FAIRFAX, Thomas II (c.1575-1636), of Gilling Castle and Walton, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. c.1575,1 o.s. of Sir William Fairfax of Gilling Castle and Walton, by his and w. educ. sch. at Gilling; Caius, Camb. 1590. m. (1) 1594, Catherine (d.1626), da. of Sir Henry Constable of Burton Constable, 6s. 5da.; (2) 1627, Mary, da. of Sir Robert Ford of Butley, Suff., wid. of Sir William Bamburgh, Bt., of Howsham. suc. fa. 1597. Kntd. Apr. 1603; cr. Visct. Fairfax [I] 10 Jan. 1629.2

Offices Held

Commr. musters, Yorks. (W. Riding) 1600; j.p. Yorks. (N. Riding) by 1603; member, council in the north from July 1603, v.-president 1608, 1616; sheriff, Yorks. 1627-8.3


Fairfax was born and brought up at Gilling. In the year he left Cambridge he married a childhood friend (for the Constables were frequent visitors at Gilling), an open Catholic, whose first conviction for recusancy was in 1599. Thereafter she was convicted at regular intervals until her death, though she appears never to have been fined, possibly, because of her husband’s friendship with Sir Arthur Ingram, secretary to the council in the north, and for a while farmer of recusancy fines. She also escaped penalty for employing Catholic maids. At least two of their sons attended Catholic colleges abroad, which was also an offence.

Fairfax himself conformed, became a member of the council in the north and even its vice-president, which, as the president said, was unusual for a man with a recusant wife. However, Fairfax was not placed on the high commission, and was never knight of the shire. He was returned for Boroughbridge in 1601 through his own local influence, and left no trace upon the records of the Parliament.

Fairfax, like his father and grandfather before him, was a sheep farmer and an encloser. To save the family estates from the burden of recusancy fines he created a trust which allowed his heir the use of the estates for life, while the greater part of the property passed straight to his grandson William, who was to be brought up a protestant. His heir, the boy’s father, was to submit to this upon pain of forfeiting £1,200 set aside for the child’s education.4

In his will, dated 22 Oct. 1634, Fairfax asked to be buried at Walton. To his second wife, a protestant, he left £100, his best, coach and four of his best horses. He left £10 to the poor of Walton and £10 to the poor of Gilling Sir Brian Stapleton his son-in-law, John Ibson his cousin, and Sir Thomas Layton were appointed supervisors. His grandson William was to be entrusted to the tutorship of Thomas Wentworth and his own second son Henry. Fairfax died at Howsham 23 Dec. 1636, and was buried, not at Walton, but at Scrayingham.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N.M.S.


  • 1. CP has 1574; Al. Cant. has bap. 5 Feb. 1577, but adm. Caius 8 Dec. 1590, aged 15; MI. (1636) has aged 62.
  • 2. Foster, Yorks, Peds. i.
  • 3. HMC Hatfield, xiv. 148; xv. 394; Biog. Studies (now Recusant History) iii. 89-90; Reid, Council of the North, 497.
  • 4. Biog. Studies, iii. 88-94.
  • 5. York Wills (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xix), 136, 137.