Monday 14 January 2019

(359) Banks of Highmoor House

Banks of Highmoor
In 1800, the Banks family had been weavers at Keswick (Cumbld.) for several generations, but the sons of William Banks (1780-1860) branched out into other industries. The eldest son, Joseph Banks (1807-60) became a successful pencil manufacturer at Keswick, and the firm he founded survived until 1894, when it was taken over by Hogarth & Hayes, whose successors (after many subsequent takeovers) are still in business today at Workington (Cumbld.). Joseph's younger brother, William Banks (1811-78) was initially intended for the family weaving business, but at his own request was sent to London where he obtained a position with a retail draper. In 1835 he returned to Cumbria as manager for the cotton and linen manufacturing and exporting business run by Joseph Hodge (d. 1846) and his sister Jane (d. 1841). Neither of the principals had any children, and on the death of Joseph Hodge he inherited not only the business but also Hodge's villa near Wigton called High Moor (or Highmoor) House. Once in control of the business, William refocused it on the export of clothing to Australia, where the Gold Rush had caused a rapid increase in demand. He opened a warehouse in Melbourne in 1852, and recruited his younger brother, Thomas Donald Banks (1823-54), who went out to Australia as the local manager, although he died soon afterwards. The firm prospered, and William marked his success by the addition of a tall belvedere tower to Highmoor. When he died in 1878, William was a wealthy man (although later reports that he was a millionaire were greatly exaggerated). He had educated his two sons for the law, and both of them were called to the bar. The elder, Henry Pearson Banks (1844-91), maintained a set of chambers in the Temple where he seems to have spent most of his time, although if he had any legal practice it had ceased well before his death. He seems to have had no involvement with his father's business, but he did hold a number of public appointments in Cumberland, which argues that he must have spent some time there. His younger brother, Edwin Hodge Banks (1847-1917) did join the family firm, of which he became senior partner after his father's death and until he retired in 1888. He then devoted himself to public life, and to farming and horse-breeding, in which he achieved considerable success. Unfortunately he also made some unwise investments and became an underwriting member of Lloyds: by 1907 he had accumulated losses of nearly £100,000 from these two sources, and he was made bankrupt the following year. The Highmoor estate was sold, and he was obliged to terminate his public appointments and retire to the south coast, where he lived in very modest circumstances until his death in 1917. Highmoor was sold again soon after his death and was divided into flats in the 1930s.

Highmoor House, Wigton, Cumberland

Highmoor Mansion: the house of 1810 in the foreground, with the tower and extensions of the 1870s and 1880s behind.
The house began as a five bay two storey stuccoed villa with a pediment over the central three bays, built from 1817 onwards for John Hodge and completed by his son, Joseph. This building still forms the east end of the house, but has lost its glazing bars and any period interiors it once possessed and is now painted a distressing Germolene pink. It was enlarged to the west in about 1870 for William Banks, who added a tall Italianate belvedere tower in stone, and enclosed the park with two miles of iron fencing. In 1885-87, his sons made the tower into a folly, raising its height to an excessive 136 feet, and installing a great bell called Big Joe and a full Belgian carillon, housed in an elaborate and frankly rather vulgar superstructure of 'Mixed Renaissance' pedigree.
Highmoor Mansion: the tower favoured by dramatic
lighting. Image: P. Stephenson. Some rights reserved.
They also extended the house further, adding irregular two-storeyed stuccoed ranges that wrap around the base of the tower. The architect is unknown, but may have been Charles Ferguson (who designed the Skinburness Hotel for the family in 1878) or the estate builder, James Henderson, who built the hotel and to whom 'was entrusted the important work of beautifying Highmoor House by the erection of the fine and unique tower' as his obituary put it. He was also responsible for building the two lodges (known as 'Alpha' and 'Omega') on Lowmoor Road to the north, which have applied half-timbering, tile-hanging, rustic bamboo supports for the porches and dragon finials. In 1909 the estate was sold, and 
the mansion was converted into flats in 1934-35 (renovated in 1972). From the 1930s the grounds have been developed for housing, which now crowds uncomfortably close to the house.

