Object of the Week: The wheelchair used by the leader of the Civil War Parliamentarians, on show at Newark’s National Civil War Centre
This is the wheelchair used by Sir Thomas Fairfax, the Commander-in-Chief of Parliamentary forces and supremo of the New Model Army during the Civil War of 1642 to 1651, in his retirement. It moves by turning the handles.
© National Civil War Centre
Fairfax led from the front and was wounded 18 times, including being shot in the shoulder at Helmsley Castle in Yorkshire. He also protected York Minister from plunder during the city's capture.
Fairfax expert Dr Andrew Hopper wrote that Fairfax was “confined to his wheelchair by gout and the stone” from 1664, sitting, according to the recollections of his cousin Brian, “like an old Roman, his manly countenance striking awe and reverence into all that beheld him, and yet mixt with so much modesty, and meekness, as no figure of a mortal men ever represented more.”
Most of his time was spent carrying out religious duties and reading and, after a short fever, he died at Nun Appleton on November 11 1671.
- Fairfax’s gauntlet, boots, paper and coins are also on display in the new exhibition, Battle Scarred, at the National Civil War Centre.
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