|Banks of Hergest Croft|
Richard and Esther Banks had five children. His eldest son and heir, Richard William Banks (1819-91) inherited James Davies' interest in the Kington & Radnorshire Bank and also Ridgebourne at Kington, a house largely rebuilt by Edmund Cheese (d. 1812) which had been acquired by Davies in 1838 as a home for his widowed sister, Esther Crummer. The second son, the Rev. James Banks (1820-83), inherited James Davies' own house, Moor Court near Kington, which bore a more than passing resemblance to Ridgebourne and may also have been designed by Benjamin Wishlade, with whom James Davies had a close commercial relationship. The third son, William Lawrence Banks (1822-93) inherited Bronllys Castle in Radnorshire, and Davies' lands in Wales.
Richard William Banks, who was articled to his father as a solicitor but gave up the law for banking after he inherited the Kington Bank, made some alterations to Ridgebourne and occupied the house following his marriage in 1858 to Rosa, the daughter of another banker, Nathaniel Hartland of Cheltenham. Rosa Banks lived on at Ridgebourne until her death in 1923, so when her son, William Hartland Banks (1867-1930) married Dorothy Alford in 1894, they built a new house, Hergest Croft, on a site within the Ridgebourne estate, and indulged their shared passion for gardening by laying out one of the great 20th century gardens around it. In 1912 they bought the Hergest Court estate to the south of their existing property, including Park Wood, just a short distance south of the existing garden. This detached portion of the property became the setting for an extensive planting of new introductions of rhodedendrons.
When W.H. Banks died in 1930 his son and heir, Richard Alford Banks (1902-97) was in India, working in the chemical industry. Ridgebourne was let and Hergest Croft passed to his widowed mother for life, and when Dick, as he was usually known, returned to England he went to work for ICI in Cheshire, and made a home there. His mother died in 1937 and Hergest Croft was requisitioned during the Second World War and let afterwards. In 1953, however, Dick returned to Herefordshire and began reclaiming the Hergest Croft gardens from Second World War neglect, and developing them in a new direction to cater for his interest in birch and maple species. The gardens at Hergest Croft had been open to the public before the war and after reopening in the 1950s have remained open in the spring, summer and autumn every year down to the present day. In 1988, Dick handed on responsibility for the gardens to his elder son, Lawrence Banks (b. 1938), who had a career as a merchant banker in London before retiring in 1998. He not only shared a career in banking with his forebears, but also their love of gardening, and his wife Elizabeth was a professional landscape architect until her retirement in 2006, and subsequently the first female President of the Royal Horticultural Society. They now live at Ridgebourne, while the gardens at Hergest Croft are in the care of their younger son, Edward Banks (b. 1967) and his wife Julia.
Ridgebourne, Kington, Herefordshire
At the heart of the house is a modest semi-timbered building of about 1660, which appears to have comprised service accommodation, hall and parlour, and bedrooms, with attics and cellar. The carpenters' assembly marks in the roof imply that there were two floors below it. The roof with a ridge purlin and two side purlins is still more or less intact. This building was extended in the early 18th century, when it belonged to the Vaughan family of Hergest Court.
|Ridgebourne, Kington: a lithograph of the house in 1846 by W.L. Banks. Image: Hereford City Library.|
At the beginning of the 19th century the property was acquired by Edmund Cheese, a solicitor and one of the partners in the Kington & Radnorshire Bank. He encased and remodelled the 17th century house in 1806-08, giving it a new front with the appearance of a fashionable villa. These works were, according to the local historian Richard Parry, carried out by John Millward of Hay-on-Wye, but the precociously Italianate design suggests that he may not have been the architect: Benjamin Wishlade and even John Nash have been suggested, although the latter seems unlikely. The remodelling gave the house a five bay front elevation, with a recessed central bay and bracketed pediments over the two bays to either side, and this elevation remains very much the same today. Inside, there is an early 19th century open-well staircase with stick balusters and a swan-neck rail, and rooms with marble chimneypieces, simple cornices, and six-panelled doors.
When Richard Banks inherited the property in 1858 he brought in Robert William Mylne (1816-90) to make some alterations, and two years later he carried out more substantial additions to the rear service wing to the designs of Richard William Drew (c.1834-1903). There is some early panelling in the rear wing, but in view of this history it has probably been re-set. The house stands in a small early 19th century landscaped park in the style of Repton, which was no doubt laid out for Edmund Cheese around 1806-08, at the same time as the house was altered; it was certainly in existence by the time of the first Ordnance Survey 1" map in 1833.
Descent: Vaughan family... sold to Edmund Cheese (d. 1812); to son, Edmund Watkins Cheese (d. 1838); sold after his death to his partner, James Davies (1777-1856) of Moor Court; to sister, Esther Crummer (1786-1858) for life and then to his partner's son, Richard William Banks (1819-91); to widow, Rosa Banks (d. 1923) for life and then to son, William Hartland Banks (1867-1930); to son, Richard Alford Banks (1902-97); to son, Lawrence Banks (b. 1938). The house was leased out to Boyd Merriman QC (later Lord Merriman) from 1923-53.
