Described as “a Dorsetshire Man” in the announcement of his death in the Leamington Spa Courier of 7th May 1915, Edward Nugent Bankes was actually born on 3rd October 1875 in Wraysbury, Buckinghamshire, and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all born in London.
However, Edward’s great-grandfather, Henry Bankes, was MP for Corfe Castle for almost 50 years, and Edward’s grandfather, George, was also MP for the same district for some 13 years. The family also had a seaside home at Studland Manor, Purbeck, Dorset, which was built in 1825 by George Bankes on land adjoining the family’s Corfe Castle estate. It was inherited by Edward’s father, Henry Hyde Nugent Bankes, in 1860 on the death of his elder brother, Edmund George Bankes.
Edward was a 6x great-grandson of Mary, Lady Bankes (1598-1661), who defended Corfe Castle against Parliamentary troops for two years during the English Civil War 1643-5. The castle was demolished by order of Parliament in 1645 but the fortunes of the Bankes family were restored with the return of Charles II in 1660. Rather than restore the ruined Corfe Castle, the family seat for the next 400 years became a newly-built property at Kingston Lacy, Wimborne Minster, Dorset (which has been in the care of the National Trust since 1981). The Morning Chronicle, 4th February 1860, described the Bankes family as “of the highest distinction in Dorsetshire.”
The local connection with the Bankes family is that, in 1906, Edward Nugent Bankes married his first cousin once removed, Lettice Adelaide Digby (1882-1953), eldest daughter of Charles Wriothesley Digby (1859-1908), of Meriden Hall, Warwickshire. Charles’s mother, Adelaide, was a younger sister of Edward’s father, Henry Hyde Nugent Bankes.
Edward was the tenth child and fifth son born to barrister Henry Hyde Nugent Bankes and his wife, the Hon. Lalagé Letitia Caroline (youngest daughter of Richard Hussey, 1st Lord Vivian) who had married in 1857 in Dresden. Edward’s mother died, aged 40, on 4th October 1875, the day after his birth. Edward’s father remarried in 1879 but died suddenly in 1883, aged 54, leaving Edward orphaned at the age of eight. Research by Meriden’s local historian, Doreen Agutter, indicates that Edward was a boarder at Darlaston Hall, Meriden prior to attending Charterhouse School.
By the time of the 1891 census, 15-year-old Edward was recorded as a boarder at Charterhouse School, Godalming, Surrey. This is the last census on which Edward appears, as it’s believed he was in South Africa at the time of the 1901 and 1911 censuses.
On 16th April 1896, Edward (aged 20) was admitted into the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE), and was apparently working at the Arc Works, Chelmsford, according to IEE membership records on the Ancestry website. The entry for him notes that he was a student for one year at the City & Guilds Technical College, South Kensington, having passed the matriculation examination, and was undergoing a 3 years pupilage with Messrs Crompton & Co., having already been with them six months by the time of his election to the IEE.
Records on the Find My Past website (available free of charge from library computers) show that the age of 19 years and four months, Edward was admitted to the ranks of the Honourable Artillery Company on 11th February 1895. He was recorded as 5ft 10in tall, and his address was given as 12 The Grove, The Boltons, south-west London. He resigned from the Company in November 1897.
It’s possible that Edward then went to work in India, as it’s known that he served as a Private with Lumsden’s Horse during the Boer War. This unit of 250 single men, mainly tea planters and indigo planters, was formed in Calcutta by Lieutenant-Colonel Dugald Mctavish Lumsden after a call for volunteers in January 1900. The corps sailed for South Africa in February 1900 and served in the Anglo-Boer War as part of the Mounted Infantry Force. After the disbandment of Lumsden’s Horse, Edward was granted a temporary commission as a Second Lieutenant (London Gazette, 22nd February 1901) and served with the Imperial Yeomanry. He was mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette, 20th August 1901):
Lieutenant E. N. Bankes, Imperial Yeomany “For special good work on occasion of Boer attack on convoy to Ventersdorp, 23rd May 1901.”
The London Standard reported on 25th December 1901 that Lieutenant E. N. Bankes, from the Imperial Yeomanry, was to be Second Lieutenant, on probation, for service with a Provisional Cavalry regiment. He was promoted to Lieutenant exactly a year later.
After the end of hostilities, Edward remained with the Army, and continued to be stationed in South Africa, causing a change in his marriage plans:
Western Gazette 23 March 1906
MARRIAGE OF MR E. NUGENT BANKES AND MISS L. A. DIGBY
The wedding was solemnised at St George’s Church, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on February 19th, of Edward Nugent Bankes, lieutenant, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays), youngest son of the late Mr Henry Nugent Bankes, grandson of the Right Hon. George Bankes, of Kingston Lacy, to Lettice Adelaide, eldest daughter of Charles Wriothesley Digby, of Meriden Hall, Warwickshire, and grand-daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Charles Digby, of Studland Manor, Purbeck, and of Mr and Mrs Fetherstonhaugh-Frampton, of Moreton House, Dorset.
