Long-lost portrait of Fairfax House financier Elizabeth Clifford bought for Georgian townhouse with Art Fund support

Elizabeth Clifford: Portrait acquired by York Civic Trust for £14,500

A LONG-MISSING portrait of Elizabeth Clifford, the female financier of Fairfax House, goes on display this week at the Georgian townhouse in York after a successful campaign to raise £14,500 for its acquisition.

The portrait’s existence had been known for many years but its location was lost. Research undertaken at Fairfax House by collections manager Rachel Wallis revealed the painting was in danger of being sold into a private collection and potentially exported.

Fairfax House launched a campaign to raise sufficient funds to buy the portrait, attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller, and return it to permanent public display, with support from Art Fund, the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, as well as generous public donations.

Fairfax House curator Sarah Burnage says: “We are so grateful that we were able to save this portrait from going into private collection and are instead able to display it, especially given its significance to the house’s history.”

A wealthy woman in her own right, the Hon. Elizabeth Clifford married Charles Gregory Fairfax, later 9th Viscount of Emley, in November 1720. Sadly, Elizabeth died only six months later from smallpox and Charles Gregory inherited all of Elizabeth’s money and possessions, including a townhouse in London. Whereupon he used this inheritance to stabilise the shaky Fairfax finances and later down the line purchased Fairfax House. 

The townhouse museum, in Castlegate, hopes this purchase will support its plan to reveal the stories of other women who have been forgotten by history. Rachel Wallis says: “It is undeniable that Elizabeth’s wealth is the reason that we have Fairfax House as we know it today, and yet we barely know anything about her.

“We want to use this portrait to help support our plan to tell the stories of the forgotten Fairfax women. We have already started undergoing new research into Elizabeth’s life and can’t wait to share what we uncover about her.”

The portrait goes on display from tomorrow (4/8/2023) to coincide with York’s inaugural Georgian Festival (www.mansionhouseyork.com/yorkgeorgianfestival). Children and under 16s go free at Fairfax House, where admission for adults is £7.50. Opening hours are 11am to 4pm every day except Fridays (guided tours only).

Fairfax House, Castlegate, York

Fairfax House: the back story

ONE of England’s finest Georgian townhouses, it was restored by York Civic Trust in the 1980s and has been open to the public ever since.

Originally the city home of Ann Fairfax, bought for her by her father, the 9th Viscount Fairfax, the house’s richly decorated interiors and stucco ceilings make it a masterpiece of Georgian design and architecture.

A beautiful collection of furniture, donated by Noel Terry, brings the house alive, recalling a lost world of townhouse-living in the 1760s for visitors.

Find out more at: www.fairfaxhouse.co.uk 

Portrait of the artist

THE portrait of Elizabeth Clifford has been attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt (1646-1723). Born in Germany, Kneller studied on the continent before moving to England. Here he established himself as the leading portraitist of the period, founding a studio that churned out portraits of the rich and famous on an almost industrial scale. 

Elizabeth’s portrait is a fine example of one of Kneller’s more intimate female studies. The emphasis is placed directly upon the sitter’s alluring femininity, enhanced by her hair falling over her shoulder.

Her fine features have been rendered sensitively:  the bold handling or flesh tones and free fluidity of brushstrokes draws in the viewer. The sizeable area of grey ground is typical of Kneller’s later works. A method developed by the artist to speed up the painting process, it meant his studio could cope better with the many demands of a large circle of patrons.  

At the time of his­ death in 1723, around 500 works remained unfinished in his studio. To date, he is the only artist to be commemorated in Westminster Abbey. 

The framed portrait of Elizabeth Clifford

Who was Elizabeth, Viscountess Dunbar?

THE Hon. Elizabeth Clifford was born in April 1689 in Ugbrooke Park, Chudleigh, Devon. She was the daughter of Hugh Clifford, 2nd Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, and Anne Preston, daughter of Sir Thomas Preston, 3rd Baronet. 

She first was married to William Constable, 4th Viscount Dunbar, 1717-1718, and second to Charles Gregory Fairfax, 9th Viscount of Emley, in 1720. The marriage only lasted until April 1721 when Elizabeth died from smallpox in Bath, where she was on a visit to take in the waters. She is buried in Bath Abbey.

Charles remarried very quickly in 1722, tying the knot with Mary Fairfax, a distant cousin, who had been left a substantial part of Elizabeth’s wealth.  

It was this wealth that created the opportunity for Charles Fairfax to renovate his country estate at Gilling Castle and purchase and fund his daughter Ann’s remodelling of the grand townhouse on Castlegate, York.

York Civic Trust’s collection already contains the portraits of Mary Fairfax and her daughter, Ann, as well as a modern copy of Charles Fairfax’s portrait. Elizabeth completes the family picture. 

