BANKS, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1627-99), of The Friars, Aylesford, Kent and Arch Row, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Mdx.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
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. 1696), da. of Sir John Dethick of Tottenham, Mdx., ld. mayor of London 1655–6, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. (1 d.v.p.). cr. Bt. 25 July 1661; suc. fa. 1669.1
Freeman, Maidstone 1654, Rochester 1683; asst. Rochester bridge 1659–61, 1679–d., warden 1680, 1687, 1694.2
Freeman, E.I. Co. 1657–92, cttee. 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. African Co. 1672–4, 1676–8, sub.-gov. 1674–5; member, New England Co. 1673, R. Fishery Co. 1677.3
Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695; taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.4
By the time of the 1689 Revolution Banks was extremely wealthy, having made money from trade, government finance and investment in land. Although the last decade of his life saw him retreat from large-scale trading ventures and from heavy involvement in the land market, he continued to lend money to the government. Nor did the 1690s see a retreat from politics. He remained a Tory, keen to stay on good terms with the Treasury, which provided him with so many opportunities for profit. On matters other than financial, his family links with the Finches appear to have been most important. Thus, on the crucial issue of the right to the crown, Banks was firmly with those who regarded William and Mary as King and Queen de facto but not de jure.
At the 1690 election Banks was unable to retain his seat at Rochester, being forced to seek refuge at Queenborough. On a list of 1690 the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed him as a Court supporter. The opening session saw Banks appointed to a single drafting committee. One of his prime concerns during the next session was to further his son Caleb’s* election petition for Rye, and to this end he called upon friends such as Sir Joseph Williamson*, to whom he wrote on 3 Nov. 1690 soliciting his attendance at the committee of elections. In December Carmarthen listed Banks as a supporter in case of an attack upon him in the Commons. However, in April 1691 Robert Harley* counted Banks as a Country supporter. He acted as a teller on 18 Feb. 1692 in favour of giving a second reading to the Lords’ bill for the relief of the distressed orphans of the city of London. In February 1693 his younger daughter, Mary, married John Savile of Methley, with a portion of £18,000, which emphasized her father’s material success. An anonymous list of 1693 placed Banks as an opponent of the East India Company. The reasons for his appearance on this list are unknown, but in 1692 he had divested himself of his remaining shares (he had retained £3,250 worth of stock in April 1689), and Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) was also hostile to the company. Furthermore, from 1695 Banks was buying shares (often in other people’s names) and lending money to the company. In the 1692–3 session he was named to a single drafting committee. His name also appears on a list of ‘friends’ of Henry Guy* between December 1694 and March 1695, at a time when Guy was under pressure in the Commons.5
At the 1695 general election Banks left Queenborough to his son, Caleb, coming in for Maidstone instead, where he owned some houses, and which lay only three miles from his estate at Aylesford. He was forecast as likely to oppose the Court in a division on 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade. He refused to sign the Association in February, in common with his Finch relatives, and in March voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In the following session on 25 Nov. 1696, he voted against the bill to attaint Sir John Fenwick†. Despite his Tory politics, in May 1697 his name appeared on a list of subscribers to the contract for lending money to circulate Exchequer bills. September 1697 offered two more examples of Banks’s influence. On the 9th he obtained a proclamation with a reward for the discovery of those who had robbed his park in Kent. Later, on the 28th, Charles Montagu* wrote to William Blathwayt* of his hope that a substantial contribution towards the funds needed to pay off foreign troops would be forthcoming from Banks and Sir Joseph Herne*, who ‘are to bring me a proposition’. The 1697–8 session witnessed Banks taking an interest in the parliamentary attack on Charles Duncombe* for falsely endorsing Exchequer bills. Thus, on 23 Feb. 1698, Banks recounted the proceedings in the Commons the previous day when the House had defeated a motion that ‘receiving Exchequer bills . . . upon bills of exchange drawn payable in milled money and gold was contrary to law and a loss to the public’, on the grounds that the practice ‘was thought to be well done because it might encourage the passing of ’chequer bills’. On 3 Apr. Banks wrote to his son-in-law Hon. Heneage Finch I* that he was not well enough to visit, although this did not prevent him from commenting that ‘the ways and means to raise money we find very difficult and have about four millions yet to raise’, nor from discussing Duncombe’s incarceration in the Tower.6
Banks was defeated at Maidstone in the general election of 1698, attributing this setback to the over-confidence of his friends. He also decided against the ‘fatigue’ of a petition. Having written as early as April 1697 that he found ‘my age growing sensibly on me’, Banks seemed almost relieved to have lost. However, he maintained an interest in politics, writing to Finch on 18 Nov. 1698 that ‘Mr Grenville [Hon. John Granville*] will endeavour to be Speaker’. Banks may well have backed Granville, for on a list of September 1698, comparing the old and new Parliaments, he was classed as a Country supporter. By 9 Aug. 1699 he was clearly ailing, as he described the symptoms of his illness to his daughter: a ‘sharpness of urine’ and a ‘weakness . . . in the parts about the fundamentals and sometimes a short, sharp pain there’. He died on 19 Oct. 1699, leaving net assets of approximately £170,000. The bulk of his estate, including Aylesford, passed through his eldest daughter, to the Finches, earls of Aylesford, although the Saviles obtained his London house.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. D. C. Coleman, Sir John Banks, 4, 46, 120, 187–8.
- 2. Centre Kentish Stud. Md/RF2/1, list of freemen 1598–1721; info. from Medway Area Archs.; info. from Mr P. F. Cooper, Bridge Clerk, Rochester Bridge Trust.
- 3. Info. from Prof. H. Horwitz; Coleman, 25; K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 378; W. Kellaway, New England Co. 290; Sel. Charters, 198.
- 4. Add. 10120, f. 232; CJ, xii. 508.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 156; Add. 22185, f. 12; Coleman, 92, 134, 161–2, 185.
- 6. Univ. of London Lib. ms 65, item 3, list of subscribers, 1697; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 280; CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 359, 361; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 356; Add. 34355, f. 55; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Finch–Halifax pprs. Banks to Heneage Finch I, 23 Feb. 1697[-8], 3 Apr. 1698.
- 7. Finch–Halifax pprs. same to same, 26 July, 18 Nov. 1698; Coleman, 188–91.