Sir Peter Fairbairn (1799–1861)

Sir Peter Fairbairn  in the rain on Yorkshire day, yes it’s summer!

Peter, originally from Scotland, spent his adolescence in Newcastle and eventually made his way to Leeds in 1828. He was an Engineer and an Inventor and set up a business as a machine maker for the woollen industry.  He began to show an interest in Public Office, and then became mayor of Leeds from 1857 to 1858.

The statue, in Woodhouse Square,  was erected in 1867 and so is nearly 150 years old !   Queen Victoria was a house guest of Peter’s in 1858, when she opened the  Town Hall,  at the same time she gave Peter a Knighthood and he became Sir.

The internet is fantastic for researching historical data, and it can be really rewarding to research and find out details about the past.  More and more journals are being digitalised, so more of the past is becoming available via the internet as time goes on. Oxford University have digitalised a Journal called The Builder which interestingly explains how; Peter purchased ‘A stock of Saxe Horns and other instruments, which will form one of the largest and most effective brass bands in that part of the country’  This for his employees;  ‘As means of affording them agreeable recreation!’

5 thoughts on “Sir Peter Fairbairn (1799–1861)

  1. My daughter Rose is a conservator and works for a company (Rupert Harris Conservation) that, amongst other things, looks after the City of London’s statues. She spends many hours up scaffolding and cherry-pickers, cleaning, toning, patinating and waxing metalwork! Whenever she comes back to Leeds, she howls with anguish and indignation at its unmaintained, corroding statuary….


  2. It hadn’t occured to me until you said that, but Sir Peter is looking a bit mottled. Mind you I think he’s doing better than the chap on the corner of Woodhouse Moor nearest the University, who’s had his boots painted red……


  3. On the other hand, there is apparently a Japanese art form, Wabi Sabi, which takes great delight in the tarnished and the worn, the weathered. and the imperfect. I read that “Sabi” is the kind of beauty that can come only with age, such as the patina on a very old bronze statue’. Perhaps our council is wiser than we think, and not just a bunch of stingy old philistines.


  4. The link for the Wabi Sabi art form is fascinating and inspirational, thanks for posting it!
    At a time when there are so many cuts to essential services I guess the Leeds council’s budget for maintaining statues is limited, the City of London, as a major tourist centre will see it more as an investment.
    How’s about professional conservation company setting up some sort of employment/training scheme in collaboration with our Council?


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