WE have taken occasional looks at the fascinating Bankes collection, which is being archived by the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.

The archive, made up of the letters, paintings and writings of the Bankes family, is one of Dorset's largest and most significant collections.

Volunteer Roger Lane, of West Stafford, near Dorchester, has been helping with the archiving.

He wanted to share some timely extracts from the diary of Henry Bankes, who served as an MP for 51 years, first for Corfe Castle and then for Dorset.

Henry was writing about the Peterloo massacre - for which the bicentenary of this tragedy is next Friday, August 16. Two hundred years ago, on August 16, 1819, 15 people died and many more

were wounded at a protest meeting in favour of parliamentary reform in St Peter’s Fields, Manchester.

The peaceful protest was broken up by the Yeomanry Cavalry acting on the orders of the local magistrates.

Roger tells us: "Henry Bankes of Kingston Lacy was one old style Tory who was convinced that the government mishandled the situation in 1819. By this time he had been MP for the rotten borough of Corfe Castle for nearly 40 years. He certainly shared the views of the majority of the aristocracy, both Whigs and Tories, that the clamour for parliamentary reform was dangerous and must be resisted.

"Nevertheless, when ministers encouraged the Prince Regent to congratulate the magistrates on their handling of events in Manchester, Henry began to have doubts. His journals for this period are full of crossings out, revisions and insertions, showing that he struggled both to digest the facts and to interpret them."

It is easy enough to empathise with Henry Bankes, Roger says: "He was full of foreboding even before the news of Peterloo came through."

Thanks to Roger for this fascinating insight.