Mr Edward Bankes having just obtained an appointment in the Military Remount Department in Natal, he was unable to return to England, as he had hoped, for his marriage; therefore, Miss Digby went out to Pietermaritzburg, and the wedding took place from the house of the Hon. J. G. Maydon, Minister for Railways in Natal, who gave the bride away. The service, which was fully choral, was conducted by the Rev. Victor Fletcher, the bridegroom being attended by a brother officer, but there were no bridesmaids.
After the ceremony, a reception was held by the Hon. J. and Mrs Maydon, at which were present His Excellency the Governor of Natal, who proposed “The health of the Bride and Bridegroom,” and several other friends of Mr Edward Bankes, who has been stationed in South Africa for the last two years with his Regiment. The honeymoon was spent at Inchanga, but was very brief, as Mr Bankes was obliged to return to Mooi River to receive their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, who came to inspect the Remount Depot the same week. The bride took out many useful and valuable presents, which had been given to the happy pair from members of both families and many friends.
The couple went on to have three children: John Digby Hyde, born 16th November 1906 at Mooi River, Natal; Adelaide Margery Dora, born 21st February 1908, Pretoria; and Lettice Monica (known as Monica), born 12th April 1909, Langton Herring, Dorset. At the time of the 1911 census, the children were at Meriden Hall with their mother, their unmarried aunt, and nine servants. Presumably, the children’s father, Edward, was still serving in the Army overseas.
Hart’s Army List 1908 indicates that Edward received a commission as Second Lieutenant with the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) on 25th December 1901, rising to Lieutenant exactly a year later. He was gazetted Captain on 12th September 1908 (London Gazette, 23rd October 1908). He was Remount Officer in South Africa, 29th September 1905 to 12th March 1907, and Staff Officer there 13 March 1907. He retired on 4th December 1912 and joined the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the Dublin Fusiliers.
On his retirement from the Army, he took up the management of the Meriden Hall estate, his father-in-law having died in 1908 without male issue. In October 1914, Edward was appointed as a magistrate for Warwickshire, although he was recalled to the Army before qualifying for the Bench. He took an interest in local and county affairs, and was well-known in the districts hunted by the North Warwickshire and Atherstone hounds. He was a member of North Warwickshire Golf Club and also of the prestigious archery club, the Woodmen of Arden (attending the 128th Grand Wardmote in August 1913, along with Lord Guernsey, who also died in the First World War). In February 1914, he chaired a small public meeting at the schools, Meriden to establish a Cadet Company of the 1st Cadet Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment for Meriden and Packington (Coventry Standard, 13th February 1914).
On the outbreak of the First World War Captain Bankes was recalled to the Army, and joined the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers in France on 16th March 1915. He was killed by friendly fire, aged 39, near St. Julien, just over a month later, on 26th April 1915. He was buried close to a farm about 500 yards on the Ypres side of St Julien. His commanding officer wrote:
“He came safely through our big action of 25th April against the village of St Julien, some 3 miles north of Ypres. He was with me thoughout the day of the 25th, while we dug in on the ground gained on that day I left him in command of the battalion on the night of the 25th, as I was slightly wounded myself. He was instantaneously killed by a rifle bullet on April 26th during an attack made by another Brigade sent up to our assistance. He behaved with the greatest gallantry on 25 April, leading his men all the time.”
News of his death was received at Meriden Hall on 5th May 1915 and was widely reported in newspapers over the following few days. On Sunday, 13th August 1916, a memorial and intercessory service was held at Meriden parish church for those men killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. Captain Bankes was one of seven men from the parish who had died, and twelve others were listed as wounded, with one more a prisoner of war (Coventry Standard 18 August 1916).
Captain Edward Nugent Bankes is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial, and is also commemorated locally on the Meriden war memorial and on the Woodmen of Arden roll of honour. In 1920, his widow also commissioned in his memory a stained glass window for Meriden parish church from renowned firm, Camm of Smethwick, inscribed To the glory of God and in memory of Captain Edward Nugent Bankes late Queen’s Bays; Attached Dublin fusiliers who fell in action at St Julian April 26th 1915. The original Camm cartoon drawings for the Bankes memorial window are held at Sandwell Community Archives Service.
Mrs Bankes worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse at Berkswell Hall, and was the founding President of Meriden Women’s Institute. She was President from 1918-1933, and again 1937-39. She remained at Meriden Hall until 1939, when it was requisitioned by the War Office. She returned to the village in 1946 but left in 1947 to live in London. She died in 1953 and is buried in the Digby family grave in Meriden churchyard (information from Meriden WI: the first 80 years.)
If you have any further information about Edward Nugent Bankes, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934