Select Bannister Miscellany

Here are some Bannister stories and accounts over the years:

Early Bannisters

An ancient pedigree of this family, preserved in a petition on the rolls of Parliament, began with Robert Banastre who held Prestatyn, one of the hundreds of Flintshire, under Robert de Ruelent.  Robert, the son of Robert Banastre, withdrew with all his people into Lancashire where they were found holding extensive possessions under the Earls of Chester.

Bank Hall was for centuries the manorial residence of the Banastres or Banisters, lords of the manor of Bretherton.

Banastre's Rebellion

The Banstre rebellion of 1315 was a rising directed against Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and his favorite, Sir Robert Holland.  Sir Adam Banastre was the leader of the insurgents.  They all met at Wingates in Westhoughton and took an oath to live and die together.

Soon the party set forth for Wigan, gaining adherents on the way.  They took Clitheroe castle, laid seige to Liverpool castle extracting ransom, and later captured Preston.  But there the sheriff, acting on behalf of the Earl of Lancaster, arrived with 300 men and utterly defeated the insurgents.

Sir Adam Banastre and a companion, after hiding in the woods and moors for a week, were betrayed by the man in whose house they had taken refuge.  Another account states that there was a final struggle in a barn where Banastre made a stout resistance before being captured.  He was taken to Leyland Moor and executed.

The Banisters of Finchampstead

From about 1100, the manor of Finchampstead in Berkshire was held by Sir Alard Banastre and his descendants.   Cousins of this family lived in the sub-manor of Banisters which was supposedly given to them as a reward for betraying the Duke of Buckingham to Richard III in 1483.

Banister House, built during the reign of Charles II, has the inscription of J.B.H. 1683 over the porch.  These initials represent John and Hannah Banister.  John held office as the regarder of Windsor Forest in 1695.  The last Banister, also named John, died childless in 1821 and the estate was sold.

The Death of John Banister

In 1692 the naturalist John Banister travelled southwest to the Roanoke river to collect specimens.  With him was a woodsman Jacob Colson.  These two were undoubtedly part of a larger party of explorers, perhaps accompanying William Byrd inspecting his land on the lower Roanoke river at about this time.  Banister strayed from the group to collect plants along the river and Colson, thinking he was a wild animal, shot him dead.

John and Will Banister - from Banister Hollow in Missouri to Fort Worth in Texas

In 1867 John Banister - at the tender age of thirteen - and his brother Will decided to leave their home in Banister Hollow, Missouri and set out for Texas in search of their father. 

They had no map but seemed to have found their way by asking passing travellers about how and where to cross the rivers and how to avoid danger from Native Americans.  They journeyed nearly six hundred miles alone, armed with only a single rifle, a small amount of lead and powder, and a bag of Banister Hollow cornmeal.  Four months after leaving Banister Hollow, the brothers arrived in Fort Worth, Texas and were befriended there.

John Banister went on to be a Texas Ranger and later a sheriff in Santa Anna, Texas.  On his death in 1918 his wife Emma succeeded him as sheriff, the first woman sheriff in the state of Texas. 

George Bannister To and From Australia

George Bannister was one of three youths who were convicted  at the Old Bailey in London in 1784 for the theft of clothing (a petticoat, cloak, gown, and a pair of stockings) from a house in Millbank.

A small girl had seen one of the boys getting out of the window with the clothes under his arm.  The three boys were traced through their tracks in the snow.  Bannister said that he had gone to look for his mother's ass and had been running along the river bank to warm himself when he heard the cry of "stop thief."  He was found hiding behind some willows.  He said he had taken shelter there from the storm.

He was at first sentenced to Africa.  But then his sentence was changed and he was on the first fleet to Australia.  On his arrival there, he had a brief liaison with a fellow convict Ann Forbes which produced a daughter Sarah.  He served out his sentence on Norfolk Island.

He subsequently appeared as a freeman in 1794 in Port Jackson, NSW.  No later record has been traced.  As a sailor he would have had little difficulty in obtaining a working passage on a ship leaving the colony.

Ethne Bannister and the Coniston Hotel

The Bannisters had bought the 1,800 acre estate in Craven in the Yorkshire dales in 1969.  Their first decision was a heart-breaking one: the old hall, an early Victorian pile with 100 yards of frontage, had to be completely demolished.  It was ridden with dry rot and might have fallen down of its own accord.

But Ethne's husband Michael was used to making tough decisions.  His family had for generations been in the textile business, first in wool and then cotton, and had built up a major business in East Lancashire. However, by the late 1960's, the writing was on the wall for British textile manufacturing and the decision was made to move into the retail side of the business.

That business acumen was also put into play at Coniston Gold.  Although the old hall was demolished, all the wonderful old stone, laboriously transported by horse and cart from Halifax in the 1840's, was carefully stored.  They then built a new house overlooking the lake, much smaller but much more elegant.  Because the old stone was used, it is very difficult to tell that the house is just thirty years old.

Ethne's three sons grew up to have very different careers.  Nicholas became a banker and went to New York.  Richard took over the retail textile business in Colne.  And the youngest Tom, who went to the Royal Agricultural College, came home with an eye for change.  Tom today manages the hotel complex at Coniston.

Reader Feedback - Bannisters in Australia

A Lieutenant Bannister became famous in Western Australia for the exploring the route from Frederickstown (now Albany) to Perth.  I read elsewhere that a branch of the family left Lancashire for Ireland.  I can find very little substantiation for this.  But the Scottish Tartan Authority is quite unequivocal these Bannisters wear the county Carlow tartan.  

Robert Bannister (

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