Fairfax memorial, York Minster

July 2011

Plaque in York Minster's chapter house

This brass plaque in the chapter house of York Minster remembers two members of the Fairfax family, and acknowledges their role in protecting the stained glass so many of us have gazed at in awe in the centuries since.

IN MEMORY OF FERDINANDO FAIRFAX, 1584-1647, AND THOMAS FAIRFAX, 1612-1671 SECOND AND THIRD LORDS FAIRFAX OF CAMERON AND GENERALS OF THE PARLIAMENTARY FORCES, WHO DURING THE CIVIL WAR 1642-1646 PRESERVED FROM DESTRUCTION THE TREASURES OF GLASS OF YORK MINSTER. THIS WINDOW, RESTORED BY MEMBERS OF THE FAIRFAX FAMILY WAS UNVEILED BY ALBERT TWELFTH LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON, SEPTEMBER 14TH 1932.

Lord Ferdinando Fairfax was appointed governor of York in July 1644 after the Parliamentarian victory at Marston Moor and the ending of the siege of York around two weeks later. Sir Thomas Fairfax (who became Lord Fairfax after his father’s death in 1648) led the New Model Army to victory at Naseby.

The Fairfaxes had many Yorkshire properties, including homes in Bishophill, and Nun Appleton, where Thomas Fairfax spent his retirement. He died there and is buried at nearby Bilbrough.

There are several recorded instances of both Ferdinando and Thomas Fairfax taking care of items of antiquarian interest, preserving them for future generations.

Overshadowed by Cromwell

So, these local heroes are fondly remembered, of course.

Well, no. Their profile is so low that even archaeologists and journalists appear completely unaware of their existence. In recent years an excavation in the Fishergate area, connected with the siege of York in 1644, was widely reported as ‘containing the remains of Cromwell’s soldiers’, by the archaeologists, on their website, and by the local paper, and the Daily Mail, among others.

They weren’t ‘Cromwell’s soldiers’. They were ‘Fairfax’s soldiers’ (or perhaps Fairfaxes’ soldiers), if they were anybody’s – as the documentary on the excavation later made clear. The dead soldiers were from the forces led by Lord Ferdinando Fairfax – Sir Thomas was his second-in-command.

At least here in the Minster credit is given where credit is due.

2 comments

  1. John M Taylor

    Oliver Cromwell is reported to have been Lt General of Horse,on the left of the Parliamentary force at Marston Moor,not a colonel as mentioned above.

  2. Thank you for the comment, have removed that phrase.

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