The History of Bannister Family


The Bannisters were the first family known to live in the farmhouse called Park Hill in Barrowford. The earliest documented evidence of this was in 1461, but the remains of an earlier timber building on the site could date back to around 1420. By the time the Bannisters left Park Hill in 1752, the buildings were much as you see today.

The Bannister Family Name

There are three theories regarding the origin of the name:  Banastre.


One is this it comes from the Latin word “Balneator” which has led to speculation that it may be a title of office connected with the Ceremony of the Bath used to confer a knighthood.


The second is it the name comes from the old French words “Banaste”, “Banastre” and “Benate”, which derive from the mediaeval Latin “Banasta”, “Banastrum” and “Banaste”, meaning a basket or creel, which may be carried on the back or slung in pairs across a pack saddle.


The third theory is that the name Bannister or “Banastre” is a corrupted form of the Italian “Balastro”, which derives from the Latin “Balistarius”, meaning one who operates a balastra, a machine for hurling stones against a fortification.

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The Early Bannisters

The first Bannister, or Banastre, came to England from Normandy in 1066 with William the Conqueror. Robert Banastre fought at the Battle of Hastings and his name is recorded in the roll of Battle Abbey. The Conqueror rewarded his support with a grant of land near Prestatyn in North Wales. Here Robert built a castle where the Banastre a family lived from 1154 until 1167, as vassals of the Earl of Chester.


The family remained at Prestatyn until 1167. Anarchy during King Stephen’s reign weakened the power of the Crown in North Wales to such an extent that Owain Gwynedd was able to lead the Welsh in an uprising lasting from 1167 until 1189. The Welsh took the King’s castle of a Rhuddlan and then swept through North Wales, driving out the Norman overlords. The Banastre family, now with Robert’s grandson at its head, was among those with an out and Prestatyn Castle was destroyed. All that remains of the castle today is a green mound.

Expansion of land and the Welsh uprising.

The Banastre family then moved north into Lancashire and Cheshire. Warin vel Guarín Banastre, great-grandson of Robert, paid a 400 hundred mark fee to the King for land near Makerfield in Cheshire. In 1213, Thurstan Banastre, Warin‘s brother, paid a further 500 marks for an inquisition to determine whether the fee should pass to him as his brothers heir. Thurstan’s grandson, another Robert, was both Lord of Makerfield and Lord of Molynton in Cheshire, titles he acquired from Edward I. When the Welsh uprising was eventually repressed, Robert petitioned the King to be reinstated at Prestatyn, but his request was refused and the Banastres us were excluded from their ancestral home.


From their new bases in Lancashire and Cheshire, the younger sons of the family who would not inherit their fathers’ estates, began to spread into Staffordshire, Shropshire, Hampshire, Sussex and Kent.

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Image: media wales- trinity  mirror


Bannisters of The Bank and Banester of Darwen


The branch of the Bannister family that settled at Park Hill is descended from the Lancashire Banastres. In this county, two distinct branches developed. One branch moved to Darwen, near Blackburn, while the other acquired an estate at Bank Hall, near Preston, in 1240. From the 15th to the 17th centuries, these two distinct branches of the family were known as “Banesters of The Bank” and “Banester of Darwen”; the two groups may be distinguished by their heraldic coats of arms. The Banesters of the Bank bore “argent across patonce sable” and the Banestres of Darwen bore “two clossers joined in fess, argent, on a chief gules three fleurs de lys or”.


The coat of arms for the Bannister family of Park Hill was the same as that of the Bannisters of Bank Hall. Their motto, “Agere et Pati Fortiter” meaning “To Act and To Endure, with courage”, had been the family motto since the days at Prestatyn.

Bank Hall

The Banastre a family remained at Bank Hall as Lords of the Manor until 1682. This branch had several notable members. So Thomas K.G. was knighted by Edward III in 1362 when the English army was just 12 miles outside Paris. He fought in both the Crusades and the Hundred Years War and was elected Knight of the Garter in 1375. His garter slate still hangs over his stall in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where it was placed after he drowned in the Irish Sea. Following Sir Thomas’ death, the Duke of Lancaster paid for 1,000 masses to be sung for his soul.


