Sir David Attenborough launches Banks exhibition

Dr Neil Chambers, Dr Cheryle Berry, Sir David Attenborough and David Robinson at the Sir Joseph Banks exhibition launch
Dr Neil Chambers, Dr Cheryle Berry, Sir David Attenborough and David Robinson at the Sir Joseph Banks exhibition launch

A major exhibition celebrating one of the most celebrated residents in the history of Horncastle has been opened by broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

The exhibition entitled ‘Joseph Banks, A Great Endeavour’ is being staged at the Collection Museum in Lincoln.

Together with the exhibition, the opening has been hailed as one of the finest hours for the Horncastle-based Sir Joseph Banks Society.

Although born in London, Sir Joseph spent much of his childhood at the family owned Revesby Estate near Horncastle.

Regarded as one of England’s greatest explorers, naturalists and botanists, Sir Joseph is perhaps best known for accompanying Captain James Cook on board HMS Endeavour on the classic voyage to the Pacific Ocean in 1768.

The exhibition is filled with artefacts from that historic voyage including weapons, drawings, scientific instruments, portraits and clothing.

However, the centrepiece is a £2m Benjamin West portrait of Sir Joseph, purchased by Lincolnshire County Council in 1990.

Asked whether he considered himself a modern day Joseph Banks, Sir David said: “Certainly not.

“Banks was a multi-millionaire with the King’s ear, hugely influential. He was a fixer, I am not in that league.

“As the longest serving ever president of the Royal Society, he was involved in just about every development of the era.

“Unlike Darwin and many of the scientists of that age, he never published his works which may explain why even in Lincolnshire he is not better known.”

Sir David went on to describe Sir Joseph as “the great figure in British arts in the 18th century.”

He added: “He became a great celebrity after the voyage - and a very important figure in British Society.”

Sir David met members of the Sir Joseph Banks Society and Collection Museum staff, including Dr Neil Chambers, Executive Director of the Sir Joseph Banks Archive Project, who acted as curator of the exhibition.

Welcoming visitors to the exhibition, Society Chairman Cheryle Berry, MBE, stressed what a great day it was for Lincolnshire - and the Society.

Society President David Robinson, OBE, introduced Sir David, whose speech brought the exhibition to life.

He told a story about how Sir Joseph acquired a rare Bird Of Paradise from a native chief - by swapping it for one of his dogs,

Sir David recalled many things Sir Joseph is remembered for, including arranging for tea plants to be brought from China to India.

He established Kew Gardens and revolutionised wool production by the acquisition of the Merino breed. The colonisation of New South Wales earned Banks the title of “Father of Australia.”

He lived from 1743 to 1820 and was the son of William Banks, a wealthy Lincolnshire squire and member of the House of Commons.

He inherited his father’s estates in Lincolnshire - and considerable wealth in 1761.

Sir Joseph became a friend of George III and the pair shared an interest in agriculture and rural affairs.

From 1773, he acted as the unofficial director of the Royal Gardens at Kew, which became one of the foremost botanical gardens in the world.

He is credited with the introduction of Acacia, Eucalyptus, Mimosa and the Genus named after him, Banksia. Approximately 80 species of plant bear his name.

He was involved in most British voyages of discovery of his day. He was elected President of the Royal Society in 1778, a position he held for the remainder of his life, and High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1794.

The exhibition runs until May 11 and is open daily from 10am to 4pm. Entry is free. More information is available from 01522 782040 or