Church tribute to Benjamin Banks

An impromptu string orchestra plays Banks instruments under the newly restored Doom Painting in St Thomas’s Church, Salisbury.

ST THOMAS’S, Salisbury’s city centre church, hosted a unique occasion when 17 stringed-instrument players gathered one Saturday morning earlier this month.

They were there by invitation of fellow musician Julie Mettyear because they all play instruments made by Benjamin Banks (1727-1795). Banks’s workshop was in Catherine Street in the city centre and he built up a national reputation for the quality of his instruments.

He also used to be a church warden at St Thomas’s, and he and his wife, Ann, are buried in the little south graveyard there. Their nine children were baptised in the church

The event was flagged as A Celebration of Salisbury’s Violin Maker, ‘The English Amati’ and it happened to be one of the first entertainments held in the church following the restoration of the famous Doom Painting which visitors flock from far and wide to see. Scaffolding to enable the painstaking work to be undertaken was only removed four days earlier.

The ensemble, who played violins, violas and cellos by Banks, chose to play music that had been listed in his advertisements of the time. An appreciative audience gave donations as they left for the church’s ongoing Quest 2020 repair and restoration appeal.

Benjamin Banks, famed stringed-instrument maker, and Ann, his wife, are buried in the churchyard at St Thomas’s.

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