New Exhibition at Fairfax House Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Restoration

This Saturday marks the opening of a unique exhibition at Fairfax House, celebrating the 40th anniversary of its remarkable restoration. The exhibition tells the compelling story of how this magnificent 18th-century townhouse, once hidden beneath layers of neglect, was resurrected to its former glory.

Forty years ago, Fairfax House was a shadow of its illustrious past, its splendour obscured by dust and decay. Its future was uncertain until York Civic Trust stepped in, investing the equivalent of over £2,000,000 in a visionary restoration project that demanded extraordinary skill, creativity, and determination.

Visitors to the new exhibition will journey back in time, experiencing firsthand the transformation of Fairfax House from a dilapidated shell into the architectural gem admired today. Curator Sarah Burnage expressed her enthusiasm, stating, “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 goes to great lengths to immerse visitors in the house’s storied past. Collections Manager Rachel Willis explained, “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. We’ve also created an homage to St George’s cinema where visitors can watch an original film about the restoration. We are very pleased to be showcasing this important time in Fairfax House’s past.”

Fairfax House has a rich and varied history. After being sold by Ann Fairfax in 1772, it changed hands several times before becoming a gentlemen’s club in 1865. In the 1920s, it transformed into St George’s Hall cinema and a dance hall, remaining a popular local venue until it closed in 1980.

The exhibition not only highlights the restoration but also invites the public to share their own memories. Fairfax House is particularly keen to hear from those involved in the restoration or who have memories of the building as a cinema or dance hall. Stories can be shared by emailing

The exhibition opens on Saturday, 22nd June, and will run until 20th October. Admission is free for children 16 and under, while tickets for adults are priced at £8, and £7.50 for concessions. Visitors are encouraged to pre-book online or walk in on the day.

Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity to explore the fascinating history of Fairfax House and celebrate its incredible journey from neglect to splendour.

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