Jump to content

The Fairbanks of Sheffield


Recommended Posts


From early in the 18th century, there was no name better known in Sheffield than Fairbank; and although the family seems to have left the town nearly a hundred years ago, the name is yet known to Sheffield antiquaries, lawyers and surveyors, through what has for many years been called The Fairbank Collection, which consists of thousands of maps, plans, sections, elevations, surveys, field-books, letters, diaries, account-books, office-drafts and papers; left, at the death of William Fairbank Fairbank in 1848, for disposal by his executors.

In tracing the descent of the Sheffield branch of the Fairbank family, we shall also make clear the origin and devolution of The Fairbank Collection, which passed into the safe keeping of Mr Reginald D. Bennett, surveyor of Sheffield, on the death of his predecessor in business, the late Mr Alfred Smith Denton, in 1927.

In The Fairbank Collection, we find much Sheffield history, extending for about a hundred and fifty years from Queen Anne to Queen Victoria, written not in words but in maps; and this form of local history brings into prominence many topographical facts and interesting events, which are not to be found elsewhere.

Such a comprehensive collection of cartographic material, available for the history of a circumscribed area and period, is probably unique; and it invites the fullest examination.

The four generations of Fairbank, shown in the above pedigree, were the men who brought the collection into existence, and at the same time made their name famous in the 18th and 19th centuries, first in Sheffield and later throughout England.

William at the head of the pedigree, his son, grandsons and great-grandson surveyed the whole of Sheffield and many miles round, together with other landed estates in neighbouring and also distant counties.

The work of surveying innumerable small holdings in Sheffield extended over many years; and was undertaken for private landowners and public bodies at a time when little, if any, land surveying had been attempted in the district; and it is evident that the land owners in and around Sheffield gladly availed themselves of the opportunity provided by the coming of the Fairbanks, to have their lands surveyed for the first time.

The surveys of Sheffield properties, made prior to 1771, were so numerous and comprehensive that they enabled the second William Fairbank to publish a street-map in 1771, which he revised, and extended in 1797; and, as the town expanded in every direction, a third street map of Sheffield was published in 1808 by the brothers William and Josiah.

These three maps are full of interest, they are yet in use and for many purposes are constantly referred to; they were prepared from exact measurements, taken mostly by the second William and his son Josiah.

These outlined dimensions with notes and dates were sketched in field-books carried in the pocket; and all measurements were entered with great accuracy, when working on the land.

The field books were paper covered pocket books, which they sometimes called Dimension Books; but more usually Field-Books. A half-tone illustration of one of these Field-Books is here reproduced. Nearly three hundred of these Field Books, containing, several thousand separate surveys, now form part of The Fairbank Collection.

In some of the earlier field-books the buildings are shown in what was then a new method of drawing, called isometrical projection, by which the elevation and ground-plan of a building are represented in one view.

Another series of note-books, extending from 1752 to 1800, contains full particulars of' buildings, either erected or altered by a Fairbank ; these building-books are full of interesting detail as to the cost of work by masons, carpenters; slaters, glaziers, painters, decorators and others; this series also contains many plans, sections and elevations of buildings in Sheffield and the outlying district.


The earliest record of the Fairbank family is to be found in the will of Richard Fayrbank of Heptonstall near Halifax, dated the 20th August 1517. He was born at Kendal in Westmorland about 1470, and his wife was Alice daughter of John Colcroft, a member of a well known Yorkshire family.

Richard, by his will, left a sum of iii s. iv d. to his `Fader at Kendall ; and he directed An Order to be said at the chapel in Kendal, where he was born.

This makes it clear that, the family, whose name is variously spelt but for convenience throughout these notes is referred to as Fairbank, came from Westmorland shortly before 1517 and settled in and around Halifax in Yorkshire, where records of the family are to be found, covering two centuries or more.

From the Halifax stock many branches spread far afield, some reaching Sheffield in the second half of the 16th century, when we find a Robert Fairbank of Sheffield. In his will, dated the 23rd September, 1585, he is described as of Sheffield in the county of York draper; and he expressed a wish to be buried in the parish church there.