Christopher Banastre of Bank Hall was Vice Chancellor of theCcounty Palatinate of Lancaster and Attorney General for 27 years. He was nominated for the order of the Knights of the Royal Oak, but that order was was not instituted due to the death of Charles II. The last Banastre of Bank Hall was Christopher, who became Sheriff of Lancashire in 1662. However he had no sons and Bank Hall passed to his daughter Anne, and her husband, Thomas Fleetwood. The current house at Bank Hall was built by the Bannisters of the Bank in 1608, undoubtedly on the site of an earlier building, but was extensively remodelled by Kendal-based architect, George Webster, in 19th century Jacobean style. Bank Hall (a Grade II* Listed Building) is now a ruin. An Action Group was formed under the auspices of the Heritage Trust for the North-West to save the building.

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The Bannister Family at Park Hill

In 1386, Richard, a younger son of the Banesters of Bank Hall, obtained the Manor of Altham, near Burnley.


In 1427, Richard’s own younger son, John, began his search for that vital prerequisite of wealth and status in the Middle Ages: land. John obtained the Manor of Swinden in what was then known as Marsden, now Nelson, from the Marsden family. Christopher Marsden, the previous owner, retained the right to use the land until his death, when this right would pass to John Bannister.


Christopher paid a peppercorn rent of a rose on St. John the Baptist’s Day, each year, to acknowledge that John was now the landowner and he the tenant. By the time of his death in 1457, John held land in Lower Lomeshaye, Great and Little Marsden, Ightenhill and Colne, totalling 200 acres.

Lawsuits and court


Following John’s death, his widow, Agnes Bannister, tried to sue her underage son, another John, in the Manor Court of Colne, on 8th March, 1457, for her dower right. This amounted to a life interest in 1/4 of her husband’s lands. A Thurston Bannister, possibly the younger John’s uncle acted on behalf of the heir and claimed that Agnes had gained a divorce from her husband on 4th June, 1455, at Holy Trinity Church, in York, through a manipulation of canon law. It was said that Agnes, wishing to divorce her husband, had stood as godmother to her own daughter, knowing that the godparent of a child could not, in canon law, be married to a parent of that child. It has not been possible to discover the verdict of the 1457 case, which suggests that it was allowed to drop. If Agnes was, as she claimed, still married to John at the time of his death, her dower was indeed worth a life estate in a quarter of his lands.


The first document had evidence of the Bannister family living at Park Hill dates to 1461. In that year, Richard Bannister, John’s second son, was granted a special dispensation by the Papal Nuncio, Dr Vincent Clement to marry June Walton of Marsden Hall. The dispensation was required because Richard had previously fathered several illegitimate children by Joan’s cousin, Jane Parker. It seems certain that the Bannisters took up residence at Park Hill at some point between 1427 and 1461, and likely that John Bannister constructed of timber framed house for his family on the site.

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Colne manor court

Increasingly prosperous, the Bannisters established a farm at Park Hill and began to extend their influence throughout the area. In 1461, Richard was acknowledged as the owner of the North Chapel known as the Bannister Chapel, in St Bartholomew’s Parish Church, in Colne. In 1475, he rented the vaccary of Over Barrowford from the King for £4 per annum. By 1492, Robert Bannister’s estate at Park Hill consisted of the manor house, 200 acres of meadow, 46 acres of pasture and 10 acres of woodland. The family also had 10 acres of land at Reedyford, which they rented from the King for 3 shillings and 4p annually. Richard’s son, Robert, took up the leases in 1475.Although the Bannisters of Park Hill descended from the gentry and was clearly quite wealthy in their own right, they were still tenants. However, the tenants of Pendle Forest received a boost in status in 1507 when Henry VII abolished the forests in the Honor. In their place, the former forests were rented out as copyhold and the existing tenants became copyholders. The copyhold lease gave the Bannisters secure tenure with fixed rents and rights over the common land on which they could pasture animals and from which they could cut peat, quarry stone and mine coal.