Hergest Croft, Kington, Herefordshire
An Arts & Crafts house built for William Hartland Banks following his marriage, on land forming part of the Ridgebourne estate. The first designs were made by Richard William Drew (c.1834-1903) at the end of his career in 1895, but were altered by his former chief assistant, Hampden Pratt (1851-1920) when the house was built in 1896-98.
|Hergest Croft, Kington: the garden front, 2006. Image: © Catherine Beale.|
The original building is of brick and stone, with a tile-hung upper floor in the 'Old English' manner that derives from the vernacular architecture of Surrey and Sussex. On the garden front there are tile-hung gables and a timber veranda. In 1906 Pratt returned and added the porch on the north front, a conservatory at the north-west corner, and a lower studio wing to the east.
|Hergest Croft: the studio wing added in 1906 by Hampden Pratt. Image: P.J. Marriott.|
The interior is designed in the same style as the exterior, with a timber arcade at the foot of the stairs and a fireplace with fine William De Morgan tiles of sailing ships. It is relaxed and undemanding architecture, and an excellent foil for the famous gardens which surround it, which were laid out by Banks and his wife Dorothy from 1896, and have been developed by successive generations of the Banks family. The layout is most formal around the house, though even here the planting is fairly lush, and it becomes more relaxed and naturalistic as one moves away from the house, until the more remote parts of the fifty acre site reflect the woodland garden principles of William Robinson. The gardens include a terraced lawn, a rose garden, two rockeries, a croquet lawn, a daisy border, a conifer avenue, an azalea garden, and a maple grove.
In 1912, Banks bought the Hergest estate to the south, and Park Wood, a short distance beyond the garden, became the setting for an extensive planting of newly-introduced rhodedendrons. The gardens fell into neglect during the Second World War, when the house was used as a residential hostel for evacuated secondary school girls. After the war it was let until in 1953 Dick Banks returned to the house and devoted his retirement to restoring and continuing the development of the gardens. Apart from the years during and after the war, the gardens have been open to the public since the 1920s, and each generation of the family has nurtured and developed them. Recent developments have been under the guiding hand of Mrs. Elizabeth Banks, a professional landscape architect who was President of the Royal Horticultural Society in 2010-13. The house and gardens have now been handed on to the next generation.
Banks family of Ridgebourne and Hergest Croft
|R.W. Banks (1819-91)|
(2) Rosa Marianna Banks (1869-93), baptised at Kington, 3 January 1870; died unmarried, October 1893.
|W.H. Banks (1867-1930)|
(1) Rosa Dorothea Banks (1896-1979), born 28 April 1896; educated at Cambridge; died unmarried, 15 January 1979; will proved 8 May 1979 (estate £27,098);
(3) Richard Alford Banks (1902-97) (q.v.);
(4) Mary Caroline Banks (1904-2005), born 15 December 1904; died unmarried aged 100, 8 November 2005; will proved 10 May 2006;
(5) Lawrence William Banks (1908-09), born Jan-Mar 1908; died in infancy, Jan-Mar 1909.
(1.2) Peter Bryan David Banks (b. 1942), born Jul-Sep 1942; married, 1977, Angela Mary S. Hawkes (1944-2002);
(1.3) Margaret Alford Banks (b. 1945), born Jul-Sep 1945; married, Jul-Sep 1969, Timothy J. Le Good.
(1) Richard Michael Banks (b. 1965), born December 1965; publisher; married, 1992, Chloe Berenice Josephine Macaskie (b. 1967), and had issue one son and one daughter;
J.B. Sinclair & Rev. R.W.D. Fenn (eds.), A Kington family: essays in honour of Richard Alford Banks, 1992; D. Whitehead, A survey of historic parks and gardens in Herefordshire, 2001, pp. 203-04, 322; M. Dawes & N. Selwyn, Women who made money, 2010, pp. 104-110; A. Brooks & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Herefordshire, 2nd edn., 2012, p. 406; T. Mowl & J. Bradney, Historic gardens of Herefordshire, 2012, pp. 222-35.
Location of archives
Banks family of Ridgebourne and Hergest Croft: family papers, 19th-20th cents. [Hergest Trust Archives, Kington]
Coat of arms
Sable, a cross voided argent, between in the first and fourth quarters a fleur-de-lis and in the second and third a pheon all of the second, and on an escutcheon of pretence the arms of Alford, namely, or, on a chevron indented azure, between three roses gules, barbed and seeded proper, an open book between two fleur-de-lis argent, all within a bordure of the third.
Can you help?
- I would be most grateful if anyone can provide photographs or portraits of people whose names appear in bold above, and who are not already illustrated, or additional genealogical and career details.
- As always, any additions or corrections to the account given above will be gratefully received and incorporated.
Revision and acknowledgements
This post was first published 31 January 2019.