Research Trips & Excursions

Guided Tour of Fairfax House

On the morning of Saturday, 13th October a group of CECS postgraduate students met on the steps of Fairfax House for a guided tour of the house. The visit was organised as part of the CECS Postgraduate Forum to welcome the new students to York and to provide more context for one of the seminars of the MA module. A magnificent Georgian townhouse situated in the heart of York, Fairfax House belonged to the Hon. Miss Anne Fairfax (1724-93), who was given the house by her father Charles Gregory Fairfax, ninth Viscount of Emley (1700-72). Between 1762 and 1772 the Fairfaxes lived in the house during the lively York winter social season and the summer races.

Upon arrival we were welcomed by Roger Ward, Senior Guide at Fairfax House, who gave us a wonderful tour of the house and its collections. We learned about the craftsmanship of architect John Carr (1723-1807), who took on the task of rebuilding and redecorating the house in 1759, and we marvelled at the exquisite range of mid-eighteenth-century furniture and clocks belonging to the Noel Terry collection. Roger also pointed out to us many of the house’s surprising features, such as an ingenious fully automated roasting spit and, quietly tucked away in a corner beneath the famous Great Staircase, a splendid Georgian sedan chair.

Next to the rich collection of eighteenth-century furniture, artworks, and artefacts, Fairfax House is also renowned for its Rococo ceiling stuccowork by Swiss-Italian stuccoist Giuseppe Cortese. We could have spent hours admiring the exquisitely decorated ceilings while trying to decipher their many intriguing subliminal messages.

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The visit to Fairfax House provided us with a unique insight into Georgian York high society, and we look forward to returning there to further explore the house and its collections and uncover more of its secrets and hidden gems.

 

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