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Howstrake
The Banks Family

 

The Banks family must be unique in the Island for the number of geographical features named after them, such as Banks Harbour, or Port Bankes, Banks Point and Banks Howe. This is hardly surprising as the Banks family occupied Howstrake from as least as early as 1602 until 1862. Throughout the years the name has been spelled variously as Bancks, Banckes, Baunkes, Bankes and Banks. The earliest form of spelling is probably Bancks.

The origin of the family is not entirely clear. Neil Mathieson in "Onchan. The Story of a Village", published in 1964, stated that the Banks were "..an English family reputed to have come to the Island with the Stanleys.."

The Manx Museum Library has a copy of a family tree which includes information on the Banks family and this states that a James Bancks, a younger son of the Bancks family of Winstanley, came to the Island in about 1580 to act for the Earl of Derby as his agent for woods and forests. Winstanley Hall, at Billinge and Winstanley about three miles south-west of Wigan, is a fine example of an Elizabethan stone-built mansion. It was built by the Winstanley family as a replacement for their mediaeval manor house. Construction began in 1548 and a datestone of 1584 probably indicates the year in which it was completed. In 1596 Winstanley Hall and estate were bought by a James Bancks, 1545-1617, a goldsmith and banker in both Wigan and London. Coal was mined on the estate and this activity brought great prosperity to the family.

The family tree might appear to support Mathieson's statement regarding the origin of the Banks of Howstrake. The document further states that James Bancks, the younger son of James Bancks the goldsmith of Winstanley, married the only daughter of Deemster John Lucas and in due course inherited his estate of Howstrake. The Manorial Roll of 1602 records this change of ownership and lists James Bancks as the holder of the tenement and the four quarterlands of the treen of Howstrake.

This genealogical table was deposited with the Library of the Manx Museum in 1965 and was compiled by a Taggart family of Douglas who were connected by marriage with the Banks and the Callow families both of whom had owned Howstrake. The last member of the Taggart family listed in this document was a George William Taggart who died in 1940 aged 76.

The family tree claims that "..The Bankes came from Normandy with William the Conqueror and settled at Winstanley in Lancashire..". It states that "..James Bankes, a younger child of the Bankes of Winstanley, or Billings [Billinge], in Lancashire came to the Isle of Man about 1580 with Henry, Earl of Derby as agent (Woods and Forests)..". The family tree goes on to provide a connection with Howstrake by stating that James Bancks married "..Miss Lucas, only daughter of Deemster John Lucas of Ballnahow or Howstrake. He inherited Howstrake which passed down to the Banks and Callows..".

The compiler of the Taggart family tree added, presumably as the source of these statements, "per Jno. Banks 1843". It is not immediately clear to whom this note refers, but the last of the Banks to occupy Howstrake was John Banks, Captain of Onchan Parish and owner of the estate in 1843. The "Goodwin Genealogical Scraps", which consist of four notebooks of information gathered together in the early part of the twentieth century, contain an almost word for word account, dated June 1843, of the Winstanley origins of the Howstrake Bancks and the acquisition of Howstrake from John Lucas. As the Goodwin notes appear to predate the Taggart tree, they are probably the source of this information. However, the Goodwin notes state that James Bancks purchased Howstrake from Deemster Lucas whereas Taggart's tree claims the estate was inherited through marriage.

Whatever the source of the early details of the Taggart family tree may have been, it tallies closely with some irrefutable facts. After a period during which the ownership of Howstrake was divided between John Clerke, Junior, together with Fynlo McCorren and the widow of William Skyllycorne and her son William, by 1577 the estate had come together again under one owner. The Manorial Roll for that year lists John Lucas, who is described as "Demster", as being in possession. A succession of Rolls up to and including that of 1601 confirm Deemster Lucas as the owner of Howstrake. The Manorial Roll for the following year of 1602 lists James Bancks as the owner of the estate.

There is no known record of a marriage between James Bancks and the daughter of Deemster Lucas. The Onchan Parish Registers survive only from 1627. However, it might seem improbable that a younger son would have the means to acquire a property as large as Howstrake by purchase. The fact that Deemster Lucas is listed as owner of Howstrake in 1601 and James Bancks is shown as owner in the following year might point to the Deemster's demise and the new owner, Bancks, inheriting through marriage to his daughter, as the Taggart family tree claims.

