissioned renowned architect Sir Charles Barry to create the magnificent Italian-influenced interiors we see today.

Artistic, adventurous and charming, Bankes’ passions included architecture, collecting art, Egyptology and travelling. He was a close friend of Lord Byron, who summed him up as 'the father of all mischief'.

Following travels to Europe, Egypt and the Middle East, Bankes brought back a wealth of antiquities and art treasures to Kingston Lacy. An aesthete and explorer whose travel began in 1812 in Portugal and Spain, he acquired paintings during the Peninsular War, and was one of the first in the country to show an interest in Spanish art.

He also toured Egypt where he developed a reputation as an Egyptologist, interested in researching the history and culture of the ancient civilisation as well as collecting art.

In 1841 he was caught with a soldier in ‘an indecent act’ at a time when intimate relationships between men could be punishable by death. He had narrowly escaped prosecution for a similar incident a few years earlier, so on this second occasion he felt he had no choice but to leave the home he loved for exile in France and later Italy.

Although unable to return publicly to Kingston Lacy, Bankes continued to collect and commission art extensively, shipping back Italian marble pieces, paintings and many other objects, each with detailed instructions for how they were to be displayed in the house.

About the National Trust

The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy.  More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything the charity does.

Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 775 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

More than 20 million people visit every year, and together with 4.5 million members and over 62,000 volunteers, they help to support the charity in its work to care for special places for ever, for everyone.

For more information and ideas for great seasonal days out go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/whats-on

About University of Leicester, Research Centre for Museums and Galleries

Established in 1999, the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG), at the University of Leicester is recognised internationally for the quality and impact of its research.  RCMG is working collaboratively with a range of National Trust staff and properties on ‘Prejudice & Pride’ throughout 2017 to enrich, support and extend thinking and practice around the presentation of LGBTQ lives, history and culture, and explore the ways in which these diverse stories can stimulate and enrich public debate. To create the Exile installation at Kingston Lacy the team worked with Julie Howell, Tom Butler, Lea Nagano and Anna Lincoln. http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/rcmg

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