Today marks four centuries since the birth of Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax, who went from taking on the Marquis of Newcastle’s forces in Yorkshire to rising to become commander of the New Model Army.
Known as ‘Black Tom’ because of his dark complexion, Fairfax was a skilled warrior and general. Despite mixed fortunes in his and his father’s campaign in Yorkshire, he rode to the relief of Nantwich in January 1644, and he and his troops played a decisive role at the Battle of Marston Moor later that year.
Alongside cavalry commander Oliver Cromwell, he formed the New Model into the decisive fighting force that Parliament had required – smashing the King’s army at Naseby. As head of England’s first ‘professional’ army, he dealt firmly with the Leveller Mutinies of 1649, insisting upon the execution of the ringleaders.
But he stood down and refused to lead the invasion of Scotland during the Third Civil War.
Fairfax lived quietly in retirement during the Republic at Nunappleton Hall in Yorkshire but, when Cromwell died and the Protectorate collapsed, he was instrumental in ensuring that the army supported General Monck so that the march on London went unopposed.
After the Restoration, Lord Fairfax took no further part in public life. He lived quietly in Yorkshire until his death on 12 November 1671. He was buried alongside Lady Fairfax at Bilborough parish church near York.