This origin for the Bankes family may be supported, in general terms, by an undated letter, possibly of around 1950 or earlier, written by Mrs. Joyce Bankes who lived at the Elizabethan mansion of Winstanley Hall. She wrote that "..my ancestor was a...James Bancks - born 1545 - he bought the manor of Winstanley in 1596 and it was his grandson and great grandson who were connected with the Isle of Man..". She went on - "I can account for all the children of our James Bancks except his youngest son and namesake and I am beginning to wonder if he migrated from Wigan to the Isle of Man".

Mrs Joyce Bankes mentioned in her letters a documented connection between the Bankes of Winstanley and the Island. This concerned "..an annuity granted by Letters Patent to Lord Derby - Thomas Cholmondeley of Vale Royal & William Bankes of Winstanley (dated 1675) of £100. per annum towards the maintenance of poor ministers in the Isle of Man..". The Rev. Harrison referred to this annuity in the Proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Volume 2, page 455 of 1924. He wrote of Ballure church that a school was kept there, circa 1661, and "..had been endowed with a small sum and the money placed in the hands of J. Cholmondley of Vale Royal, Cheshire..".

There is no known evidence that a James Bancks came to the Island from Winstanley in the service of the Earl of Derby. However, Mrs Joyce Bankes in her research into her family says that she "..can account for all the children of our James Bancks except his youngest son and namesake.." and she suspected that he might have migrated to the Isle of Man. Is it merely coincidence that a James Bancks went missing from Winstanley and in 1602 a James Bancks owned Howstrake? If James Bancks of Howstrake was not from Winstanley, then where did he originate? There are no Bancks recorded in the Manorial Rolls of 1511.

Although there may be an element of doubt as to the origin of James Bancks, there is no uncertainty about the entry in the Manorial Roll which confirms his ownership of Howstrake in 1602 and clearly he must have had an involvement with the estate prior to that. Research by Mrs. Ruth M. O'Keeffe of Brisbane, Australia and Mr Nigel Crowe of Douglas indicates that James married twice and had ten children. His eldest son Thomas inherited Howstrake. His son William was described as "a citizen and Clothworker of London" in 1648. It appears to have been his son James who was sentenced, in 1648, to have his ears cut off. Another son, Robert, appears to have settled in Braddan. His daughters married into families as far apart as Ramsey and Malew.

James died around 1623 and in that year the administration of his estate was dealt with by the Episcopal Court.

James' son, Thomas Bancks, was listed in 1627 as being in charge of the Watch for both the day and the night watches. An entry in the parish register for 1628 spells the name as Baunkes. The Manorial Roll of 1643 confirms that Thomas Bankes was the owner of Howstrake. He was a member of the Keys from 1637 to 1656. He married Isabel Moore of Baldromma, Lonan. Thomas died at Howstrake in 1669.

The heir to Thomas Bancks was James Banckes who was born in 1630 and was to become the Lieutenant of the Onchan Militia.

During the civil war in England, the Earl of Derby, Lord of Mann, fought on the side of the Royalists and was taken prisoner after the battle of Worcester. During his absence his Countess acted for him in the Island and there were fears that an attempt would be made by the Parliamentarians to take the Island. One of the Countess's chief officers was William Christian, or Illiam Dhone as he was popularly known, who held the positions of Receiver of the Revenues and Major General. In October 1651, without the knowledge of his Captain, the young Lieutenant mustered the Onchan Militia and marched them off to join Christian in a rising against the Derby family.

The rising was a complex affair and arose out of several factors one of which was the people's long standing grievances against the Earl of Derby in the matter of land tenure. Now there were fears that his Countess might surrender the Island to the Commonwealth forces to secure the Earl's release. Finally, some saw the possibility of obtaining a settlement of their claims if they assisted the invaders.