In return for these extra privileges, the Bannisters were subject to attending the Colne Manor Court where they acted as jurors, gave evidence in disputes and aided the bailiff in punishing offenders. As copyholders, the Bannisters what also subject to the general muster/levy in times of war and their grain could only be ground in the King’s Mills. However, no copyholder could legally claim the rank of gentlemen or above because they held their land by money and service, rather than by military knight-service.


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Despite these limitations, the copyhold lease meant increased wealth and influence for the Bannisters. In 1507, John Bannister was a juror at the Clitheroe Halmot Court, and again twice more in 1508. Henry Bannister was a jury in 1509, twice in 1515, once in 1516, twice in 1518, once in 1520 and finally twice again in 1521. Another John Bannister held the post in 1510 and 1511. The copyhold leases allowed tenants to concentrate on the improvement of the holdings and the accumulation of wealth over a long period.


As well as having several jurors in the family, members of the Bannister family held other public offices. On the 11th July 1514, John Bannister was elected Greave of Colne, alongside Lawrence Towneley and, in 1537, Greave of Ightenhill. However, at the same time as the Bannisters were acquiring more land and influence in the local area, the family was making its presence felt in other ways. In 1510, Henry Bannister (not, one hopes, the same Henry who was acting as a juror!) was fined 20 shillings for making affray against a certain George Whitquarm.


George was fined the same amount as Henry. A later Henry Bannister, who inherited Park Hill from Robert in 1535, was sued for keeping an unreasonable tenant called John Robinson, “who with his dogs drives away and harries his neighbours’ beasts and cattle” and who “dug turves in his neighbours’ ground”.


Whalley Abbey Court

At this point, the family history becomes a little hard to follow. Henry Bannister inherited Park Hill directly from Robert in 1535. On March 6th of that year, the original executors of Robert’s will, Christopher Mitchell and George Hartley, renounced their office at the Whalley Abbey Court and Richard Greenacres and George Houghton were appointed in their place. This document suggests that Henry, born in 1523, was Robert’s son, but there is other evidence which suggests that Robert had a son, Henry, who was born much earlier. This Henry is said to have sat at a special Chapter Court at Whalley Abbey on 13th June, 1516, to determine a matrimonial dispute. Clearly this Henry must have been born long before 1523. It is suggested that Henry Bannister who inherited Park Hill in 1535, did so directly from his grandfather, Robert. Robert’s own son, Henry, may have died before his father, leaving his son, also called Henry, as his grandfather‘s heir.

During this time as head of the family, Henry made further additions to the Bannister’s property. As well as the farm and house at Park Hill, he rented 21 acres of land in Whitefield, 10 acres in Reedyford and 1.5 acres and a dwelling at an unknown location. By 1559, he was also possessed of a house and 18 acres west of Padiham and a house and garth in another unknown location. By by 1564, he had acquired 10 acres in Colne. In that same year, Henry paid part of the subsidy for the Forest of Pendle, when his lands were valued at having an income of £3 per annum. At some point during the mid-16th century, Henry became began to refer to himself as “gentleman” and by the time of his death, in 1603, his claim to this title had been legitimised by his acquisition of a one sixth share in Foulridge manor which he held through knight-service.

Housing and extensions

In 1565, Henry sold two houses at Swinden to John Halstead but in general the period from between the mid 16th to the mid-17th century was one of expansion with the Bannisters at the height of their prosperity and power. It was also during this period that a stone extension was built onto the original timber hall Park Hill. This is the oldest surviving part of the house still visible today. At the time of construction, the new part of the house would have been the main parlour, with a small room at the rear subdivided by wooden partition.

