This small great Georgian masterpiece is another great visit you may do at York. With a rich history behind it's another survivor of XXth century turbulences. Adquired and restored by York Civic Trust in the eighties, it suffered a long and awful decay for decades. Only the history of rescue and restoration of the building is a fascinating one and it's incredible having a glimpse of how it came from an abandoned rickety cinema and dance hall to it's best XVIIIth century shape in such a way that, in fact, it's considered nowadays in an unanimous way as a perfect example of a house from that period.
Winter home of Viscout Fairfax and a dowry for his daughter, this finest town house was designed by distinguised architect John Carr and it's at the very heart of the city. Along with its exquisite external and inner shape, full of valuable and exquisite details in ornaments, stucco and iron work it is also proud to show remarkable Noel G. Terry's collection of English furniture and clocks. In fact, you cannot imagine a better environment for this display excepting Fairfax house: both link perfectly.
If you want to take real profit from your visit I encourage you to get a guide at the gift-shop before entering for this house is full of interesting and unique historic and decorative details you may not miss. Anyway, here you find volunteers fron the Trust everywhere and they're willing to tell you everything about the place. In fact, while my visit I was lucky enough to chat to a most attentive and cultivated old man who knew everything about the house and its rare and valuable furnitures. A history and architecture class inside a genuine York's Georgian house. Simply perfect!
Only a Con: No photos inside.
Fairfax House was one of my absolute Must Dos in York, as I love the Georgian period and wanted to see this Georgian townhouse and its interior. The advertisement flyer calls the house the "finest Georgian townhouse in England" - of course I cannot say if it is because I have not seen so many Georgian townhouses there, but I can testify that it is very fine indeed.
It was the house of Viscount Fairfax and his daughter Anne. The interior was designed by John Carr, who was the Lord Mayor of York from 1770 to 1785, and who designed many buildings in Yorkshire and around the UK, such as Harewood House, Castle Howard and Chatsworth House, and the Pikeing Well in York on the shores of the river Ouse.
The house was originally intended to be Anne's dowry, but they moved to live there in 1762 and spent all their winters there until 1772, when the Viscount died and Anne, still unmarried, sold the house. The house then had many different owners and unfortunately it was used as a cinema and a nightclub in the 20th century! Many original features of the house were destroyed when it was converted into a cinema seating a thousand people. When the cinema went bankrupt in the 1960s, the building was sold to the City of York. It was restored to its Georgian splendor in 1983/84, and provided a suitable place to display the Noel Terry Collection of English Furniture. As many photographs existed of the house before it was turned to a cinema, it was possible to restore it very faithfully.
Visiting the house today, you first enter the Library where you can see the copy of a portrait of John Carr as well as many books and some very exquisite 17th and 18th century furniture, such as a beautiful long case clock.
Next is the wonderful entrance hall in blue, light colour, with beautiful capitals showing the Greek, classical influence on this style. There are some historical barometers on display in this hall.
You then enter the dining room, an impressive room that clearly shows how important the dining room was as to a family at the time, as a status symbol. The room has a stucco ceiling and a luxurious fireplace. There is also a pretty spinet, and you can just imagine how the ladies were asked to play something after dinner was over. The table is decked out differently throughout the year, to show how the family and their guests would have dined at different times. You can also see the place where the food was prepared: The kitchen. The one constructed here is not the original one, though, for that was destroyed during the construction of the cinema.
The first floor is connected to the ground floor by an impressive staircase (which visitors are not allowed to use nowadays), with a fantastic stucco ceiling and stuccos of Shakespeare and Newton on the walls. It is just absolutely beautiful
On the first floor, you can see the two bedrooms. Anne's bedroom is very beautiful, held in yellowish colours, and "mock India paper" on the walls showing pretty designs of birds and flowers. You can see furniture which probably was created in the Chippendale workshops, as well as a painted portrait of Anne. The Vicount's bedroom looks a little similar as yellow dominates here, too. It also shows some luxurious mahagoni furniture.
The last two rooms to see are the Drawing Room and the Saloon, the first in green, the second in red colours. There are then some rooms displaying temporary exhibitions, while I visited there was one called "Views of York", consisting of many paintings of the city. It was interesting to see how certain views changed over time, and how the city looked in the past.
Photography in the house is not allowed, but I took pictures 4 and 5 of some pictures displayed at the entrance.
Admission fee: £6,00 adults, £5,00 concession, free for children under 16 years
Opening times: Daily from mid February to end of December, tuesday to saturday 10.00am to 04.30pm, sunday 12.30pm to 03.30pm, Bank Holiday Mondays 10.00am to 04.30pm, usual mondays only by guided tour 11.00am and 02.00pm
Fairfax House has been described as Englands finest Georgian town house . The house is a very good example of how a town house would have looked in Georgian times and each room is themed with high quality interior decoration. There are a number of events through the yearUnfortunately not suitable for the disabled.