Descent: sold by Mrs. Campbell in 1817 to John Hodge; to son, Joseph Hodge (d. 1846); to William Banks (1811-78); to widow, Sarah Barwise Banks (1813-1901); to son, Edwin Hodge Banks (1847-1917); sold 1909 to Elizabeth Bell, whose trustees leased it, apparently as several properties, and sold 1920 to J. Coulthard of Wigton...sold to Ernest Thompson, property developer, who divided the house into fourteen flats in 1934-35.

Banks family of Highmoor

Banks, William (1780-1860). Fourth and youngest son of Joseph Banks of Keswick (Cumbld.) and his wife Mary, daughter of Abel Grave, baptised at Crosthwaite, 9 June 1780. Woollen manufacturer at Keswick; described as a gentleman at the time of his death. He married, 13 April 1800 at Crosthwaite, Sarah (1783-1856), daughter of John Pearson of Greenside Hall (Cumbld.) and had issue:
(1) Elizabeth Banks (1801-23), born 10 June 1800 and baptised at Crosthwaite, 1 January 1801; died in London, 5 June 1823 and was buried at Islington, 9 June 1823;
(2) Mary Banks (1802-60), baptised at Crosthwaite, 23 May 1802; married, 6 April 1830 at Crosthwaite, Adam Bird (1800-64), and had issue three sons and four daughters; died at Embleton (Cumbld), 23 June 1860;
(3) Dinah Banks (1804-76), baptised at Crosthwaite, 4 November 1804; married, 12 April 1835 at St Leonard, Shoreditch (Middx), John Dunglinson (1791-1860) and has issue two sons and three daughters; died in London, 12 December 1876; will proved 2 January 1877 (effects under £450);
(4) Joseph Banks (1807-60), born 20 June 1807; trained as a weaver but became a pencil manufacturer (Banks, son & Co.) at Keswick from 1833; married 13 June 1829 at Crosthwaite, Ann Raven (1811-71), and had issue two sons and ten daughters; died 2 June 1860 and was buried at Crosthwaite; administration of goods granted to his widow, 6 September 1860 (effects under £3,000);
(5) John Banks (1809-10), baptised 22 September 1809; died in infancy and was buried at Keswick, 18 February 1810;
(6) William Banks (1811-78) (q.v.);
(7) Rebecca Banks (1813-76), born 2 December 1813 and baptised at Crosthwaite, 14 January 1814; married, 2 August 1837 at Crosthwaite, Thomas Pridmore (1806-79) and had issue five sons and two daughters; died 26 December and was buried at Crosthwaite, 29 December 1876;
(8) Ann Banks (1816-76), born 24 June 1816; died unmarried and was buried at Crosthwaite, 27 January 1876;
(9) John Banks (1819-47), baptised at Crosthwaite, 3 January 1819; married, 9 April 1846 at Crosthwaite, Isabella Henderson (1814-88) and had issue one daughter; died at Wigton, 3 December 1847;
(10) Sarah Banks (1821-25), baptised at Crosthwaite, 11 November 1821; died young, 4 February and was buried at Crosthwaite, 6 February 1825;
(11) Thomas Donald Banks (1823-54), baptised at Crosthwaite, 14 December 1823; partner with his elder brother William in Banks Bros, Bell & Co., for whom he acted as representative in Australia; died unmarried at St Kilda, Melbourne (Australia), 30 January 1854 and was buried in Melbourne General Cemetery, where he is commemorated by a tombstone;
(12) Pearson Banks (1827-33), baptised at Crosthwaite, 9 December 1827; died young, 2 November 1833.
He lived at Keswick.
He died at Greta Cottage, Keswick, 13 January 1860; his will was proved 26 May 1860 (effects under £1,500). His wife was buried at Crosthwaite, 26 April 1856.

