fonds UL3 - Records of Admiral Robert Fairfax

Identity area

Reference code



Records of Admiral Robert Fairfax


  • 1695-1725 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.04 cubic metres

2 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Admiral Robert Fairfax was born in February 1666 and baptised on the 23rd February at Steeton Chapel in Newton Kyme, Yorkshire. He was the second son of William Fairfax of Steeton and Newton Kyme, and his wife Catherine Stapleton. His grandfather, Sir William Fairfax, had been a colonel in the parliamentary army and was killed at the relief of Montgomery Castle in 1644.

Robert Fairfax's first experience of the sea was aboard a merchant ship commanded by Captain Bushell in 1681. In January 1688 he was received as a volunteer on board the 'Mary', the flagship of Sir Roger Strickland, and was promoted to be lieutenant of the 'Bonaventure', commanded by Captain Thomas Hopson, later that same year. In this role Fairfax saw action at the battle in Bantry Bay (1 May 1689), the relief of Londonderry (July 1689), and the battle of Beachy Head (20 June 1690).

In November 1690, Fairfax was promoted to command the 'Conception', and for the next two years was stationed at Boston, Massachusetts, cruising against French privateers. In June 1693 he returned to England where he was appointed to the 'Ruby' and ordered to cruise on the coast of Ireland for the protection of trade. During this time he captured a French privateer, the 'Entreprenante', and was consequently promoted to command of the eighty gun 'Newark' in recognition of his service. In the Newark, and later in the 'Cornwall', he was employed in convoy duty in the English Channel, the Bay of Biscay and the Portuguese coast.

On the death of his elder brother in 1694, Robert Fairfax succeeded to the Steeton and Newton Kyme estates. On 20 November of that year he married Esther, the sister of Captain Bushell and widow of Charles Tomlinson of Whitby.

In May 1699, Fairfax was appointed to the 'Severn,' followed by the 'Cambridge' and the 'Restoration.' In January 1703 he took command of the 'Somerset,' before being transferred to the 'Kent' as flag captain to Rear-Admiral Thomas Dilkes.

In 1704, as commander of the 'Berwick', Fairfax was tried by court martial, along with six other captains, for their failure to capture a French squadron off Cape Palos on the Spanish coast. All were fully acquitted. Fairfax went on to fight at the capture of Gibralter and the battle of Malaga in the same year. In 1705 he took part in the capture of Barcelona aboard the 'Torbay'.

In 1706 Fairfax was given command of the 'Barfleur' as commander-in-chief in the Thames and Medway, and in early 1707 he was commander-in-chief at Portsmouth. After a commission as vice-admiral of the blue was cancelled in 1708, Fairfax refused all further service and retired from naval life later that year.

Following his retirement, Fairfax was elected Member of Parliament for the city of York at a by-election in 1713. In 1715 he served as Lord Mayor of York. He spent the rest of his life in Yorkshire, attending to the management and development of his property.

Admiral Fairfax died on 17 October 1725 and was survived by his wife and 2 children.

Archival history

The records were originally in Newton Kyme and were purchased in 1961. They form part of the University Library Manuscripts collection.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was purchased by the University of York Library and deposited in the Borthwick Institute in August 1974.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Log books, including assorted papers relating to Fairfax’s naval career and entries relating to his part at the Battle of Malaga and reduction of Barcelona and Gibraltar,1695-1705; order book, 1694-1706.


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute, University of York, terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A typescript catalogue, to file level, is available for consultation in the Borthwick Institute's searchrooms and at the National Register of Archives, London.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For related material held by the Borthwick Institute, see copies of correspondence by Admiral Fairfax, including commissions and other naval papers, in the Photocopy Collection (Ref: GB 193 PH 131).

The papers of Admiral Robert Fairfax, 1666-1725, are held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London (ref. GB 064 MSS/FFX).

Related descriptions

Publication note

Clements R. Markham, 'Life of Robert Fairfax of Steeton, Vice-Admiral, Alderman, and Member for York - 1666-1725' (London, 1885).

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Description created in EAD by Karamdeep Sahota, 1 February 2008. Amended and imported to AtoM by Charles Fonge, 1 September 2015.




Accession area