The thing I remember most about my visit here (a few days ago) is how enthusiastic and helpful the staff (I think volunteers?) here were. In every room there was somebody who just seemed desperate to tell you as much as they possibly could about the house and the Fairfax family as well as the work done to restore the house. They realy did make a great difference as otherwise we would probably have left thinking it was ok but nothing special. Instead we left having had a thoroughly satisfying experience.
The house is a beautiful Georgian piece of art in itself. The ceilings are simply stunning. When you hear about what had been done to the house before the restoration works it seems amazing that this is still here to see at all. You do however have to remember that the furniture is not that which belonged to the Fairfax family when they lived here. It is authentic Georgian furniture and beautiful in its own right and has been put here to help recreate the idea of what the house would have been like, but not the stuff originally here.
If you are visiting Jorvik or the York Castle Museum this is a great place to add to your "to do" list.
If you're interested in history, architecture, interior design, furniture or antiques this is well worth a visit.
Dating from 1762 the house has been expertly restored and filled with period furniture and objects d'art.
A guide stationed in each room is not just to keep an eye on the valuable objects, they're very knowlegeable about the house and contents. There is also a wealth of printed material dotted around the house with information about it and about life there in the eighteenth century.
(Photography is not allowed inside so the photos are from the website).
Fairfax House is a fine example of a Georgian Town House. It was built in 1745 and finished and decorated inthe following decade for Viscount Fairfax as a Dowry for his Daughter Ann. It was restored by York Civic Trust in the early 1980s as it was being used as a dance hall, yoga studio and cafe.
it now houses a collection of Georgian furniture, silver, ceramics and clocks, formed by the late Noel Terry of the Terry's chocolate fame (Inventor of the Chocolate Orange)
It is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday: 11am - 4.30pm Sunday: 1.30pm - 4.30pm Friday: At 11am and 2pm for guided tours only from mid February to 31 December. It is closed for Christmas on 24,25,26 December and for winter cleaning in January and early February.
Children: Under 16 free when accompanied by an adult
Group Rate applies to groups of 10+: £4.50 (£3.50 concessions)
School Party of 10+ £1.25 per child (supervising adults free)
Groups must be booked in advance
Fairfax House, located at Castlegate, is defined by many as "the finest Georgian townhouse in England". And I couldn't agree more. This beautiful reddish building is stunning from the outside and even more fantastic from the inside. The house was built in the 18th century as a dowry to Anne Fairfax, Viscount's Fairfax only surviving child, and its interior was designed by famous architect John Carr. It is a magnificent example of Georgian architecture, the English-speaking world equivalent, one may say, of European Rococo (a sort of "extreme" form of the Baroque style). The Saloon and The Great Staircase, in the house, are especially impressive. Even if one isn't an architecture aficionado, this gorgeous red house will left its mark on one's senses.
Fairfax House was designed by York man John Carr for Viscount Fairfax who must have had lots of guests entertained in this great house. Later on, the house lost its importance and unfortunately, a 1920s cinema meant the demolishing of the back of the house and the rest of it indeed used as a cinema, including Fairfax' old bedroom! In the 1980s the house was renovated by the York Civic Trust and opened to the public. Today, the trust has gathered together a collection of period furniture showing what it might have looked like with the colours in fashion in the 18th century and so on. My favourite is as so often the kitchen although again, the cinema used the original kitchen as their auditorium so what you see today is a reconstruction. The food models on display is however made according to a description of a 1763 dinner held by Fairfax himself.
Fairfax House is a remarkably well-restored 18th century townhouse that gives you a picture of life for the prosperous local aristocracy (Viscount Fairfax and family) in this important regional center.
Actually, the Fairfaxes lived here only a relatively short period of time, but they had both good taste and the money to display. They certainly weren't in the same league as the Howards, but they were able to create for themselves a haven of proper domesticity. Highlights of the house include some remarkable plasterwork on the grand staircase, and perfectly sized drawing room. Fairfax House fell on hard times in the early 20th century, and for a long period actually was used as a bar for an adjoining cinema. Needless to say, no smell of burnt popcorn remains!
Fairfax house Castlegate York
In the 1760s Fairfax House was the town house of Viscount Fairfax and his daughter Anne. During the following two centuries it became a gentleman's club and later a cinema and dance hall, before being saved from near collapse by York Civic Trust in1984
The house contains examples of Georgian furniture and house furnishings from that period. There are usually exhibitions on the subject of food.