BANKS, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1627-99), of The Friars, Aylesford, Kent and Arch Row, Lincoln's Inn Fields, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. 19 Aug. 1627, 1st s. of Caleb Banks of Maidstone, Kent by Martha, da. of Stephen Dann of Faversham, Kent. educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1644. m. 28 Nov. 1654, Elizabeth (d. 21 Oct. 1696), da. of Sir John Dethick of Tottenham, Mdx., ld. mayor of London 1656-7, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. cr. Bt. 25 July 1661; suc. fa 1669.
J.p. Kent 1657-Mar. 1662, July 1662-Feb. 1688, Oct. 1688-d., Mdx. 1680-c.86; commr. for assessment, Kent 1657, Jan. 1660, 1665-80, 1689-90, Mdx. and Westminster 1677-9, Mdx. 1690, militia, Kent 1659, Mar. 1660; asst. Rochester bridge 1659-61, 1679-d., warden 1680, 1687, 1694; commr. for sewers, E. Kent Sept. 1660, Denge marsh, Oct. 1660; dep. lt. Kent 1679-Feb. 1688, 1689-d.1
Freeman, E.I. Co. 1657-92, committee 1658-9, 1669-72, 1674-5, 1677-9, 1680-1, 1682-3, 1685-6, gov. 1672-4, 1683-4; member, Levant Co. Aug. 1660-?d.; asst. R. Africa Co. 1672-4, 1676-8, sub-gov. 1674-5; member, R. Fishery Co. 1677.
FRS 1668-d., council by 1672-c.80.
Banks’s grandfather was a prosperous woollen draper of London who married into a well-connected Kentish gentry family and himself was granted arms. His father, who was in trouble with the High Commission in 1636, was three times mayor of Maidstone and a member of the county committee during the Civil War, when his annual income was estimated at £800. Banks himself joined a syndicate which obtained an extremely profitable naval victualling contract in 1652, and served for Maidstone in all three Protectorate Parliaments. In 1657 he purchased the former Carmelite priory at Aylesford, between Maidstone and Rochester.2
At the Restoration Banks was created a baronet, apparently as a reward for handling an old debt of Charles II, a transaction which earned him not only the royal gratitude, but a handsome profit. He continued his trading activities, began a long and profitable career of lending money to the Government, and added substantially to his Kentish estate. It is not known whether Banks stood in 1660 or 1661. He was removed from the commission of the peace for four months in 1662, probably because of his unpopularity with the local gentry, and in 1668 he was defeated at Maidstone by Thomas Harlackenden. He did not stand again for ten years, when he became court candidate for Winchelsea. At the Duke of York’s command, John Strode II and his old friend Samuel Pepys lent him their official support, a dubious asset at this time. A group of local country gentlemen unsuccessfully petitioned the lord lieutenant, the Earl of Winchelsea, not to use his influence in Banks’s favour, ‘his person and principles being so obnoxious to the whole country’. The instigator was probably Sir Vere Fane, who acted as teller against Banks’s election. His ledgers indicate that he may have spent £4,500 on this election, but he was unseated on petition by Cresheld Draper, though not before he had been labelled ‘thrice vile’ by Shaftesbury, who nevertheless remained his friend.
In the first general election of 1679 Banks canvassed and spent money at Winchelsea and Maidstone as well as at Rochester, for which he was returned after a contest. He again had court backing, Pepys being particularly active on his behalf, and was labelled ‘base’ by Shaftesbury. In the first Exclusion Parliament he was named only to the committee of elections and privileges and to that for reform of the bankruptcy laws. He did not speak, but voted against the exclusion bill. He was re-elected in August, having ‘the better way of guinea-kissing’, and was moderately active in the second Exclusion Parliament. He was appointed to three committees, that to consider the bills prohibiting the import of Irish cattle and those to bring in a similar bill for Scottish cattle and a bill to prevent the increase of the poor. In the Oxford Parliament, to which he seems to have been returned unopposed, he was named only to the elections committee. He laid out almost £2,000 for these three elections. In James II’s Parliament Banks was an active Member, being named to ten committees, all in the first session. He was again on the committee for bankruptcy reform, and his was the first name on the committee for the bill to convey fresh water to Rochester and Chatham.
Banks continued to lend money to the Government, but he was opposed to James’s religious policy and took the lead in refusing bluntly to agree to the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act. He was not recommended as a court candidate in 1688, but was returned for Rochester at the abortive election in September, and again in 1689, unopposed. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, and was named to 17 committees. He helped to draw up the address for the summoning of convocation, and was appointed to the committee to consider the affairs of the East India Company in which he held £3,250 stock. He was also among those appointed to inquire into the coinage and to consider the bill restoring corporations. On 22 May Banks, with two Whigs, Sir Mathew Andrews and Thomas Papillon, was appointed to discover what stock in the East India and other companies James II ‘hath undisposed of’. In the second session he was named to the committees to inspect the expenses of the war, to consider proposals for advancing money on forfeited Irish estates and for the bill securing Irish Protestants. Shortly before the dissolution he was appointed to the committee for the bill to prevent suits against those who had helped to bring in King William.3
In the 1690 election Banks failed at Rochester, but managed to secure a place at Queenborough. He refused to sign the Association and voted consistently with the Tories, but his politics did not prevent him from continuing his financial dealings with the crown; between the Revolution and his death on 19 Oct. 1699 he lent the Government upwards of £360,000.
Banks was one of the richest businessmen in England; at his death he was estimated to be worth, in money and lands, about £ 180,000. His sons having predeceased him, his fortune went to his two daughters, one of whom brought the estate to the Hon. Heneage Finch I.
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Basil Duke Henning
This biography is based on D. C. Coleman, Sir John Banks.