Fairfax, Charles (1597-1673) (DNB00)

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FAIRFAX, CHARLES (1597–1673), antiquary and genealogist, born at Denton in Yorkshire 5 March 1597, was the seventh and third surviving son of Sir Thomas (afterwards first Lord) Fairfax [q. v.] He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, 5 Oct. 1611, and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn 9 March 1618. About 1627 he married Mary, sole heiress of the Breary family, of Scough Hall in the forest of Knaresborough and Menston. His life was spent chiefly on his wife's patrimony at Menston, Yorkshire, as the trusted counsellor and faithful annalist of his family. At Menston he was within a few miles of his paternal home at Denton.

A few days before the battle of Marston Moor (2 July 1644) Cromwell and other parliamentary leaders held a conference at Fairfax's house at Menston, around a table now at Farnley Hall, Yorkshire. While his nephew, Sir Thomas, afterwards third lord, did much to preserve the minster and archives at York, Charles was engaged with his brother antiquary, Roger Dodsworth [q. v.], in the search for and rescue of many valuable books and documents. In 1646 he was appointed by his brother, Ferdinando, second lord Fairfax [q. v.], steward of the courts at Ripon, and during the later years of the Commonwealth he was induced to take service as a colonel of foot, a position which he held in Monck's army in Scotland at the time of the Restoration. Upon Monck's march into Yorkshire he was appointed governor of the town of Kingston-upon-Hull. This office he held only about a year, and then retired to his antiquarian and literary pursuits at Menston with a pension of 100l. a year, granted him by Charles II out of the customs at Hull. He died there in December 1673. The registers of Fewston parish church record his burial, and also that of his wife in 1657, but there can be no doubt they were both buried in the Fairfax transept of the parish church at Otley (vide will of Charles Fairfax and the Analecta Fairfaxiana), where there is a mural monument to their memory.

Among his children were twin brothers, John, a captain in the army, and Henry [q. v.], a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and dean of Norwich, who were so alike as to be indistinguishable by their own mother.

Fairfax wrote a work yet in manuscript, and of which probably only two copies exist, entitled ‘Analecta Fairfaxiana.’ It contains pedigrees, carefully written and blazoned on vellum, of all the branches of the Fairfax family, and of many of the families connected with it, interspersed with many genealogical and literary notes, and about fifty anagrams, epigrams, and elegies in Latin, and chiefly from the pen of the compiler, upon the different members of the family and their connections. Brian Fairfax, the nephew of the compiler, says: ‘He was an excellent scholar, but delighted most in antiquities, and hath left many valuable collections of that kind. He hath left a most exact pedigree of our family of Fairfax, proved by evidences’ (Fairfax Correspondence, i. 257). These Fairfax MSS. are now at Leeds Castle, Kent (ib. i. cxxxix).

The collection and preservation of the invaluable volumes known as the ‘Dodsworth MSS.,’ now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, was the joint work of Fairfax and Roger Dodsworth, and they were for some time in the care of the former. It is usually stated that Lord Fairfax gave these volumes (160) to the Bodleian; but in a note to an account of Edward Fairfax in Atterbury's ‘Correspondence’ by Brian Fairfax it is stated that it was Henry Fairfax, dean of Norwich (son of Charles), who gave ‘Roger Dodsworth's 160 volumes of collections to the university of Oxford.’

By his will, dated 1672, Fairfax bequeathed valuable manuscripts to Lincoln's Inn, according, as he says, to a promise made ‘to my late dear friend Dr. Samuel Browne, knt., one of the justices of the common pleas, … the said books to remain as my gift and legacy in the public library of the said house, of which I formerly had the honour to be a member.’

[Analecta Fairfaxiana (manuscript); Fairfax Correspondence; Atterbury Correspondence; Herald and Genealogist, September 1870; Hart's Lecture on Wharfdale.]

T. P.