Banks, William (1811-78). Second surviving son of William Banks (d. 1860) of Keswick, and his wife Sarah, daughter of John Pearson of Greenside Hall (Cumbld.), born at Keswick, 16 January and baptised at Crosthwaite, 25 November 1811. He began his career in business in the late 1820s with Messrs. Flint, Ray & Co., retail drapers in London, and then moved to Wigton in 1835 to join the linen and cotton goods manufacturing and export business of Joseph Hodge and his sister Jane. After the death of Joseph Hodge in 1846 he took over the firm, and in 1852 he opened a warehouse in Melbourne (Australia), with his brother T.D. Banks as local representative. The firm became Banks Bros, Bell & Co., and became perhaps the largest business exporting clothing and later other goods to Australia. He was a JP and DL for Cumberland; High Sheriff of Cumberland, 1871; Chairman of the Wigton Water Works Company, the Wigton Local Board of Health, and the Wigton Highway Board. He was a Conservative in politics, stood unsuccessfully for parliament in Carlisle in 1873, and at the time of his death was the prospective parliamentary candidate for Berwick-on-Tweed. In his later years he spent the winters in Italy for his health, where ironically he contracted his fatal illness. He married, 16 November 1843, Sarah Barwise (1813-1901), daughter of William Dand of Monkhill (Cumbld.), and had issue:
(1) Henry Pearson Banks (1844-91), born at Monkhill (Cumbld), 5 March 1844; educated at Jesus College, Cambridge (matriculated 1864; BA 1871; MA 1874) and Inner Temple (admitted 1871; called to bar, 1874); barrister-at-law but did not practice; JP (from 1871) and DL for Cumberland; High Sheriff of Cumberland, 1886; a Conservative in politics, and with his younger brother jointly funded the building of Wigton Conservative Club; a freemason from 1884; died unmarried at Hastings (Sussex), 19 January 1891; administration of his goods was granted to his brother, 7 March 1891 (effects £17,463).
(2) Edwin Hodge Banks (1847-1917) (q.v.).
He inherited Highmoor in 1846 under the will of his friend and business associate, Joseph Hodge. He apparently bequeathed it to his widow for life.
He died of malaria in London, 1 May 1878; his will was proved at Carlisle, 21 May 1878 (effects in England under £140,000) and administration of his goods in Australia was granted 27 May 1880 at Melbourne (estate £33,025). His widow died 6 September 1901.

Edwin Hodge Banks (1847-1917)
Banks, Edwin Hodge (1847-1917). Younger son of William Banks (1811-78) of Highmoor and his wife Sarah Barwise Dand, born 7 April and baptised at Wigton, 28 July 1847. Educated at Jesus College, Cambridge (matriculated 1866; BA 1870; MA 1874) and Inner Temple (admitted 1868; called to bar, 1873). Barrister-at-law, but he did not practice law and instead joined the family firm (Banks Bros, Ball & Co.), from which he retired in 1888; he was thereafter an underwriter with Lloyds. His obituarist called him 'a man of few words but many deeds' and he led a full public life until his bankruptcy in 1908, when he had sustained debts of nearly £100,000 through losses at Lloyds and on other investments. He served as an officer in Westmorland & Cumberland Yeomanry Cavalry (Capt.) and Wigton Volunteer Corps (Ensign) and was JP and DL for Cumberland and High Sheriff of Cumberland, 1889. He was a Conservative in politics, and served as such as County Councillor for Wigton, 1889-1908; Chairman of Wigton Local Board, 1878-88 and Urban District Council, 1888-1908. He was a director of the Wigton Gas Company and Wigton Market House Company, a trustee of the Hodge Charity, a Governor of the Nelson School and Thomlinson School, and a manager of four local schools. He was a freemason from 1869 and was noted for his philanthropy in the Wigton area, including building and equipping the public baths, and refitting the interior of Wigton church. In private life, he had a particular interest in breeding thoroughbred horses for racing, and had some success in this area as 'Old Joe', which he had bred but sold, won the Grand National in 1886. He was unmarried and had no issue.
He inherited Highmoor on the death of his mother in 1901, but it was sold following his bankruptcy in 1908.
He died in Brighton, 20 August 1917 and was cremated at Norwood before his ashes were interred in the family mausoleum at Wigton; his will was proved 12 November 1917 (estate £396).


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1924, p. 74; M. Hyde & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Cumbria, 2010, pp. 686-87.

Location of archives

No significant accumulation is known to survive.

Coat of arms

Sable, a cross engrailed or, between, in the 1st and 4th quarters, a bear rampant or, muzzled gules, and in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, a fleur-de-lis or.

Notes about missing information and help wanted with this entry

  • I would be most grateful if anyone can provide photographs or portraits of people whose names appear in bold above. 
  • 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 14 January 2019.


  1. I believe this is the historical story of my mothers family Banks. She was the daughter of John Henry Banks JP. Mayor of Wigan 1940. Fire Chief etc. Also Joseph Banks Pencil Manufacturer (Banks & Co., Banks & Son)

  2. I am compiling a Banks family tree and the information here assists me greatly.


Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.