The epitome of quality, craftsmanship and skill, Fairfax House’s superb collection of early English furniture showcases the heights of British cabinet-making, and reveals the Georgians’ passion for fashionable furniture design and their pursuit of style, elegance and comfort.
The collection, displayed throughout Fairfax House, brings the period rooms to life and presents the house in its full glory. In style, design and date each of the pieces eloquently complements the architecture of the building, richly recreating the sumptuous interiors a family like the Fairfaxes would have enjoyed.
Largely comprised from the Noel Terry bequest, the furniture collection includes examples by some of the foremost names in cabinet-making, including Thomas Chippendale, William Vile (cabinetmaker to King George III) and John Gordon. Other pieces, whilst not attributed to the Chippendale workshop, are clearly inspired by his ‘The gentleman and cabinet-maker’s Director’, illustrating the connections to Chippendale’s seminal designs and their influence and translation throughout the country amongst other cabinet-makers.
In design, construction technique and quality of materials, the furniture collection is a testament to England’s prowess in producing the finest cabinet-making during this period and the craftsmanship, skills and accuracy of hand-production in a pre-industrial world.
The collection also boasts two rare examples of early musical instruments, a walnut and mahogany spinet (1769) by John Kirsham of Manchester and an inlaid mahogany square piano (1792) by Thomas Haxby of York. Haxby, one of the most important provincial instrument makers, was born in York in 1729 and died there in 1796. He was an important figure, fully involved in York life, whose professional practice coincided with the Fairfax’s occupancy of Fairfax House. Music held tremendous importance within a Georgian ‘polite’ house, and small-size musical instruments such as the spinet and square piano were an essential part of family life and domestic music-making.