Side-switching Sir Thomas and his link to town

Baker Fold

Halifax

Recent opinions expressed about the merits or otherwise of having a monarch in Britain, and “What should be done with the royals?” (see recent Your Say contributions by Philip Fletcher and Wendy Tooby) are nothing new.

Though sometimes, people’s opinions do change drastically on such subjects.

This called to mind that Yorkshireman and Parliamentarian commander Sir Thomas (later Lord) Fairfax (1612-71) came to Halifax once as a Republican, and once as a King’s man.

It was in June 1643 after his army’s defeat at Adwalton Moor that Fairfax first came unexpectedly to Halifax; and he did not stay for long.

He was never one to seek the death of Charles I, and his wife is famous for shouting from the gallery at the king’s trial: “Oliver Cromwell is a traitor!”

Fairfax welcomed the restoration of 1660, and his daughter Mary married one of the wealthiest and most flamboyant aristocrats of the new Court, the rakish Duke of Buckingham (1628-87).

Fairfax’s second visit to Halifax (unless there were any others in between of which I am unaware) occurred on 31st May 1673, when he arrived unannounced with his son-in-law, Buckingham, who was then recruiting for his regiment in the West Riding.

In his diary Oliver Heywood tells us that they stayed two nights with Dr Jonathan Maude (1613-84).

Interestingly, Maude himself was a nonconformist, but on the Sunday, the two visiting gentleman and their entourage attended Halifax Parish Church.

Unfortunately, Rev Richard Hooke (vicar 1662-89) was away preaching at Ripon, and Ralph Wood, the curate of Ripponden was assigned to preach that morning.

But Heywood relates that Mr Lawson, the Lecturer, took it upon himself to preach before the Duke.

The diarist goes on to say of the sermon was “judged pitiful stuff; he was often out, and spoke nonsense,” so that later the Duke uttered “some words of displeasure to Lord Fairfax.”

Matters also went awry over a prayer book - Heywood mentions that “old Gill, the reader, had an old one, in which Mary, Queen Mother, was mentioned.

Gill read on and prayed for Mary, though dead, which the Duke made a jest of.”

In the afternoon Fairfax and the Duke walked to inspect what remained of the Halifax gibbet.

One wonders whether, as they looked on the remains of that cruel instrument of execution, those two men who had fought on opposing sides in the Civil War, recalled the beheading of the King‘s father, twenty-four years earlier.

David C Glover