Henry’s son, Robert, was a man of substance in the Forest of Pendle.  An Inquisition held after his death in 1616 states that Robert was “seized of one of capital messuage and appurtenances…  called Parkehill, and of three other messuages in Parkehill, and 120 acres of land, meadow and pasture, 1 corn mill and 1 fulling mill in Parkehill; of 4 messuages and 130 acres of land, meadow and pasture in Foubrigge, and the sixth part of the corn mill in Foubrigge called Foubrigge Milne…  and a six part of the profits of the (Manor of Foulridge)”. In 1601, Robert Bannister and his son Charles served as Church Wardens at St Bartholomew’s church, Colne.


The Bannisters wealth

In 1565, Henry sold two houses at Swinden to

National events and the religious upheaval of the 16th century influenced the lives of the Bannisters. The family were Protestants and, in 1585, Henry Bannister signed the “Declaration of the Loyal Protestant Association of Lancashire Gentlemen”, indicating his allegiance to the new faith and Elizabeth I. His religious convictions had not, however, prevented him from becoming bound to the Roman Catholic John Towneley in 1566. The result of this bond was the marriage of Henry‘s heir, Robert, to the Towneley’s illegitimate daughter. Some members of the Bannister family did remain committed Roman Catholics throughout the Reformation. In 1590, James Bannister was fined for his Catholicism and, in 1682, Rosamunda Bannister was still paying 8d in every pound as a poll-tax for her faith. In 1642, John Bannister fought for the Royalists during the Civil War and was lucky to escape being fined or having his land is seized following the victory of Cromwell and the Parliamentarians.


At the beginning of the 17th century, the Bannisters financial fortunes suffered severe several blows. In 1607, James the first attacked the security of copyhold tenure in the Honour of Clitheroe. To ensure security of tenure, the Bannisters and the other copyholders in the area were forced to pay a lump sum equal to 12 years’ rent. Eleven years later in 1618, James claimed that the fines owned by the copyholders were not fixed but arbitrary and solely dependent on the will of the landholder; that is to say, himself, as King. On top of these extra fines, Charles Bannister paid part of the land subsidies of 1612-1613 and 1626. In 1631, he paid a £10 fine for refusing in a knighthood, which was a common means of extracting money used by the early Stuart Kings. Charles was succeeded by his son and heir, John, in 1637. About this time, John “borrowed £200 of Henry Hargreaves, alias Hall or Soukee of Barrowford, a rich Clothier” at an interest rate of 8%. In 1652, Hargreaves pressed for the repayment of the loan, which was made in 1654 when John‘s will was proved.

Financial problems

Despite the setbacks it is clear that the Bannister family retained both their wealth and influence in the Forest of Pendle throughout the first half of the 17th century.


In 1650, John Bannister added a new cross wing to the extension. The two were linked together by the old external doorway. The cross wing was described in John’s 1654 inventory as a “closet and chamber over a milk house”. When John died in April, 1654, he left an inventory, which showed household goods worth £75, livestock valued at £102 and additional assets totalling £222. If we compare this figure with the value of inventory is that survive from the 17th century Forrest, we find that John was in the top 7% of wealthy families in Pendle. However, this was the high watermark of Bannister prosperity. From this date the family is wealth and influence declined until, in 1752, the Bannisters were forced to leave Park Hill.


These financial problems began with John‘s death. Johns Will encumbered his heir, Henry, with five annuities and lump-sum payments to his siblings which would continue until 1666. In 1660, Henry’s estates were valued as an income of £20 per annum and the poll-tax commissioners charged eight shillings in that year (2% of his total earnings). In the following year, Henry gave 10 shillings to the Royal Voluntary Gift (2.5% of his total earnings), but he is not referred to as a gentleman among the list of givers.



By 1681, it is clear that the family’s fortunes were in decline. The High Constable of Lancashire did not include the Bannisters in a list of those possessing a landed income of more than £4 per year.  Within just 20 years, Henry’s annual income had fallen by more than 80%. In 1682, Henry split Park Hill, consigning four rooms, a milkhouse, half the garden and half the orchard to his son and heir, John.