More Things To Do in York & beyond. Whether 7 Days or SIX, it all adds up to Hutch’s List No. 31 for ’23, from The Press

Alex Cardall’s Eeyore, left, Robbie Noonan’s Tigger, Benjamin Durham’s Winnie the Pooh and Lottie Gregan’s Tigger in Disney’s musical adventure Winnie The Pooh. Picture: Pamela Raith

GEORGIAN glories, Forties’ swing bombshells, the joy of SIX, storytelling with pizza and Pooh and Tigger adventures bring a bounce to Charles Hutchinson’s step.

Children’s show of the week: Disney’s Winnie The Pooh, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday, 5pm; Wednesday, 11am and 2pm

DEEP in the Hundred Acre Wood, a new musical adventure unfolds for A A Milne’s beloved characters Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin and their best friends Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, Owl and Tigger.

Accompanying the modern narrative and life-size puppetry in Jonathan Rockefeller’s show will be Nate Edmondson’s score, featuring Grammy Award-winning songs by the Sherman Brothers, such as The Blustery Day, The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers and Whoop-De-Dooper Bounce, plus Milne’s The More It Snows (with music by Carly Simon) and Sing Ho in a new arrangement. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

7 Days at the races: Craig David at York Racecourse Music Showcase weekend, today

SOUTHAMPTON soul singer Craig David, of 7 Days romancing fame, performs hits galore after today’s racing on Knavesmire. Fill Me In, Walkaway, Rise & Fall, All The Way and I Know You are likely to feature in his early evening set with a finishing time of 7.30pm.

Gates open at 11.15am for the 2.05pm start to the seven-race card. Best bet for a ticket, as the County Stand and Grandstand & Paddock are full already, will be the more informal Clocktower Enclosure. Buy on the gate.

Alexander Flanagan Wright, left, and Phil Grainger: Premiering Helios at the Stilly Fringe tomorrow night

Stilly Fringe storytelling: James Rowland in Piece Of Work, tomorrow, 7.15pm; Wright & Grainger in Helios, tomorrow, 8.45pm, At The Mill, Stillington, near York

AHEAD of his Edinburgh Fringe run, James Rowland opens the Stilly Fringe 2023 storytelling double bill with Piece Of Work, his follow-up to Learning To Fly. Combining story, comedy and music, Piece Of Work takes the form of a road trip searching for the writer of a letter that exploded Rowland’s life. Will he find a sense of home and maybe save a life too?

Edinburgh-bound Alexander Flanagan Wright and Phil Grainger introduce Helios, their latest instalment of stories and songs rooted in Greek myths, in the wake of Orpheus, Eurydice and The Gods The Gods The Gods. Any Stilly Fringe benefits? 1. Pizzas are on the menu from 6.30pm. 2. One ticket covers both shows at tickettailor.com/events/atthemill/957195.  

The poster for Spark Comedy Fringe

Funday Sunday: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Spark Comedy Fringe, Events Space @ Spark:York, York, tomorrow, 4pm

FOUR acts in one day are on the Burning Duck bill of Edinburgh Fringe previews, kicking off at 4pm with comedian, animator and computer programmer Neil Harris’s Codebreaker show about the Enigma machine, Alan Turing and Bletchley Park, followed by Stanley Brooks’s I Can Make Me Rich, an inspirational, interactive seminar to change your life and bring you cash at 5.30pm.

In Eryn Tett Finds Her Audience at 7pm, this absurdist stand-up misfit combines surreal storytelling with odd observations and wordplay; Tom Lawrinson concludes the cornucopia of comedy with weird, wonderful and completely unexpected punchlines in Hubba Hubba at 8.30pm. Each show costs £5 in advance for guaranteed entry or you can Pay What You Want post-show. A £15 ticket gives entry to all four performances. Box office: wegottickets.com/spark-comedy-fringe.

SIX of the best: Henry VIII’s Queens hit back in song at Leeds Grand Theatre. Picture: Pamela Raith

Musical of the week: SIX The Musical, Leeds Grand Theatre, Tuesday to Sunday

TOBY Marlow and Lucy Moss’s Spouse Girls musical/pop concert wowed York in late-June. Now Leeds awaits the dancing queens with attitude who tell their story in song to decide who suffered most at Henry VIII’s hands once he put a ring on that wedding finger.

Look out for Knaresborough actress Lou Henry in the role of the apparently not-so-squeaky-clean Catherine Howard, short-lived wife number five. Box office (probably for frustration only): 0113 243 0808 or leedsheritagetheatres.com.