Neil Mathieson suggested in "Onchan - The Story of a Village", that the militia might well have assembled on that part of Banks Howe which lies adjacent to Harbour Road. In 1644, the Earl of Derby had set up a training camp on Banks Howe for the Militias of both Onchan and Lonan and so this would seem more than probable, especially in view of the proximity of the Bankes' family home at Howstrake farmhouse. Some 800 men were assembled at Ronaldsway under the command of Christian who was subsequently executed by firing squad at Hango Hill in 1663 for his part in the uprising. At Christian's trial the following evidence was given concerning Lieut. Bankes' part in the event:

"James Banckes of the How in the parish of K. Conchan, declared......that being in company with Wm. Xtian of Raynoldsway and others in Castletown they told him that the country was to rise, and that the said Wm. Xtian wished him (being then Lieutenant of the aforesaid parish) to repair home and send forth the crosses and raise the parish for that the fleet was coming, and accordingly he performed the same and brought his Company to Raynoldsway, being (as he acknowledgeth) without the consent of his Captayne."

The crosses sent forth to "..raise the parish.." were the traditional Fiery Crosses, the Crosh Vushtey or mustering cross, which was in the shape of a sword and partly charred by fire. Its purpose was to alert the people to a danger or to summon them.

In 1648 a James Banckes, described simply as "..of Duglass..", came before the courts charged with defaming John Greenehalgh, the Earl of Derby's Governor in the Island. Banckes had taken a loan of £20 from a Major Barrowes and had given IOUs together with silver plate as security. It seems that the Major intended leaving the Island, presumably retaining the silver and taking it with him, but would not return the IOUs which Banckes' had given. Banckes appealed to the Governor but gained no support from him. Eventually, Banckes petitioned the Earl of Derby with his tale of woe and complained that "..although security was offered...yett your Supplyant was a month in durance [prison] to his Great damage & Losse..". He went on to say that "..this was not so Grivous to your petitioners Brest as to hear those most reproachfull words out of the Governors mouth who called your petitioner a Cheating and a Conniving fellow..".

Banckes was convicted of defaming the Governor by charging him with oppression and, on 29th November, was sentenced to "..be pillored and his Eares Cutt of and to pay Ten pounds fine to the Lord..". Four prominent persons, including "..Thomas Banckes of KK Conchan.." gave bonds of £20 each that James Banckes would be present at Castletown on 18th December "..to fullfill and undergo the sentence of punishment..". In the meantime Banckes prepared a statement in which he acknowledged his guilt and desired that the Earl might "..mittigate the rigor of that sentence which otherwise will be a perpetuall Infamie unto me..". On the appointed day "..Banckes being brought to the pillorie did read...his acknowledgmt, under his own hand with an audible voice before the people whereupon....the Lord of the Isle gave order that his Corporall punishment should be remitted and this his Lordship granted at the desire of the Governor..".

So James Banckes kept his ears but, incredibly, in 1654 he committed a similar offence against Deemster Christian, the late Deemster Cannell and Receiver Christian and was again liable to a similar sentence. Whether he was ever prosecuted with this offence is not clear but he was censured and ordered to "..make his peace with the said Mr Deemster Christian and Mr Receiver Christian and make full satisfaction in the interim for the sd Accusation and Defamation..".

There can be little doubt that the "..Thomas Bancks of KK. Conchan.." who gave a bond of £20, and who at the time of the defamation cases was a member of the Keys, was the son of the original James Bancks who had come to Howstrake from Winstanley. Equally, we can be sure that it was not his son James, the Lieutenant of the Onchan Militia, who was involved in the court proceedings. Firstly, he was only 18 at the time and, secondly, he had been described in 1662 at the trial of William Christian as being "..of the How in the parish of K. Conchan..". It would seem highly probable that "..James Banckes of Duglass.." was a younger brother of Thomas Bancks of Howstrake and an uncle of Lieutenant Banckes.

Lieutenant James Banckes' son was another James, born in 1660, and in 1703 he was recorded in the Manorial Roll as owner of Howstrake. He was a member of the Keys from 1696 to 1726. A.W. Moore notes in "Manx Families", that as an M.H.K. in 1697 he was in trouble "..for not appearing in person with his fellow brethen at the delivering in of their verdict to the Staff...and..for contengiously replying that was the answer they gave in and that if they did not like it they might let it alone..", (or lump it, as we might say today!). He died in 1732.

Next in line was Robert Bancks who was born in 1714. He died in 1776 and Feltham's "Monumental Inscriptions" compiled in 1797 records a tombstone in Onchan churchyard to "Robert Bancks, of Howstrake, 2nd April 1776, aged 63" and also that of his wife "Isabel, alias Moore".