He left v s. to the poor man's box in the church and amongst the legacies was iii l. vi s. viii d. to his apprentice Mark Fairbank; x s. for his godson George Fairbank and one black doublet for John son of George Fairbank.

His two brothers-in-law, Henry and Lawrence Hall, were legatees; and another apprentice John Vicars was to receive iii s. iv d.; the residue of his estate he left to his wife Alice, who proved his will at York on the 5th November 1585.

He was buried on the 1st October 1585 at Sheffield parish church, as appears from the Sheffield parish register. If, in accordance with his wish, he was buried inside the church, some monumental inscription might have now existed; but no trace of such inscription can be found.

As he had two brothers-in-law named Hall, his wife presumably was Alice Hall; and there is some trace of two Lawrence Halls, father and son, living at Fulwood about that time.

It will be seen that in Robert Fairbank's will, there is no reference to a son or daughter, and we must assume that no children survived him; but from the Sheffield parish register it appears that he buried a daughter Alice on the 15th October 1579. That being so, William at the head of the pedigree was not descended from Robert the draper and we must look elsewhere for his ancestors.

As disclosed by the will, there were other Fairbanks living in Sheffield during Robert's lifetime and an examination of the Sheffield parish register, from its commencement in 1560 to 1700, only discloses two Fairbanks in addition to those already mentioned; namely, 1574-5 January lst Elizabeth Fayrebanckes (sic) buried; and 1589 August 18th George Hawe married Alice Fayrebanckes (sic).

Of Elizabeth nothing is known, but Alice who married George Hawe may have been the widow of Robert the draper.

In 1566 Robert Fairbank paid a fee-farm rent of three pence for church-land in Sheffield, due to the lord of the manor; and in 1569 there was a Sheffield assessment `for makynge of soulders' as follows, xx s. for the equipment of Robert Fairbank.

In 1668 the Society of Friends was founded in London and in later years the Sheffield Fairbanks joined or formed a local branch. From that time we find no more records of the family in the register of the parish church, as the Friends kept their own records of births marriages and deaths; and those of the Sheffield branch begin at too late a date to throw any light on the family connexion between the first William Fairbank the schoolmaster and the Sheffield Fairbanks of the 16th century. Perhaps, however, sufficient has been said to show that the Fairbanks of Sheffield were descended from the 15th century Westmorland stock and that they first settled around Halifax and then moved south to Sheffield and elsewhere.


One group of the Halifax branch, before the days of William the Sheffield schoolmaster, left England for America, where the name Fairbank is yet known and honoured; the tradition being, that two brothers Richard and Jonathan Fairbank, of Sowerby near Halifax York¬shire, with their wives Elizabeth and Grace sailed for Boston Massachusetts U.S.A. in the `Griffin' and landed there in 1633.

Richard soon identified himself with public affairs in Boston and held many important public offices in the town; he was a member of the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company and was the first Postmaster of the Colony.

His house in Boston was the post office and he served the Colony well until 1667 when he died, his two children having predeceased him; his brother Jonathan, after prospecting around Boston for three years, settled in 1636 with his wife and six children at Dedham, about ten miles south-west of Boston.

We are told that Jonathan was possessed of ample means and that he brought with him from England the frame of a house, the timbers of which lay for three years in Boston, until he found a settlement at Dedham. There, he obtained the grant of a twelve-acre plot of land and on it built his house, to which he added more land in later years.

He and his family lived in this house until 1648 when he enlarged it to meet the requirements of his family; and this old frame-house with all its extensions, after the lapse of nearly three centuries, yet stands.

It is now known as Ye Olde Fayerbanke House and is said to be the oldest existing frame-house in the United States. It was occupied by the descendants of Jonathan until 1903 or shortly after, when Miss Rebecca Fairbank left it and removed to Boston, the old house being purchased by the Fairbank Family Association, a trust formed for the purpose of preserving it for all time, as a place of historic and antiquarian interest.