In 1701, John found himself with the same financial problems as his father and he leased Lower Park Hill to a man named Ashton.  Ashton stayed in the house for just one year, before it was leased to an individual named Gawkroger, who went bankrupt in 1708.  By 1706, John was referring to himself as a ‘yeoman’ in recognition of his family’s declining status and economic means. In 1706, John Swinglehurst again made a loan to the Bannister family, this time of £500. In return John leased Lower Parkhill to Swinglehurst for a thousand years at a peppercorn rent, effectively alienating the property.  The loan worked as a stopgap for just four years, but in 1710 John Bannister declared himself bankrupt.


However, the Bannister family did not leave Park Hill for a further 42 years and despite declining prosperity managed to make two more improvements to the house, extending it further, building the porch and enlarging the facade using the old stone. By the time the family finally departed in 1752, the house was virtually as it is today, with the exception of the Georgian extension by the Swinglehursts.


In 1752, John Bannister’s grandson, another John, sold the remaining portion of Park Hill and the estate to a mason called Yorker. The Bannister family finally left Park Hill after over 300 years in residence away from park hill.


John Bannister (1630-1679)

Another John Banister, who lived in London in the 17th century, was the director of King Charles II’s violin ensemble.  In 1663, Charles II and his wife, Catherine of Braganza, travelled to Bath in the hope that the healing waters of the hot springs there would alleviate her infertility.  However, the journey was in vain; the Queen remained barren but John Banister penned a charming string suite entitled “Music of the Bath”, inspired by their Majesties’ excursion.


In 1672, John, who had by this time been dismissed from his post of orchestral leader, organised the very first genuine public concerts. Until this date, the only place the public could hear music was in church or perhaps in the theatre, before the start of a play.  Most music was heard in the homes of the rich and aristocratic, or in the courts of royalty.  John gathered together a group of musicians in his house in Whitefriars and performed a programme daily, at four, and whoever wished to hear them could pay at the door and enjoy the performance.


Roger North, who wrote “Memoirs of Music” in 1728, remembered John Banister‘s concerts fondly:


“…He procured a large room in Whitefriars, near the Temple back gate, and made a large raised box for the musicians, whose modesty required curtaines. The room was rounded with seats and small tables, alehous fashion. One shilling was the price, and call for what you pleased; there was very good musick, for Banister found means procure the best hands in towne, and some voices to come and perform there, and there wanted no variety of humour, for Banister himself did wonders upon a flageolett to thro’ Base, and severall masters had the solos“.

Rev John Bannister (1650-1692)

The Rev John Bannister who was born in Gloucestershire was another distant relative, although no link has been traced to the Bannisters of Park Hill. He was a keen botanist and in 1674 he was sent by the Bishop of London as an Anglican minister to Virginia, where he fulfilled the dual role of minister and plant collector.  He discovered and catalogued over 200 species of plants. He also sent plant material to Chelsea Physic Gardens, but above all he sent new species of trees and shrubs to the Bishop of London for his garden at Fulham Palace. The first consignment reached Fulham in 1683. His name is commemorated by a genus of tropical American plants named Banisteria.


Sir Roger Bannister

Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes, is a descendent of the Park Hill branch of the Bannister family. After they left Park Hill in 1752, certain members of the family moved to Trawden Forest.  A descendant, Fred Bannister, wrote the ‘Annals of Trawden Forest’ (2nd edition 1992) and his research has been invaluable in compiling this Family History. Ralph Bannister, Fred’s youngest brother, married Alice Duckworth.  They had two children: a daughter called Joyce Margaret and son whom they named Roger Gilbert Bannister, who was to become Sir Roger.