Robert's son James was born in 1738. There is a record of 1757 that "..Mr James Bancks of Howstrake, Conchan..", then aged 19, was fined £3 in connection with the coursing of a hare on the land of one of his father's tenants.

A letter of 1768 sent to the Duke of Atholl at Dunkeld in Scotland by John Quayle and Daniel Mylrea of Castletown, who were acting for the Duke, reported on an agreement by James Bancks to purchase the Onchan tithes, which were presumably owned by the Duke. They assured the Duke that the tithes had been sold for their full value but went on to comment, mysteriously, that "..the parish combined to make it a hard bargain for him, and that it will distress him much to pay the sum agreed upon..".

In 1786, the Coroner of Garff sheading, one Matthias Bancks, who was probably an uncle of James Bancks, called a Treasure Trove Inquiry into a horde of Hiberno-Norse and Anglo Saxon silver pennies unearthed in Lonan. James Bancks had purchased around 113 out of a total of about 244 of these coins which were claimed by the absentee Duke of Atholl, the Lord of Mann.

The Taggart family tree states that in about 1792, William Bankes, the last male of the Bankes of Winstanley in Lancashire, died and that James Bancks of Howstrake was urged to lay claim to the English estate but failed to do so. In the event, a William Hulme, husband of a female member of the family, obtained possession of the estate at Winstanley and changed his name to Banks.

At about this time the Banks family appear to have given up actively farming Howstrake as in 1808 the farm was leased for a 21 year period to the Honourable Thomas Bowes Lyon who, in 1809, assigned the lease to an Anthony Dunlop.

Robert Banks was the elder son of James Bancks, 1738-1826, and was baptised at Onchan parish church in January 1779. In 1802 he was an Ensign in the Royal Manx Fencibles, a territorial regiment which was disbanded in 1810. In 1803, at the age of 24, he married and the Lonan parish register recorded the marriage of "Robert Banks of Kirk Onchan and Elizabeth Quayle of this parish...22 November 1803". The Manx Advertiser noted on 10th December 1808 that Robert had been appointed a Member of the Keys. In that year he lived at Bibaloe before returning to Howstrake.

There were six children of Robert’s marriage. Isabella was born in 1804, James John in 1807, William Fitzsimmons in 1809, Eliza Fitzsimmons in 1811, another Isabella in 1812, and Helena Isabella in 1816. None of Robert's children survived beyond seven years of age. His male heir was barely five years old when he died as The Manx Advertiser of 18th April 1812 recorded - "Died at Glenroy, the seat of the Rev. Wm Fitzsimmons, James John Banks, son of Robert Banks Esq. Howstrake, Conchan". Robert Banks himself, the heir to Howstrake, died in 1818 at the age of 39 and the Onchan Parish register records his burial there on 4th July. A commemorative tablet to Robert and his six children is affixed high on the wall of Onchan parish church inside the chancel and to the right of the organ. An armorial crest above this tablet contains a crane, or stork, facing left, and this may be a link to the Bankes family of Winstanley who use a similar crest.

On Robert's death his brother John, who was born in 1782 and was James Bancks' second son, became heir to the estate. On the death of James Bancks in July 1826 at the age of 88, John inherited Howstrake.

As owner of Howstrake, John Banks was a man of considerable standing. John Drinkwater's large scale map of the Island produced in 1826, printed the names of some of the principal landowners alongside their estates. John, inheriting his estate in the very year the map was issued, is noted on it by the legend "Howstrake. Jno. Banks Esq.". By the time that John Banks inherited the estate, it was no longer actively farmed by the Banks family and had been leased to others.

By 1829 John Banks was Captain of the Parish and a Warden of Onchan parish church. The Manx Sun reported that a Vestry Meeting had been held in the Parish Church of Onchan on 15th December 1829 to discuss the future of the building. The meeting was "..unanimously of opinion, that it is in a most delapidated state, and, also infinitely too small for the accommodation of the parishioners..". It was also resolved "..to build a more commodious church.." on a part of the Vicar's glebe land. John Banks offered land from his own estate to replace the Vicar's glebe. The Sun recorded this offer as "Resolved - That the said church be built on part of the Glebe field situated near the Churchyard, an extent of land equal to the site to be given to the Glebe, from the Estate of Ballanahow, the property of John Banks Esq..".