It is visited every year by thousands of tourists and travellers, who come from all parts of the world. An illustrated pamphlet of thirty pages is published for the use of visitors; and this shows the out side of the house from many points of view, both in summer and winter; also the living-room, a bedroom and kitchens, each containing its old furniture; with spinning- wheels, rocking-chairs, trundle-beds, gate-legged tables; warmingpans, pewter dishes and cider-press.

An inventory of the goods of Jonathan Fairbank is printed in full; also a copy of his will, dated 1668, ,and a copy of the will of his kinsman and benefactor George Fairbank of Sowerby in Yorkshire clothier, dated 1650.

The frontispiece reproduces a picture of President and Mrs. Henry Irving Fairbank in picturesque costume of the period; they are described as of ‘The Ninth Generation of the Fayerbanke family.’

Perhaps now that Ye Olde Fayerbanke House is open to the public, Sheffield visitors to Boston will be tempted to make the short journey to Dedham, to see what was for nearly three hundred years the home of the American branch of a family, once so well known in Sheffield.


We must now examine, in some detail, the history of the four generations of Fairbank who lived in Sheffield from the close of the 17th century to about 1850.

The earliest record of the first William, the schoolmaster and land-surveyor, is his signature on the inside cover of A Record Book of the Society of Friends in Sheffield, bearing date 1723.

It is below a motto in both Greek and Latin, which betrays the schoolmaster and shows that he had joined the Quakers in Sheffield before 1723.

The next mention of this William is in 1725, when he gave formal notice to the Sheffield branch of the Society of Friends of his intention to marry Emma Broadhead, the widow of William Broadhead deceased and the daughter of John Clark of Swinton near Rotherham; the marriage taking place on the 9th December 1725, at the Friends' Meeting House in Sheffield.

In 1733 he was appointed by the Sheffield branch to represent it, at a meeting of the Balby branch near Doncaster; and in the same year, for conscientious reasons, he refused to pay tithe; and his goods were distrained. His ledgers and account-books show that many Sheffield boys and girls attended his school from 1753 or earlier to 1773.

One book, marked `School Wages', contains the names of hundreds of scholars and their parents, which include, Aldam, Barlow, Barnard, Bennett, Binney, Bright, Broadbent, Brownell, Cadman, Chorley, Dale, Doncaster, Eyre, Fenton, Firth, Girdler, Goddard, Hall, Hallam, Heathcott, Holy, Ibberson, Marsh, Newbould, Nodder, Palfreeman, Rawson, Roberts, Roebuck, Rotherham, Skelton, Swallow, Trickett, IJnwin, Vickers, Withers, Woolhouse, Worrall and Wreaks, with many interesting details.

There is, however, nothing to indicate in what part of Sheffield the school was, nor is there any information from other sources which enables us to fix its site with any certainty. A possible clue may be gathered from the fact that the first William paid 'a guinea a year for a field at White House' in, Bramall Lane, about a hundreds yards north of Sheaf House; also twenty shillings for a stable. As he would rent the stable for his horse, it seems probable that this stable would not be far from his house; for in those days he would be dependent on his saddle-horse for getting to distant points, where he was surveying.

Only a few maps and plans in The Fairbank Collection can be attributed to the first William, and these are on parchment, being dated between 1737 and 1750.

If few maps in the collection can be credited to him, it must not be assumed that his output of work as a surveyor was small, on the contrary his day-books show a splendid record of surveying both in Sheffield and at a distance.

He had a son, also called William, and two daughters; he died on the 5th December 1759 as the result of an accident, the circumstances of which are fully described in a letter which his son wrote to Josiah Forster a schoolmaster and surveyor of Tottenham near London, his father-in-law, which reads as follows:

‘ It was on the 4th day, about five in the evening, that he was returning from brother Hirst's on horseback;[1] and in as good health as he had enjoyed for several weeks, and just at the entrance to the town (as we were informed, for none of us were with him) the mare stumbled, whether on the ice or some stone we know not; but on recovering herself, she struck into a brisk pace and he, endeavouring to stop her with the curb bridle, broke the bit in her mouth; by which accident he lost the command of her and his own seat and fell with so much violence on the side of his head, which was exceedingly bruised, that the surgeon told us he got a concussion in his brains, tho' his skull was not fractured.

