William John Bankes | National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak/NTPL/Angelo Hornak | 17161gh
A two-month project examining the life and exile of a man has gone on display at the stately home he inherited in 1834 but from which he later had to flee.
William John Bankes of Kingston Lacy, Dorset, was forced out of Britain because of his gay relationship with a soldier.
His stately home is now owned by the National Trust, who are mounting an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in Britain. The exhibition includes a facsimile copy of the 1533 “Act for the punishment of the vice of buggery” alongside the 1967 Act and the 2004 Civil Partnership Act.
There are also a collection of 51 ropes hanging in the entrance hall, representing men aged between 17 and 71 who were hanged for same-sex acts during the lifetime of the house’s owner. The last two ropes hang next to each other representing two labourers, John Smith and John Pratt, who were caught together and executed together.
Bankes would have suffered the same fate because it was the second time he had been caught with a man. His wealth allowed him to escape and live in France and later Italy, from where he continued to remotely transform the house into a Venetian Renaissance palazzo.
The Exile exhibition will run from from 18 September 2017, the day Bankes went in to exile, until 12 November 2017, with a rainbow flag flown from the property for the duration.