Further evidence of his standing occurred on 17th December 1829 when a meeting was held in Douglas and a committee was appointed of which John Banks of Howstrake was a member "..with instructions to ascertain the probable cost of a steam packet..". £4,500 was immediately subscribed for this purpose and what was to become the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company was founded in the following year. Another association with the steam packet company was that Captain Robert Banks was one of the early directors of that company. Captain Banks was a cousin of John Banks and although he had residences in Douglas and Liverpool he also had strong ties with Onchan and his three sons are all listed in the baptismal records of St Peter's Church.

Howstrake was used for horse racing from 1837 until at least 1847 and on 2nd January 1840 John Banks was presented with an engraved and silver mounted riding crop by the Douglas Steeplechase Race Committee. This momento has survived to the present day.

As we have noted, none of the six children of Robert Banks of Howstrake survived their father and Robert himself died some 8 years before his own father, James. John Banks never married and when he died in June 1862 the estate of Howstrake, held by the Bancks for some 260 years, passed out of the family's hands.

Robert and John did, however, have a sister, Jane Banks, who in 1799 married George Callow, the Harbour Master at Douglas. They had a son, Sylvester Callow, who was born in 1816 and died, aged 49, in 1865. Sylvester Callow married Sarah Shallcross, of Runcorn. They had a daughter, Jane Callow, born in 1838 and presumably named after her grandmother, Jane Banks of Howstrake. They also had a son, Samuel Shallcross Callow.

Although John Banks died intestate, he did execute a Deed which provided for the disposition of his estates as effectively as a Will would have done. The Deed describes itself as a Conveyance in Trust and is dated 23rd June 1862. By this deed, "..Captain John Banks of Balnahowe in the Parish of Conchan Esquire.." appointed Robert Jacob Lewin of Ballherghy, [modern O.S. map Balliargey], and Edward Christian of Ballakilmartin, both in the Parish of Conchan, as his trustees. John Banks died five days later on 28th June 1862.

The appointments were to take effect "..from the day of my decease for ever in trust nevertheless for the following purposes..". These included payments by the trustees "..to my nephew Sylvester Callow of Douglas £200. a year for the term of his natural life and on his decease to pay his wife Sarah Callow (as long as she remain a widow) £100. a year..". There was also a provision of £100 per year to Samuel Shallcross Callow, the eldest son of Sylvester Callow.

On the death of the survivor of Sylvester Callow and his wife Sarah, (or if a widow she remarried), the estate was to pass to Samuel Shallcross Callow. Sarah died in October 1864 and Sylvester in December 1865 and the estate passed into the absolute ownership of the Callow family in the person of Samuel Shallcross Callow.

A reminder of the Banks family may be seen in the churchyard at Onchan. This is in the form of an imposing tomb to the North of the church steeple. The Manx Sun of 10th August 1838 records that - "In Kirk Onchan is the tomb of Capt. R. Banks. The design is in the Grecian style, with an open Urn on the top, constructed under the superintendence of Mr Webbe, architect. The sculpture was executed on the premises of Messrs Quiggin by Mr Swinnerton, a young man in their employ of considerable talent as a sculptor."

This monument made provision for four tablets, one on each side. One of these is "In Memory of Robert John eldest son of Robert and Elizabeth Bankes who died Dec 13th 1837 aged 6 years and George Daniel third son who died Jan 14th 1885 aged 49 years". Another tablet reads "In Memory of William Lightfoot Bankes, V.D., Late Colonel 8th L.A.V. second son of Robert and Elizabeth Bankes who died Nov. 23rd 1900 aged 68 years". A third tablet is uninscribed and the fourth is missing.

It would be reasonable to assume that Capt Banks would also have been buried here but his name does not appear on the monument. It may be that the missing tablet was to his memory.

It seems that Colonel Bankes of the Lancashire Artillery Volunteers, based in Liverpool, and a great grandson of James Bancks of Howstrake who died in 1826, was the last of the Banks family of Onchan to bear the name.

The placenames associated with the Banks family have all but vanished from the maps. The most important one, Banks Howe, has now been replaced on the smaller scale maps by the words "Golf Course". The name survives as a modern building development, appropriately opposite the site of the Banks family home which is now redeveloped as "Molly's Tavern".