The neighbourhood was immediately alarmed and he carried into a little alehouse, from whence we were immediately sent for and went to him; we found him discharging abundance of blood from his wound and mouth and altogether insensible, as he remained to the time of his death; which was on the 5th day about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, notwithstanding all the surgeon could do for him; and indeed he remained quite motionless till his death......

I need not tell thee we shall never more use the mare. The Coroner's Inquest brought her in the Bane, tho' it seems in a great measure chargeable on the weakness of the bridle bits.

She however is forfeited to the lord of the manor, the Duke of Norfolk, and valued by the jury at six pounds, which we believe he, will not [take] nor any more than a small acknowldgement, which will serve to keep up his superstitious claim to Deodands (so called), warranted by custom or law.

The letter was dated Sheffield 12th Mo. 15th 1759 and is now at the central Offices of the Society of Friends, Euston Road, London.

This the first William was buried in the Quakers' Burial Ground at Sheffield; he died intestate and his wife Emma predeceased him.

The claim to a deodand was prima facie by the King; it arose when a man, through misfortune, was killed by a horse or cart or any moving thing, called a bane, which was forfeited to the King's Almoner, to dispose of in alms and deeds of charity. It seems that by special custom of the manor of Sheffield, deodands were claimed by its lord. The mare which caused the death of William was probably the one he bought from John Lee of Thrift House Ecclesall for £7, two years before the accident; a note of which appears in his cash-book.


On the death of the head of the family in 1759, his son William continued the school, of which he had kept the accounts since 1757 or earlier; he also continued the surveying business, for which he had been trained by his father and in which he had taken an active part for some years before his father's death.

He administered his father's estate; and his well kept account-books, which form part of The Fairbank Collection, give much information as to his life and work.

During the father's lifetime William the son had married Mary the daughter of Josiah Forster of Tottenham above mentioned, whose grandson we are told was the right honourable William Edward Forster M.P. for Bradford and chief secretary for Ireland in 1880.The Forsters were also members of the Society of Friends and the letter of the 15th December 1759 was written by the second William to his wife's father.

In 1760, a year after his father's death, the second William bought land in Coal Pit Lane Sheffield, now known as Cambridge Street, on which he erected a dwelling-house for his own occupation, with ample accommodation for his scholars. In 1770 M. Oddie, perhaps a pupil, made a very perfect plan of this property, which is in the collection.

The second William continued at Coal Pit Lane for several years and during this period, the daily entries in his books show a curious mixture of charges for schooling and surveying; he obviously must have had help in the school, when away from home surveying land at a distance.

In 1798 he took a lease from the Duke of Norfolk of a piece of land containing 32 perches in Lee's Croft, with a frontage of about 220 yards

to Broomhall Lane, near the corner of what is now Broom¬hall Street and West Street.

On this piece of land he had built some years previously, as a residence for himself, a house with a garden and orchard which he called West Hill, the site of which had prior to 1768 been part of what was then known as Black Lands.

In 1798 the Duke seems to have granted William Fairbank a lease of West Hill, as it is then referred to in the Duke's maps and rentals as leasehold; but, although the lease was granted in 1798, it is clear that William Fairbank was living at West Hill as early as 1794 and probably eight years earlier, as he appears to have left Coal Pit Lane and given up the school about 1774. After this he presumably devoted his whole time and energy to land surveying.

The Fairbank Collection contains many of his office diaries and account-books, among which is a printed pocket-diary for the year 1785, which is full of interesting notes of work done, which are beautifully written and clearly expressed. It contains many items which explain and supplement the maps in the field-books.

This daily record gives a good idea of the professional life and work of the second William Fairbank, who died at West Hill on the 9th August 1801, aged 70 years.