In the swing of things: Alice McKenna, left, and Gleanne Purcell-Brown in Alan Plater’s Blonde Bombshells Of 1943 at the SJT. Picture: Pamela Raith

Forties’ flavour of the week: Blonde Bombshells Of 1943, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Wednesday to August 26

ZOE Waterman directs a cast of eight actor-musicians in the SJT, Bolton Octagon and Keswick Theatre by the Lake’s lavish, lively co-production of Hull playwright Alan Plater’s warm and witty musical play.

Meet The Blonde Bombshells, the most glamorous all-girl swing band in the north, whose membership goes down every time they play a GI camp. Now an important BBC job is in the offing and Betty needs to find new musicians fast. Expect Glenn Miller, George Formby, Fats Waller and Andrews Sisters classics aplenty. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com. 

Castle Howard, egg tempera on gesso on canvas, by Amy Dennis, on show in the Northern Prospects exhibition at Janette Ray Rare Books

Exhibition of the week: Northern Prospects, Janette Ray Rare Books, Bootham, York, Wednesday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, until August 19

LOTTE Inch Gallery’s pop-up show of York and northern paintings, prints and ceramics at Janette Ray’s bookshop is being expanded with ceramics by York artists Ben Arnup, Mark Hearld and Ruth King among the new additions.

As Lotte turns her hand once more to creating artistic showcases in non-traditional exhibition spaces, after her hiatus from curating, she presents works by Tom Wood, Marie Walker Last, David Lloyd Jones, Amy Dennis, Nicky Hirst, Kelly Jayne, Robert H Lee, Isabella Maclure, Geoff Morten and Malcolm Whittaker in “unusual corners” amid the shop’s treasure trove of books on the visual arts.

Who will be in Mad Alice’s Georgian Rogues Gallery? Find out each day at the York Georgian Festival

Festival of the week: York Georgian Festival, Thursday to Sunday

DUST off your petticoat and powder your best wig for a plethora of engagements at York Mansion House, Fairfax House, Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre and elsewhere at the inaugural York Georgian Festival.

Learn to dance the minuet; discover Georgian family life with Horrible Histories writer Terry Deary; revel in Mad Alice’s Georgian Rogues Gallery; solve the mystery of tricky Dick Turpin’s missing corpse in an immersive murder mystery night and take a peep behind-the-scenes with York’s curators. For full festival details and tickets, head to: mansionhouseyork.com/yorkgeorgianfestival.

Katie Melia: From starring in Sweet Charity to hosting the Life Is A Cabaret fundraiser at Theatre@41, Monkgate

Fundraiser of the week: Life Is A Cabaret, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Friday, 7.30pm

KATIE Melia returns to Theatre@41 after her February lead role in York Stage’s Sweet Charity to present a concert in aid of Reflect: Pregnancy Loss Support, looking to surpass the £3,000 raised at her first fundraiser for this North Yorkshire charity.

Alexa Chaplin, Jack Hooper and Dale Vaughan sing stage and screen hits from Wicked, Spamalot, Dreamgirls and Grease; West End star and director Damien Poole goes Eurovision with Rise Like A Phoenix; Emily Ramsden and Elf The Musical leading lady Sophie Hammond perform too. Tickets update: sold out. For returns only, tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Chesney Hawkes: Meadowfest headliner. Picture: Axel Muench

In Focus: Meadowfest, Malton’s Boutique Midsummer Music Festival, today, 10am to 10pm

MALTON’S boutique music festival takes place within the riverside meadows and gardens of the Talbot Hotel, Yorkersgate.

Anticipate a relaxed, joyful, family festival of uplifting sunshine bands, all-day feasting and dancing like no one’s watching.

Grab a hay bale, street food and something to sip and enjoy a mix of live music over two stages with Yorkshire bands to the fore.

Be Amazing Arts hosts the pop-up venue The Creativitent, a hive of activity with creative arts workshops, performances and storytelling, arts and craft zones and facepainting!

The Creativitent gives the opportunity for children, young people and their families to “discover their inner creativity, take to the stage, get crafty”.

This House We Built: Playing the Hay Bale Stage at 5pm. Picture: Ben Audsley

Music line-up

10am, Malton School Soul Band, Meadow Stage; 10.30am, Graeme Hargreaves, Hay Bale Stage; 11am, Gary Stewart, Hay Bale Stage; 12 noon, The Caleb Murray Band, Meadow Stage; 1pm, Alchemy Live, tribute to Dire Straits, Hay Bale Stage; 2pm, The Alex Hamilton Band, Meadow Stage; 3pm, Arrival, The Hits of Abba, Hay Bale Stage; 4pm, Alistair Griffin & Band, Meadow Stage; 5pm, This House We Built, Hay Bale Stage; 6pm, Huge, York party band, Meadow Stage; 7.15pm, The Y Street Band, Hay Bale Stage; Chesney Hawkes, Meadow Stage headliner, 8.45pm.

