History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Fairfax House is a delightful Georgian townhouse, built in the 1740s, and acquired in 1759 by Viscount Fairfax as a gift for his daughter Anne. The house was only in the Fairfax family for eleven years, before passing to a variety of private and business owners until it was acquired by the York Civic Trust.
The Trust has restored the house to the original rococo style it enjoyed during the Fairfax tenure and included fine furniture from the collection of Noel Terry.
The most striking features of Fairfax House are the extraordinary stucco ceilings by Benjamin Cortese. These ceilings depict religious allegories and likenesses of literary giants.
The furniture is superb, though only one four-poster bed is original to the house; a variety of Chippendale chairs and porcelain is complemented by a collection of watches, clocks, and barometers.
The house features a wide variety of paintings ranging from the 16th to the 19th century and regular special exhibits on the decorative arts.
The Dining Room is notable for the wonderful stuccoed ceiling above the dining table. The ceiling was recently restored after years of water damage; a task that took over 1,000 hours to complete. The dining table setting changes frequently, representing as closely as possible actual meals known to have taken place here.
Above the mantle is a portrait by an unknown artist of Admiral Robert Fairfax (1665-1725) who famously captured Gibraltar for Britain in 1704.
The centrepiece of this cosy room is the wonderful portable writing desk which occupies pride of place on the large table. The large cases at either extremity of the room contain period books.
The writing desk sits before the fireplace - note the Greek style ornamentation on the underside of the mantle. A quill pen is upon the writing surface, ready for use.
The Red Saloon
This first-floor room was used for dancing and entertaining. On April 15th 1763 Viscount Fairfax entertained 200 people here as part of a joint celebration of his birthday and the completion of the house. A painting of Lord Tylney and his family dated 1740 is above the fireplace mantel.
Viscount Fairfax's Bedroom
This genteel room served as the ladies and gents cloakrooms when Fairfax House was in use as a cinema. The fireplace is not original to the house; it was brought here from Methley Hall. Note the secretaire (writing table), which dates to 1760. It is made of mahogany and, unusually, is composed of three separate sections. The top two latticed levels lift off individually, perhaps to make it easier to move from place to place. The cross at the head of the bed indicates the Fairfax family's strong Catholic background.
Ann Fairfax's Bedroom
There are two family bedrooms open to the public; the master bedroom (Lord Fairfax's Bedroom), and this smaller room, called Ann's Bedroom, which is furnished as it might have been during the life of Anne Fairfax
There are some lovely furnishings in the chamber, including a delicate secretaire rather wedged into a space between the bed and window. The chamber gives a sense of space and airiness, a result, perhaps, of the light-coloured bed-hangings and complimentary floral wallpaper.
The Drawing Room
The Drawing Room is a lovely room situated directly beside the Red Saloon, providing a more intimate room for private entertaining or simply relaxing. The room is furnished with some superb pieces of period furniture and finished with green damask wallpaper featuring an artichoke pattern that was popular in the Georgian period.
Fairfax House is on Castlegate, close to Jorvik and to Clifford's Tower and is very well-signposted for pedestrians around the city centre. There is an extremely large parking area off Tower Street, a one-minute walk away.
About Fairfax House
Address: Castlegate, York, Yorkshire, England, YO1 9RN
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: in the city centre, close to other attractions such as the York Minster and the York Caste Museum
Website: Fairfax House
Historic Houses Association
OS: SE604 517
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Jorvik Viking Centre - 0 miles (Museum)
York St Mary's - 0 miles (Historic Church)
Merchant Adventurers Hall - 0.1 miles (Historic Building)
York Army Museum - 0.1 miles (Museum)
Lady Peckett's Yard - 0.1 miles (Historic Building)
York, All Saints Pavement Church - 0.1 miles (Historic Church)
Cliffords Tower - 0.1 miles (Castle)
The Shambles - 0.1 miles (Historic Building)
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