By his will, dated the 14th May 1800, he gave his leasehold house, which would be West Hill, and two closes then known as Well Field and the Croft, held of the Duke of Norfolk, to his wife for life, with the remainder to his two sons William and Josiah and their sisters; but William had the right to have the house, on making certain payments to the others; the testator gave all his instruments used for the land surveying business and his copper-plates and plans of Sheffield and the parish of Sheffield to his two sons; but his household goods furniture and books he gave to his wife, who with her eldest son William proved the will at York, on the 15th February 1802.

The Fairbank Collection bears witness to an extraordinary amount of work done by this very assiduous and energetic member of the family, the second William; nearly two hundred of the field-books are in his handwriting. From ‘The Records of the Burgery of Sheffield' by John Daniel Leader 1897, it appears that he did much work for the Town Trustees.

One of his great achievements was the laying out, construction and engineering of main roads in and around Sheffield.

In 1757, two years before his father's death, he constructed the Sheffield to Buxton turnpike road; and about the same time he widened and improved the entire length of the road from Sheffield to Wakefield.

In 1760 he made the road from Lady's Bridge to Bridgehouses;

in 1763 he was engaged on the Worksop Road through Aston and Gateford; and about the same time he improved the turnpike road to Derby.

In 1764 he constructed the road from Tinsley to Doncaster and two years later was engaged on the road from Orgreave,Common to Attercliffe via Catcliffe.

During 1768 the road from Holmesfield to Curbar Head was completed under his supervision; also the turnpike road from Grindleford Bridge to Penistone.

This gives some idea of the work he undertook and completed; but it is only part of his work on the roads, which again is exclusive of the more general work of land surveying for private clients, of whom he had many.

Like his father; he travelled about the country to his work on horseback; and he must have spent many hours every week in the saddle and no doubt kept his own horse; but in his accounts the cost of horse-hire constantly occurs.

We have evidence of his journeys in the saddle, for days to, gether, in his journals and cash books.

In 1757, during his father's lifetime, he was engaged in a survey for Parson Stacey of Stow Park, about five miles south-east of Gainsborough, and not less than thirty-six miles from Sheffield.

His first stop was at Woodhouse to have his horse's shoe removed, for which he paid four pence; he had dinner at Gateford, which cost including ale seven pence; supper and liquor at Retford thirteen pence, where he stayed the night and paid a further eight pence for his breakfast with ale.

At North Leverton he stopped for dinner, paying ten pence; and there he secured a guide to show him the road to Dunham Ferry, for whose services he paid two pence; next day he had his midday dinner at Gainsborough and supped at Wheatley.

The following day he had J. Johnson as his guest at dinner and this was probably Parson Stacey's agent, who would point out the land to be surveyed.

He seems to have taken the journey very leisurely, perhaps he was riding his own horse on that occasion? The concluding item for this journey shows that his professional fee was five shillings a day, the entry being `My wages 7 days at 5s = £l - 15 - 0d.'

About the same time he was measuring the road from Sheffield to Chesterfield, to fix milestones for the Turnpike Commissioners. In that case his charge for one day and horse was six shillings.

No doubt many of the surveys, which he made from home, took more than a week and the open air life in all weathers that he led must have been very strenuous.

In 1760 he repaved High Street Sheffield and in 1762 he began a complete survey of the Duke of Norfolk's Sheffield estate.

The following year he was working in Cheshire and in 1765 he undertook work on the Don, to increase the water-power for mills and wheels.

Two years later he completed the aqueduct from Crookes Moor to the New Spring at Leavy Greave and thence to Broomhall Lane.

During the twenty years following 1770, he seems to have further increased his work, not only as a surveyor and engineer but also as an architect; during that period, it included the erection of The Tontine Inn, the Shambles in Market Place; the Friends' Meeting House and private residences; including Meersbrook' House, Page Hall and many others.


After the death of the second William in 1801, either his executors or his two sons seem to have purchased the freehold reversion of the leasehold house at West Hill from the Duke; and William the son took up his residence there.

The two sons, William and Josiah, who for some time previously had been helping their father in the business, carried it on in partnership under the style of W. & J. Fairbank at West Hill; but later Josiah took the sole control until his son, some years later, joined him in partnership.

