Tristan Hughes follows in the adventurous footsteps of William John Bankes. From the deserts of Egypt to the elaborate interiors of Kingston Lacy, he explores the incredible achievements of this 19th century daredevil.
Bankes was the Georgian Indiana Jones - an adventurer, collector and spy, championed by his close friend Lord Byron for achieving ‘miracles of research and enterprise’. From his grand aristocratic home at Kingston Lacy, William John travelled across the Mediterranean and beyond - collecting art, recording ancient sites and establishing connections with famous figures everywhere he went, from Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, ‘the Strongman’, to the Duke of Wellington.
Today William John’s greatest legacy is Kingston Lacy, a magnificent country house deep in the Dorset countryside, classically inspired and remodelled on a Venetian Palace. All around the house, you can see the influence of William John and his adventures: the paintings he acquired whilst in Spain; the beautiful marble staircase that he commissioned to resemble that of the Palazzo Ruspoli in Rome; the towering Egyptian obelisk that he brought back from the temple at Philae.
And yet, amongst all of these achievements and adventures, there is a massive legacy of William John that is often overlooked: his crucial role in solving one of the world’s most intriguing puzzles - the deciphering of hieroglyphs. Egyptologist Dr Chris Naunton highlights the crucial, often overlooked role that William John played in decoding the writing of Ancient Egypt.
Tristan also investigates William John’s connections to Spain and Italy with National Trust curators Dr Elena Greer and Dr Kate Bethune. And discovers the tragic end to this adventurer’s story, when he was forced into exile because of who he loved. An extraordinary story, tinged with tragedy.