Box office: tickettailor.com/events/visitmalton.

18th century priests’ vestments from Bar Convent secret chapel’s inaugural mass reunited for York Georgian Festival

Special collections manager Dr Hannah Thomas sets out the Georgian priests’ vestments in the Bar Convent chapel for the York Georgian Festival. Picture: Charlotte Graham

GEORGIAN vestments worn at the Bar Convent’s Opening Illegal Mass are being reunited in the chapel for the first time since 1769 from August 3 to 5 as part of the York Georgian Festival.

Now Great Britain’s oldest living convent, it was established in Blossom Street in 1686 when Roman Catholicism was illegal in this country. The chapel was built in complete secrecy, taking more than 20 years to complete, with the three priest vestments being designed for the inaugural mass, held on April 29 1769.

The vestments were worn together in the chapel only on that occasion. One has since been on display in the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre’s exhibition; the others have been in the possession of other Roman Catholic churches in York – until now.

Special collections manager Dr Hannah Thomas says: “Historically, these three vestments have been lent to different churches in the city, and it has taken some time to arrange for their return to their original home.

“These incredibly significant vestments were designed and made as a set specifically for the opening of this very special chapel and we are both thrilled and moved to be able to share this historic reunion with the public.”

Hannah continues: “The vestments will be displayed behind the altar in the chapel where they were first worn together more than 250 years ago, at great risk to the priests and all those who attended.

“Not only have these Georgian vestments survived a time in which Catholic material was regularly seized and destroyed, but also the fact that the chapel and the convent have survived against all the odds is an incredible story that we will be highlighting as part of the inaugural York Georgian Festival 2023.”

A private view will be held on August 3 from 5.30pm to 7pm; tickets (£15) can be booked at barconvent.co.uk. Guests are invited to enjoy private access to the house where they can discover the story behind its Georgian architecture, including the secret 18th century chapel. Dr Thomas will give an introduction to the history of the Bar Convent and the vestments; a glass of fizz is included on arrival.

A second ticketed event, Secrecy & Survival: Georgian York Through The Eyes Of A  Catholic Convent, will take place on August 5 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm, when the £10 ticket will include admission to the exhibition after the expert talk.

Dr Thomas will explore how the sisters ran an illegal convent under the nose of the authorities without being caught. How did they construct a secret Catholic chapel? What did the rest of York think of what was happening on 18th century Blossom Street? Over to you, Hannah.

Little-known items from the Bar Convent collections will feature as Dr Thomas delves into the archives to find out more.

Bar Convent special collections manager Dr Hannah Thomas with the Georgian priests’ vestments, going on display in the chapel from August 3 to 5. Picture: Charlotte Graham

The Vestments (1769): the back story

DIFFERENT types of priest’s vestments are worn within the Roman Catholic Church. This style is called a chasuble, a sleeveless vestment worn as the top layer by Catholic or High Anglican priests when celebrating Mass.

The shape has varied over time, but this is typical of the 17th and 18th centuries. There is a matching stole too: a narrow, long piece of fabric to be worn underneath the chasuble.

Chasubles often have elaborate embroidery, and these particular vestments are a fine example of 18th century craftmanship. Given that they were made to be worn for the opening of the secret chapel in 1769, the design is befitting of the occasion.

They are handmade with gold threads on a background of silk damask and feature an early use of sequins on liturgical clothing in England.

The icon of the pelican on the back is a direct reference to the pelican on the altar in the Bar Convent chapel. In Roman Catholicism, the pelican is used to symbolise Jesus, as legend has it that the pelican fed its young with its own blood, as Jesus also sacrificed himself for others.

The beautiful flower designs are a symbol of Mary, the mother of Jesus. 

York Georgian Festival, August 3 to 6

THIS summer, the glorious Georgians are taking over the city of York.

The fabulous fashions of dashing dandies, extravagant feasting and romantic country dancing add up to the vibrant tale of a golden social scene hidden within the brickwork of York’s abundant 18th century architecture.

In celebration, York Mansion House is collaborating with York museums, venues and historical experts to present York’s first ever Georgian Festival.

Dust off your petticoat and powder your best wig for a plethora of engagements at Fairfax House, Bar Convent and elsewhere. Learn to dance the minuet, discover Georgian family life with Horrible Histories writer Terry Deary, solve the mystery of tricky Dick Turpin’s missing corpse in an immersive murder mystery night and take a peep behind-the-scenes with York’s curators.

For full festival details, head to: mansionhouseyork.com/yorkgeorgianfestival.