The third William, who apparently never married, died in 1848, aged seventy four. He does not appear to have ever taken a very active part in the business and more than seven years before his death the business under the style of Josiah Fairbank & Son had been removed from West Hill to offices in East Parade, in the centre of the town; and at that time Josiah was living at Wilkinson Street.

By the will of the third William, dated the 30th June 1846, his `printed books and engraved maps' were left to his friend Edward Smith of Fir Vale near Sheffield esquire.

To his nephew William Fairbank Fairbank, the eldest son of his deceased brother Josiah, he gave all his drawn maps, field-books and other writings relating thereto and his drawings and surveying instruments.

The residue of his estate was to be divided between his sister Mary, the wife of William Hodgson of German Town near Philadelphia U.S.A. and his sister-in-law Sarah, the widow of his brother Josiah: Mr John Wheat solicitor of Sheffield was appointed sole executor, but he renounced probate and Sarah Fairbank administered the estate, shortly after the death of the testator, which occurred on the 15th July 1846.


We must now return to Josiah, the second son of the second William, who was born on the 14th December 1777 and died two years before his elder brother.

Josiah married Sarah Carbutt of Leeds, who survived him; they had sons and daughters.

Three of his sons were brought up as surveyors in their father's office in Sheffield. Shortly before his death Josiah severed his connexion with the Society of Friends and was by them `disunited.' His death occurred in 1844, at a time when he was over¬whelmed with work in connexion with the promotion of Bills in Parliament for the construction of railways. He died in his sixty-sixth year and apparently left no will; neither was administration to his estate granted at York or Somerset House.

There are no books or papers in the collection relating to his estate or its distribution after his death. In the year 1800, Josiah assumed control at his father's office and during the following forty years or more he got through a very great amount of important work; amongst other things, he valued the whole of the Sheffield area for rating purposes, he found time to do the same for the township of Halifax, his ancestral home; and he had much to do with the Rivelin and Redmires reservoirs.

In 1819 he undertook and carried through the construction of the road from Townhead in Sheffield to Glossop, along what is now West Street, Glossop Road, Manchester Road, Moscar, Ashopton and Snake.

Prior to 1819, West Street was very limited in extent; it only existed between what is now Holly Street and Broomhall Street. Buildings blocked the east end of West Street, at the Holly Street crossing; and all incoming traffic turned along Holly Street either north to Trippet Lane or south to Balm Green and Coal Pit Lane now Cambridge Street.

At the other end West Street became a footpath; and all traffic, other than pedestrians, had to turn south down Broomhall Lane now Broomhall Street. This costly undertaking could only be carried out with the authority of Parliament; but when the work was completed in 1820, the town had acquired one of its finest approach roads from the west; a new and more direct route between Sheffield and Manchester was opened for wagons, postchaises and mail coaches.

On the death of Josiah in 1844, his eldest son William Fairbank Fairbank continued the Sheffield business, where he had been helping his father for some years, the firm of Josiah Fairbank and Son being at East Parade, as early as 1833.


William Fairbank Fairbank was born in 1805 and married Frances Royston Fisher of Chesterfield. From a Sheffield Directory, we find him living at South Street in 1841. He was trained as a surveyor by his father and was a partner at the time of the latter's death.

His two brothers John Tertius Fairbank and Josiah Forster Fairbank were also for some time at their father's office in East Parade.

At the death of his father, William Fairbank Fairbank was left with much Parliamentary work on hand; and the disaster which befell the great railway enterprises of 1844-5 with the panic which followed, proved too much for his strength; and his health completely gave way.

While in London on Parliamentary work in 1846 he had a stroke of paralysis and was taken to his home in Sheffield; but he only partially recovered and for two years he confined his work solely to what he could transact in his own office at Sheffield.

In 1848 he had a further seizure and died in his garden on the 29th May, at the early age of 43 years. By his will he left the whole of his estate to his wife Frances, whom he appointed sole executrix; and she proved the will at York. With the death of William Fairbank Fairbank, the we11-known Sheffield firm of surveyors, that had flourished through four generations, came to an end.


