Lord Fairfax's 18th Century England
For Groups (Minimum: 15 People)
Thomas, The Sixth Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron was born on October 22, 1693, at Leeds Castle in Kent, England. In 1719 after the death of his mother he became the sole owner and proprietor of what was to become the Northern Neck Grant, some 5 million acres.
Our tour however follows his life before he finally emigrates to Virginia in 1747,
the only peer of the realm to have done so.
We visit Leeds Castle - we travel on Winchester (perhaps even to find out why he named the town in Virginia, Winchester?) to his student days at Oxford where he spent much of his childhood years and finally to Georgian London.
Arrive at London Heathrow and meet at a local hotel. Transfer from airport by coach and onward to the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, where we will be staying for the first two nights. From its humble beginning's in 1606, with the discovery of a bubbling spring by a young nobleman, Lord Dudley North, Tunbridge wells grew to a fashionable spa resort. Royalty and gentry being among the many visitors who came to taste the allegedly health-giving waters. It is noted that the Fairfax family were regular 'partakers of the hot and cleansing waters'. There is an opportunity now to rest and explore the town, the afternoon is yours.
This morning we travel to Leeds Castle. The Castle was erected by William the Conqueror to overawe the hostile English, it remains perhaps the most spectacular in England. In 1710 the ownership of the Leeds Manor Castle passed to his mother, Margaret, Lady Fairfax, and for the next 83 years the family resided there.
The Castle historian will accompany us on a private visit, we will see much of what life was like 300 years ago. After lunch we will have the opportunity to visit the garden at Sissinghurst, the planning and execution by Vita Sackville-West has produced a group of 10 of the most famous gardens in the world.
'These mild gentlemen and women who invade one's garden after putting their silver token into the bowl....are some of the people I most gladly welcome and salute. Between them and myself a particular form of courtesy survives, a gardener's courtesy, in a world where courtesy is giving place to rougher things'
(Vita Sackville-West, New Statesmen 1939)
We leave Tunbridge Wells and head West towards the County of Hampshire and the ancient city of Winchester. Our route will take us via Petworth and we will visit the home of Lord and Lady Egremont. Their house, Petworth House has a fine art collection assembled by the family over 350 years. The state rooms contain sculptures, furniture and Porcelain of the highest quality. The 7000-acre park was landscaped by 'Capability Brown' in the 18th Century.
Arriving at Winchester where we will spend the next two nights.
'There are not many finer spots in England. Here are hill, dell, water, meadows, woods, cornfields, downs and all of them very fine and very beautiful disposed.'
(William Corbett, 1830)
Why did the sixth Lord decide to rename Fredericktown, Winchester, Virginia in 1750? What was his fascination of Winchester? What family ties the Fairfax name with Hampshire? Now it is an opportunity to find out, the archives will be open. The Mayor of Winchester will be there to assist us in our quest.
This Roman City (Venta Belgarum) founded circa 68AD became the 5th largest in Britain. 800 years later Alfred the Great resisted the Danish invasion here. In 1066 the city surrendered to William the Conqueror and the castle became the first seat of government under the early Norman Kings.
In 1645 the city was attacked by Cromwell's troops, led by the third Lord Fairfax, 'Black Tom' , a general in the parliamentarian army. The city is also home to the old 60th of Foot (the Kings Royal Rifle Corps) formed in North America in 1775.
Before we leave Winchester this morning there will be an opportunity for some rest and relaxation, sight seeing or perhaps a last desperate search for the reasons behind our quest in the city?
Our trip north takes us through Newbury in the county of Royal Berkshire and onward to Oxford, where we will stay for the next two nights.
In 1709 (at the age of 16) Thomas Fairfax was prepared for University entrance by private tutors and entered Oriel College in 1710. A year later he received word of his father's death, and in July 1713 he left Oxford. He is remembered for spending much of his time, indulging in his favorite pastime of hunting in the environs of the university.
Oriel college has altered little in the time since Lord Fairfax was there. The oldest Botanical Garden in Britain is in Oxford, for over 375 years it has stood on the banks of the River Cherwell, in that time it has evolved from a collection of medicinal herbs for 17th century physicians to the most diverse collection of plants in the world.
Our destination today is the city of York, 185 miles to the northeast. Our route will take us through the heart of England. As we travel the roads of Kings and Vikings - of ancient ruins - of wars - civil and not so civil - of Romans and roses, every town, village and county reminds us of the wealth of history on this small island. Past the towns of Northampton, Leicester, Nottingham, Leeds and to our home for the next two nights York.
The ancestral homes of the Fairfax families were in the county of Yorkshire. Thomas no doubt spent many of his early years at one of these homes, 'Denton' on a hill overlooking the river Wharfe. The three families of the Fairfax family, Gilling, Denton & Steeton all prospered in the year's up to the 17th Century. Many of the Denton side became soldiers, two of whom where Generals in Cromwell's Army. Ferdinando, 2nd Baron Fairfax and his son 'Black Tom' who became Commander-in-Chief on the New Model Army.
It was he who built a fine town house in York and took great pride in the city. During the siege of 1644, strict instructions were given that no damage was to be done to the Minster and it is largely due to him that the city was spared the puritan excesses of destruction.
Before we leave this morning, we will take a trip through time by visiting a Viking village, the Jorvik center. After an early lunch we will take the old coaching road due south to London. Our coach should see us there in 5 hours, not the 25 that Lord Fairfax would have experienced.
Our hotel for the last three nights will be in the center of London.
After leaving Oxford, Lord Fairfax spent much of the next 20 years living in Georgian London, he was very much part of the court and political life of this period. There is a choice for you today, exploring on your own as there is much to see or an escorted visit to the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew. There is still something of a private garden at Kew, secured behind high brick walls with a ha-ha separating it from the River Thames.
The gardens were started in 1759 by Augusta, widow of the Prince of Wales, join us as we tour the 300 acres of unrivaled beauty and tranquility.
It is our hope that the current Lord Fairfax can join us for dinner.
Yet a further choice to explore on your own or visit the shops, museums, art galleries which make London a truly breathtaking city to visit. Or join us on a leisurely driving tour of the major sites of the town and city of London, lasting 5 hours or so, from Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's, Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London.
If possible, we might be able to visit the London Barracks of the 'Blues'. Lord Fairfax as a young man was briefly in this famous regiment, which is now part of the mounted guard of Queen Elizabeth.
Transfer to London airport for your return flight