Henry Fairfax

Rev Henry Fairfax (1588 – 1665)


Henry Fairfax was born in 1588 at Denton, Yorkshire, the fourth son of Thomas Fairfax, 1st Lord Fairfax of Cameron. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge where in 1608, he became a fellow. In the same year his great friend the Welsh poet George Herbert entered the college, where he also obtained a fellowship.

In 1623 Henry married Katherine Duckenfield who was recently widowed but sadly shortly after the wedding Katherine also passed away. In 1626 Henry married for the second time, this time to Mary, daughter of Sir Henry Cholmondeley of Whitby.

Around 1640, Fairfax took an active part in an unsuccessful movement to obtain the foundation of a university for the north. Petitions were sent up to parliament urging the necessity of such a seat of learning. York and Manchester competed warmly for the honour of receiving it but it came to nothing. Fairfax even wrote to his brother Ferdinando, then second Lord Fairfax, on 20 March 1641, asking for his influence.

In 1646 Fairfax became rector of Bolton Percy. Here he resided for a great portion of the time with his nephew Thomas, the third Lord Fairfax, as a parishioner at Nun Appleton, until the Restoration in 1660. He was considered a very admirable parish priest and was well liked. This was quite an achievement particularly during such tempestuous times for the church of England.

Contemplating what worship was like at All Saints’ in the 1650s, in this short film which can be viewed here, Dr Stewart Mottram highlights that the Book of Common Prayer had been suppressed by parliament in January 1645. It was replaced by a Directory which removed a set form of worship along with the seasonality and ceremonialism of the prayer book. This however was never fully enforced at All Saints'. Dr Mottram suggests that "Although unlikely to have openly celebrated the prayer book liturgy at Bolton Percy, Henry Fairfax almost certainly shared his brother’s – and nephew’s – affections for the Book of Common Prayer and he may, like other church of England ministers, have ‘conformed’ to the new by offering extemporary prayers in the spirit of the Presbyterian service that drew on and adapted the prayer book liturgy"


Henry Fairfax died at Oglethorpe on 6 April 1665 and was buried in the choir of Bolton Percy Church by the side of Mary, his wife, who had died in 1649. The stone can be seen at the north side of the altar but the exact location of his body is not known as it has been moved more than once and was located in its current position in 1905.


The stone in remembrance of Henry Fairfax