At this time the two surviving sons of Josiah Fairbank, John Tertius and Josiah Forster, both surveyors, were not living in Sheffield; and a friend of the family Mr Marcus Smith of Sheffield a surveyor and the sub-agent to the Duke of Norfolk, helped the widow to wind up the affairs of the office and bring the work of the Fairbanks in Sheffield to a close.

The maps plans field-books drafts letters account-books and office-papers were included in the valuation for probate, and the Capital Burgesses bought some of the maps relating to their lands; other clients of the office seized the opportunity of doing the same.

What remained were bought by Mr Marcus Smith, and these now constitute The Fairbank Collection. Mr Smith kept it in his room at the Duke's office in Sheffield, until his death in 1882, when it passed to his widow Mrs Sarah Smith, the aunt of the late Mr Alfred Smith Denton of ` Raisin Hall near Sheffield surveyor, to whom she presented the collection in her lifetime; and it remained in his office at The Hartshead Sheffield, until his death in 1927.

Whilst in his possession, the maps were always available for reference or production in court, and often proved of the greatest value in disputes as to rights of way or the boundaries of land or buildings; such as the ease heard at Leeds Assizes in March 1893, concerning an alleged right of way along the Angel Inn yard in Sheffield, when the question turned on evidence provided by a Fairbank plan, produced by Mr Denton.

After his death, the collection was purchased by Mr Bennett, together with a share in Mr Denton's business of a surveyor of land and minerals.

With the close of the Fairbanks' office in East Parade the story of the Fairbanks and their work in Sheffield comes to an end; but the family tradition of the Sheffield branch has been maintained in other parts of Yorkshire.


During the years before the death of Josiah Fairbank in 1844, his son Josiah Forster Fairbank had been assisting him in his professional duties; and at his father's death he was residing in Sheffield; but when the railway `bubble' burst, followed by a period of great trade depression, Josiah Forster Fairbank decided to obtain some official appointment, and in 1847 he was elected engineer and secretary to the Pudsey Gas Company out of one hundred and fifty applicants; he removed from Sheffield to Pudsey in April 1847; this appointment he held until 1850, when he became engineer and secretary to the Scarborough Gas Company. While there he designed and constructed the Filey Gas and Waterworks and the Scarborough public baths.

He was elected a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1857; and resigned his position at Scarborough in 1860, moving to London where he had offices in Parliament Street Westminster and practised there for many years, during which time he designed and constructed a large number of works all over the country.

In 1885 he, like his father, had a stroke of paralysis, from which he recovered sufficiently to take his son Frank Graham Fairbank into partnership, opening an office in Driffield, where he then had work in hand; and this branch-office was subsequently transferred to York, the London offices of the firm being given up.

Josiah Forster Fairbank died in 1899 and his son Frank Graham Fairbank, who reside at York, continued his professional work as a civil engineer in partnership with his son Mr Alan Carbutt Fairbank under the style of Fairbank and Son, at The Tudor House, Stonegate, York, where the great tradition of the Sheffield Fairbanks is yet maintained.

Among the family papers, now in the possession of Mr F. Graham Fairbank at York is a memoir by his father, containing much information as to his branch of the family; with it, are many silhouette family portraits, including those of the first and second William and Josiah; and through the kindness of Mr Fairbank and his son these silhouettes are here reproduced.


With regard to The Fairbank Collection, there can be no question as to its extraordinary interest and especial value to the city of Sheffield. From it, complete and accurate information can be obtained as to ancient highways, bridle-sties, footpaths, turnpikes, canals, railways, reservoirs, aqueducts, water-courses, streets, bridges, wells, weirs, fords, leppings, water-wheels, windmills, gibbets, jails, stocks, markets, inns, theatres, assembly-rooms, churches, chapels, schools, crosses, pinfolds, burial-grounds, stiles, orchards, market-gardens, nurseries and coal-pits, with in many cases the date of construction.

