THE history of one of Dorset’s most famous families could be brought back to life thanks to support from a national grant.

The Dorset History Centre (DHC) has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its plans to allow members of the public to explore the lives of the Bankes family, who lived at Kingston Lacy.

The project aims to catalogue the archive of the family, former owners of the East Dorset country estate and Corfe Castle, which spans 700 years and contains a wealth of information relating to east Dorset and Purbeck.

Working with the National Trust and the Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne, the project will also include a range of activities to engage with audiences through exhibitions, volunteer engagement and schools learning.

The HLF is backing the proposal and has given DHC a first-round pass, including £23,500 to help the it develop its plans with its partners and then to apply for a full grant in 2015.

The archive pre-dates the Bankes’ purchase of Corfe Castle in 1635 and the project will catalogue the 800 boxes of historical information, conserving some of its fragile contents and digitising a range of important documentation.

As a result of the project, Dorset schools will have access to a range of historical information and, through digital technology, the archive will also be available to the general public. A heritage apprentice will also be recruited, offering a young person an insight into the management of heritage assets.

Councillor Colin Jamieson, of Dorset County Council, said: “The Bankes’ family archive is an internationally significant collection that will spark worldwide interest with historians and the wider public.

“As well as having a major impact on Dorset’s culture, it will also be an important learning resource and allows us to explore our rich heritage.”