Sir Roger Bannister was born in 1929, in Harrow, Middlesex. During the Second World War, the family moved to Bath to escape the London Blitz. In 1946, at just 17 years of age, Sir Roger took up a scholarship at Exeter College, Oxford, to study medicine and quickly became involved in the University Athletics Association.  Sir Roger decided against competing in the 1948 Olympics as he wished to concentrate on his medical studies and his training, but by the time of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics something of a media storm surrounded the young maverick runner.  It was the race timetable at Helsinki that defeated Sir Roger; every day a heat had to be run with no time to rest before the final, resulting in him finishing fourth in the 1500m race. The media were quick to blame the young runner’s unconventional approach to training and the fact that he had jettisoned Bert Thomas, his coach, early on in his running career.

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Relation to the Pendle Heritage Centre

Sir Roger practised as a neurologist until the age of 45, when, after a serious car accident, he turned to medical research. In 1964, Sir Roger was invited to become a member of the first Sports Council.  Its motto was ‘Sport for All’ and it is largely due to the work of the Sports Council and its members that there are now leisure centres, swimming pools, community football pitches and, of course, running tracks open and available for use by local communities all over the country.


Sir Roger has been very supportive of the work the Heritage Trust for the North West has accomplished at Park Hill and has visited the Heritage Centre on a number of occasions. He opened the Museum’s Bannister Room in 1983 and also had the honour to welcome HRH The Prince of Wales to Park Hill on 24th October 2003.

The four-minute mile 

Sir Roger emerged from the media storm determined to vindicate his running methods and resolve to break the four-minute mile:


“There is nothing which is sharp and artificial like running that four minute mile.  In a way, its very appeal was in its absurdity.  It is just chance that four laps of one minute each happened to add up to a four minute mile, and that it hadn’t been done before.“


The notion of running a mile in less than four minutes had assumed an almost mythical status. It was thought to be beyond the limits of human endeavour but Sir Roger recognised there was no real medical or scientific basis for this. The four-minute barrier was an arbitrary time limit just like any other, and as such it could be beaten.


“No one can say, “you must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that“. The human spirit is indomitable“.


On 6th May, 1954, aged 25, Sir Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes. He was then working full time on his medical studies.


The Modern Bannisters

This branch of the Bannister family’s motto is “Agere et pati fortiter” or “To do and suffer great things”.

Rennie Bannister founded a textile business known as Bannisters of Trawden, encompassing Hollin Hall Mill, Forest Shed and, company HQ, Black Carr Mill.  All these mills were concerned with weaving, but the business was vertically integrated, as there was also a spinning mill in Bury.  With an additional mill in Primet, the East Lancashire operation, by 20th Century, was weaving, dyeing and finishing, especially corduroy, gingham and shirtings.

Michael Bannister, a longstanding trustee of The Pendle Heritage Centre, and the grandson of Rennie, was, by 1950s, selling the family’s textiles to Marks and Spencer and British Home Stores.  Lord Sieff, then chairman of Marks and Spencer, found a buyer for Bannisters of Trawden, with Michael Bannister being retained as President and Chairman of the new business.  The funds from the sale of the family’s mills enabled Michael to buy the Coniston Cold Estate, comprising 1,400 acres near Gargrave, North Yorkshire, plus two hamlets.  Michael founded the well-known luxury hotel, spa, shooting grounds, falconry and 4x4 off road experience on the estate and this is now run by his son, Nick.

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Boundary Outlet.jfif

Meanwhile, Marks and Spencer found that it was generating a surplus of unsold garments and these were offered to Michael Bannister on a sale or return basis. With Lancashire’s textile industry in crisis in 1960s, Michael found that redundant mills were being sold cheaply.  He bought Boundary Mill on the border between Colne and Nelson and cleared out all the looms just before lorry after lorry load of unsold garments arrived from Marks and Spencer.

The concept was successful from the very beginning, with bus loads off day trippers coming to snap up bargains, not just from the North, but also from the Midlands and Scotland.  Michael’s son, Richard, took over this business and the Boundary Mill chain grew to six stores while the product line grew to include all the products typically found in a department store, with numerous well-known brands. In 2019, Richard’s son, Ben, took over the business and rebranded the group as Boundary Outlet.