A HISTORIC tourist attraction which narrowly escaped the devastating December floods is hoping its revamped new look will allow visitors to better explore its past.
The rising flood waters which caused so much damage in York came within meters of reaching the Georgian Fairfax House at the end of last year.
However the museum managed to remain open in December and staff said they were thankful to have had such a narrow escape as they opened their doors for a new season at the weekend.
Flood waters did not force the closure of Fairfax House but its doors have been shut for the past month to allow for an annual intensive conservation cleaning period to take place.
This has seen both staff and volunteers painstakingly cleaning and caring for each of the pieces that form the Noel Terry collection of furniture, cabinets and clocks at Fairfax House.
The museum has also been revamped ahead of this year’s opening.
The Georgian House has a new visitor reception and museum shop offering people a first taste of what the historic setting has to offer.
The old cinema foyer, to what was formerly St George’s Cinema and Dance Hall, has been transformed, shaking off the reminders of its 1980s style appearance, dating back to when it was rescued from dereliction and its restoration by York Civic Trust first began.
The 1920s cinema entrance remains to help tell the story of the building’s history of use and its changes of use – but behind this façade is a new gateway to exploring York’s Georgian history and that of the 18th century townhouse.
Parts of Fairfax House have been redesigned but with oak as a traditional material featuring strongly in the design, and with wall graphics which showcase the architecture, period rooms and objects from the house’s past.
A new area has been created for children’s mascot‘Gregory’, The Townhouse Mouse, and more space has been provided for visitors and group tours.
Director Hannah Phillip said: “We cherish what makes Fairfax House special, and while our commitment to preserving and protecting this nationally significant townhouse remains firmer than ever, we also want to enable it to progress, evolving sympathetically and growing in a way that helps create the right environment for more people to experience and enjoy this property.
“We have been passionately taking this vision forward over the past few years in many different ways, but feel now that the time has come to invest even more into the very fabric of this building.
“We believe that creating a new area to welcome and engage residents and visitors to York and share this house’s rich history is another important step on this path.
“We are truly delighted with the results and how this new spaces does full justice to the house.
“We aim that this is just the start of more to come in our plans for ongoing restoration projects.”
Plans for 2016 do not end with a rejuvenated visitor welcome space. In less than four weeks’ time, Fairfax House will also open its first exhibition for the year, A Century of Shoes: The Rise & Fall of the Georgian Heel. This will feature more than 100 shoes from 100 years of Georgian fashion, including the magnificent heels that came to prominence and then fell from fashion.