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Woodsley House

Woodsley House was built for Peter Fairbairn in 1840, on a plot of land on Clarendon Road. It was designed by John Clark, and is built of red brick with stone Greek columns on the front forming an impressive façade. Inside, at the foot of the elegant staircase there are similar columns to match those outside. The rooms were spacious, the dining room decorated in Italian style. The house fronted onto Clarendon Road, but behind were spacious grounds and a magnificent view across Airedale.

When Queen Victoria visited Leeds in 1858 she stayed overnight at Woodsley House, as the guest of Peter Fairbairn, who was then the Mayor of Leeds. She was given her own suite of rooms for herself, the Prince Consort, and her entourage. The Queen's bedroom was at the rear of the house, looking westward across the open countryside.

Every effort was made to ensure that the Queen was comfortable during her stay. A report in the Times mentions 'the exquisite dessert and other services provided for the use of her Majesty at Woodsley House…………were all the work of Mr. Daniell.'

A description of the house appeared in the Times of 7th September 1858.
'This house is situated in the suburbs, on a gently rising eminence overlooking the town. The exterior is handsome though unpretending looking in all, save the very massive and richly decorated cast-iron gates which open on a short carriage way to the entrance………… Inside however, for its size the house is one of the most complete and richly decorated mansions in this part of the kingdom.  The whole building was redecorated last winter, and it is evident at a glance that money has been lavished upon it with an unsparing hand. The dining room is a one of the most perfect little bijous in the Italian style we have seen. In the drawing room one is at a loss which most to admire, the magnificence of the details or the perfect harmony and good taste of the whole. The vestibule and hall, too, are exceedingly well-proportioned, furnished with the most excellent taste, and adorned with some noble specimens of the English school of Painting. Certainly neither at Stoneleigh Abbey, nor at Worsley Hall were the preparations at all comparable to those which have evidently been made for her Majesty at Woodsley House. The grounds round the house are varied and beautiful, and in the most exquisite order.'

During the Queen's visit, the Mayor and his family moved out of the house, and stayed with Mr. T Nunneley. The rest of the family stayed with Mr. Robert Barr.

Sir Peter Fairbairn
Peter Fairbairn was the youngest son of Andrew Fairbairn, and was born at Kelso in Scotland in 1799.  He moved with his parents to Newcastle, where at the age of 11 he became apprentice to a millwright. He received part of his training working for his eldest brother, William Fairbairn who was in business as a millwright and an engineer in Manchester. For a short time he worked for Messrs. Rennie in London, and in 1822 was working in Paris. In 1824 he moved to Glasgow to become partner in the firm of Holdsworth & Co. at the Anderton Foundry. In 1827 he married Margaret Kennedy, and in 1828 he moved to Leeds, setting up in business as a machine maker, making machines for the woollen industry. He also made improved machinery for preparing and spinning flax, and supplied machines to Marshalls factory in Holbeck. The firm made machine tools of all kinds, and was employed by the government to make tools for the production of armaments and munitions during the Crimean War. He designed and built the Wellington Foundry.

Peter Fairbairn was active in local affairs, and was elected to the town council in 1836. He became an Alderman of the Borough in 1854, and was Mayor of Leeds 1858-59. He was knighted by Queen Victoria when she visited Leeds to open the Town Hall. Margaret Fairbairn died in 1843, and in 1855 Sir Peter Fairbairn married his second wife, Rachel Anne Brandling.  He died at Woodsley House in 1861.
Click images to enlarge
Woodsley House
Woodsley House
Woodsley House from Clarendon Road
Woodsley House from Clarendon Road
Arrival of Queen Victoria at Woodsley House
Arrival of Queen Victoria at Woodsley House
The hall at Woodsley House
The hall at Woodsley House
Her Majesty's drawing room at Woodsley House
Her Majesty's drawing room at Woodsley House
Her Majesty's bedroom
Her Majesty's bedroom
Writing materials in the Queen's boudoir
Writing materials in the Queen's boudoir
Sir Peter Fairbairn
Sir Peter Fairbairn




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003