From it, we also get the names of landowners, their lessees or tenants and other material of use to the topographer and historian.

This unique collection of maps and field-books, descriptive for the most part of lands and buildings within the extended boundaries of the city of Sheffield, has been since 1932, through the generosity and public spirit of Mr Bennett, the valued possession of the city to which it relates; and, as The Fairbank Collection, it is safely housed in the archives at the Sheffield Public Library, where it is accessible to those, most likely to make use of it, both now and in years to come.

[1] At this date John Hirst lived at Neepsend.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another excellent read Peter. Thought you may be interested in this small contribution I came across lol


Dec.15. Plan of the parish of Sheffield, published by William Fairbank and Son, price 21s.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great reading, Thank you. Hundreds of pages of detailed stuff, makes me weep ...

Now, for some Lottery Money and scan the whole lot to make it freely available to all those interested ... (if only)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another excellent read Peter. Thought you may be interested in this small contribution I came across lol


Dec.15. Plan of the parish of Sheffield, published by William Fairbank and Son, price 21s.

21s. in 1796 must have been a lot of money!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest travis19

This is a very informative entry! I'm currently conducting archaeological research at the Fairbanks House in Dedham, MA (built by Jonathan Fairbanks in 1636-41). I was wondering if I might inquire where you found the information about Jonathan coming to Boston with timbers that were stored in the city. It's a fascinating bit of information that I would love to include in my research. Thanks very much!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Chris Fairbank

A great read. Nice to find out what my ancestors have achieved. To find out my ancestors go back such a long way. Would like to know, where the name originated from, and if we were from the Beaumonts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The name originates from "fair" meaning beautiful and a bankside of land. So it means Beautiful Bankside. The place itself could come from several different locations. Since the surname would become attached to anyone who lived on or near the place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Chris Fairbank

Yes I understand that. As I am a genealogist. It has come down through our family had derived as the poopydoo son of William De Beaumont. Translated into French, Fairbank means Beaumont. My great Mother had mentioned it many times.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Chris Fairbank

Does anyone know much about Frederick Royston Fairbank? my great great grand father and why the family moved down to Barnestaple? Was there a family rift ? and why my great grand father came to Australia, and his brother ? Cheers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure which is the right Frederick Royston Fairbank?  There seem to have been at least two.

Various information probably relating to two separate people:  born in Sheffield about 1841, moved to Chesterfield then educated in Rugby, became a medical doctor, lived in Manchester for a while, then Doncaster, married Dora Sympson in Lincoln in 1866, married Sarah Ellen Meadows in Manchester in 1866,was a keen amateur archaeologist, stood for election in Doncaster, one who originated in Felixstowe died in 1913 in Caversham Oxfordshire.

Can you narrow down which one is ours?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Chris Fairbank

Yes that is the one. That is my great great grandmother, as I have seen correspondence from the above mentioned names. Plus we have a family box of paperwork and photo graphs and other assorted historical items. My father does anyway. Though we are estranged. Frederick royston was a professor, had written a couple of books, one on the Earl of Warick, and some archaeological digs in either Devon or Cornwall. My Great grandfather was a navel pilot, as was his brother, who had served in the boxer rebellion in 1900. is that helpful ? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Chris Fairbank

Thank you. Yes, it seems to confirm the family legend that we were descendents of William De Beaumont. It does seem to make sense. 

I would like to find out, the reason as to why his descendants came to Australia. Also another of my ancestors, Josiah Forster, the secretary to Ireland in the 1890's which a song was written about, we are related to the Forster's and the Carrbutts, as well as the Fisher's and the Meadow's. I do so appreciate the help from our Sheffield friends. I look forward to visiting Sheffield and see the areas where my ancestors worked and lived. Sheffield people are bloody bonza ! Cheers cobbers ! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Chris Fairbank

Obituary, Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser 11 October 1913

Says he moved for reasons of health.






Thank you so much mate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Chris Fairbank

Thank you so much mate.

Also notice, that we are called Fairbank, not " Fairbanks", that also been carried down since I was born. 

Thank you HughW.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...