Exhibition celebrates restoration of Georgian town house

The bricked-up Venetian window at Fairfax House
The bricked-up grand Venetian window was revealed during restoration works [York Civic Trust]

An exhibition, which marks the 40th anniversary of the restoration of one of England's finest Georgian town houses, has opened.

Fairfax House in Castlegate, York, one the private home of an 18th Century aristocrat, had suffered from years of neglect when it was acquired by the York Civic Trust in the 1980s.

The organisation spent the equivalent of £2m in today's money to transform a "damp and decaying shell" into a "magnificent architectural gem".

The exhibition highlights the painstaking work undertaken to restore the property.

Fairfax House pre-restoration
The house had suffered years of neglect with rooms divided and intricate plasterwork hidden from view [York Civic Trust]

Collections manager, Rachel Willis, said: “We’ve done our best to make visitors feel transported to a time before Fairfax House was restored - even going as far as replicating the damage on the ceiling and the bricked Venetian window."

Yorkshire landowner Viscount Fairfax had employed architect John Carr to remodel the house in the 1760s for his daughter Ann.

It was later sold and passed through various private owners until 1865 when it became a gentleman's club.

In the 1920s it became the St George’s Hall cinema and adjacent dance hall.

"We’ve also created an homage to St George’s cinema where visitors can watch an original film about the restoration.," Ms Willis said.

"We are very pleased to be showcasing this important time in Fairfax House’s past.”

Fairfax House exhibition display
The exhibition highlights the state of repair the property was in before work began [York Civic Trust]

Curator, Sarah Burnage, said: “We are very excited about this unique exhibition because it will let visitors know what it really takes to conserve and restore a historic house back to its former glory.

"This is unlike anything we’ve done before, and we hope it will connect with many residents who can remember Fairfax House from its dance hall and cinema days.”

The exhibition, called Restoration: A Townhouse Reborn, runs until 20 October.

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