Who are the Bannisters? The Dales business family who own Coniston Hotel

Nick Bannister, second right, with his parents Michael and Ethne on the Coniston estate
Nick Bannister, second right, with his parents Michael and Ethne on the Coniston estate
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The death of a guest of the Coniston Hotel in the car park is not the only tragedy to hit its owners, the Bannister family.

66-year-old Judith Wadsworth, from Baildon, was attending her daughter's wedding party at the hotel on Friday when she was struck by a Range Rover in the grounds and killed.

Hotel director Nick Bannister, 60, has been arrested and released pending further investigation.

Tributes paid to Conistol Hotel collision victim Judith Wadsworth
Nick is the eldest of two surviving children of the hotel's owners, Michael and Ethne Bannister, who bought the neglected Coniston Hall estate in 1969.

The family are one of the most respected in the Craven area, being involved in business, civic life and country pursuits locally. Yet the death of Mrs Wadsworth is the latest in a line of tragedies to hit them.

Who are the Bannisters?

Michael Bannister was born in 1933 to a Lancashire mill-owning family. A second cousin of the athlete Roger Bannister - who set a record for the four-minute mile - Michael set up the Boundary Mill retail empire from Colne when he realised the textile trade had little future. In 1956, he married Ethne Garnett, a wool manufacturer's daughter from Gargrave, and in 1969 they bought the dilapidated Coniston Hall, just off the A65 near Skipton.

The Bannisters had four children - Louise, Nicholas, Richard and Thomas.

The curse of Coniston Hall

Coniston Hall was to prove a major challenge. The Victorian house was built in 1851 for silk mill owners the Garforths, who were backers of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. The house became associated with bad luck and tragedy when James Garforth died after a fall from a staircase while the house was still being built. His daughter inherited and it passed through her marriage to the Tottie family, who later ran a school - but of the eight Tottie children who grew up in the house in the late 19th and early 20th century, none went on to have children themselves.

In 1969, when the Bannisters bought the hall, the last Tottie son had given the entire estate over to a wild bird reserve and was living in the kitchen.

Michael and Ethne were forced to demolish the old hall and rebuild it using some of the original stone. They couple are keen riders and added new stables - the family, including their sons, have a long association with the Pendle Forest and Craven Hunt.

The realisation that fungal rot had made the house dangerous came when Michael and Ethne were entertaining her uncle, the Conservative politician Iain Macleod, when a heavy sliding door fell off its runners and landed on her, smashing her pelvis.

The family spent considerable time developing the estate while living at Coniston Cold. They opened a trout fishery, smokehouse, farm shop, tearooms, shoot, quad biking course, Land Rover driving experience, conference centre, spa and restaurant. The hotel has become a popular wedding and events venue.

Public life

The Bannisters have a wide range of interests. Michael was president of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and joint master of the local hunt. Ethne has been a governor of Skipton Girls' High School and regularly gives talks on local history. She is a churchwarden at St Peter's, Coniston Cold, and has been described as 'Craven through and through'.

Tom, who became manager of the hotel when it opened in 1998, was also a hunt master and associated with a Sue Ryder hospice in Oxenhope.


The Bannisters' daughter Louise, their eldest child, died young from cancer after having four children.

In 2013, Tom Bannister was leaving the Coniston Hotel after a function when he accepted a lift from family friend Debbie Barker, 43. Barker crashed her Range Rover Vogue into a wall while over the drink drive limit, and Tom was thrown from the car. Debbie fled the scene without dialling 999 and later called Michael Bannister. He arrived to find Tom lifeless. Barker was sentenced to three years in jail.

Jail for woman who drove Range Rover which crashed killing Tom Bannister
Tom Bannister left a daughter, Louise, who was 11 when he died. His funeral took place at the family's local church, St Peter's.

Nick Bannister, who has three sons including jump jockey Harry, had a career in finance and lived in New York before returning to Coniston to take over the directorship of the hotel. His surviving brother Richard is involved with the Boundary Mill business.

Nick owns racehorses and was made chairman of Haydock Park Racecourse last year.