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Famous & Influential
Overton Hall, home of Joseph BanksSir Joseph Banks was born into a wealthy Lincolnshire landowning society whose roots were firmly embedded in Yorkshire and Derbyshire. He developed a passionate interest in natural history during his Eton schooldays, which culminated in his becoming one of the greatest figures in the scientific world of Georgian England.

Perhaps he is best known for his distinguished role on the Endeavour voyage with Captain James Cook (1728-1779) and especially for the wide ranging botanical discoveries made.

In 1766 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and twelve years later he became its President, an office he held until his death. He was, as its longest serving member, at the centre of scientific progress in Britain and Western Europe. From his house at 32 Soho Square in London, Banks was involved in many other things including the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the foundation of the Ordnance Survey, the breadfruit voyages of William Bligh (1754-1815), the introduction and improvement of the Merino sheep and the African explorations of Mungo Park (1771-1806).

Although based in London for much of the year, where his house was at the hub of the scientific world, he made the journey north each year with his wife and sister, to stay at Overton Hall near Ashover, for several weeks in late August. Here he attended to the affairs of the 2500 acre estate, before moving on to Revesby Abbey, the estate in Lincolnshire which was one of the major sources of his considerable income.

Banks was no stranger to Overton. His first visit in 1762 was followed by others in succeeding years during which he explored the area, with its lead mines flourishing under the care of his uncle Robert Banks Hodgkinson (1722-1792). Banks finally inherited the estate following the death of his uncle in 1792.


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