Fairfax House opens for its new 2016 Season bigger, brighter and stronger than before

4 February 2016

Thankful for its narrow escape but not resting on its laurels, Fairfax House has taken the opportunity to renew, creating a crisp, clean and fresh Visitor Reception and Museum Shop to welcome people to Fairfax House and give a taste of what this historic house and museum has to offer.

The old cinema foyer, to what was formerly St George’s Cinema and Dance Hall, has been transformed, shaking off the vestiges of its 1980s appearances from when it was rescued from dereliction and lovingly restored by York Civic Trust.

The striking 1920s pilastered cinema entrance that is so characterful of the days when it was built, of course, remains to tell the story of this building’s long history of use and change – but behind the façade lies a new gateway to exploring York’s Georgian history and the story of the 18th century townhouse.

With oak as a traditional material featuring strongly in the design, and stunning wall graphics that showcase the splendours of the architecture, period rooms and objects within, this space has been re-imagined and designed to befit the finest Georgian townhouse in England.

Including a new area for children’s mascot, ‘Gregory’, The Townhouse Mouse, and more space for visitors and group tours, the emphasis is on giving visitors a warm and welcoming introduction to Fairfax House from the moment that they step through the doors. Along with new ranges in the museum shop including bespoke pieces inspired by the house, there are even more reasons than ever before to come and find out what makes this townhouse so special.

After an intensive conservation cleaning period throughout January, with staff and volunteers painstakingly cleaning and caring for each of the pieces that form the Noel Terry collection at Fairfax House, this magnificent townhouse re-opens its doors on Saturday 6 February for its new season.

Hannah Phillip, Director explained: “We cherish what makes Fairfax House special, and whilst our commitment to preserving and protecting this nationally significant townhouse remains firmer than ever, we also want to enable it to progress, evolving sympathetically and growing in a way that helps create the right environment for more people to experience and enjoy this property.

We have been passionately taking this vision forward over the past few years in many different ways, but feel now that the time has come to invest even more into the very fabric of this building. We believe that creating a new area to welcome and engage residents and visitors to York and share this House’s rich history is another important step on this path. We are truly delighted with the results and how this new spaces does full justice to the house. We aim that this is just the start of more to come in our plans for ongoing restoration projects.”

The exciting plans for 2016 do not end with a rejuvenated visitor welcome space. In less than four weeks’ time, Fairfax House will also open its first exhibition for the year, A Century of Shoes: The Rise & Fall of the Georgian Heel. This visually lavish and sumptuous exhibition will celebrate the beauty of shoes across the Georgian Age with over a hundred shoes on display from 100 years of Georgian fashion. Charting the changing styles in footwear including the magnificent heels that came to prominence and then fell from fashion.

The House’s programme of public events holds many exciting things in store including a very special historic ice-cream tasting event (6 July) with Ivan Day (celebrated Food Historian, James Martin’s Home Comforts), ‘After Dark’ performances, talks, concerts plus two festivals in August: Living History Weekend ‘At Home with the Georgians’ (6-7 Aug) and the biennial Fairfax House Festival of Flowers (27 Aug – 3 Sept).

The 2016 Season: Fairfax House will open on Saturday 6th February from 10am and will be open daily throughout the year through to 31st December (excluding 24, 25 and 26 December).
A Century of Shoes: The Rise & Fall of the Georgian Heel opens on 10 March and will run until 26 June 2016.

St George’s Hall: Through the greater part of the 20th century Fairfax House was better known and now remembered as St George’s cinema and dance hall. The grand Georgian townhouse once owned by Anne Fairfax and her father Viscount Fairfax was transformed beyond recognition with a 1000-seat plus auditorium projecting from the rear of the building. A new cinema entrance was created in the adjoining building and, on the first floor, the drawing rooms were knocked through to create a dancehall.

St George’s Hall, as it became known, was part of a thriving movement of popular entertainment in York in the 1920s and, by 1925, they were proudly advertising the cinema as ‘the largest, most comfortable and most up-to-date in York’. However, by the 1960s the cinema company was in financial trouble, having eventually to sell the building to the City Council. The dancehall on the first floor, however, continued to play host to many of the famous and nearly famous, until it was closed in 1980.

Press Contacts: Hannah Phillip, Director Tel: 01904 655543

Email: hannahphillip@yorkcivictrust.co.uk