Walter Fawkes was born at Hawkesworth Hall, near Guiseley as Walter Ramsden Hawkesworth and inherited Farnley Hall in 1792, at which point he assumed the surname Fawkes like his father, Walter Beaumont Fawkes, the head of an old West Riding family, before him.
Early in life Walter Fawkes became an active member of the advanced section of the whig party, being M.P. for the county of York from 1806 to 1807. He took a prominent part in the anti-slave trade movement, and spoke effectively in the debate which preceded the passing of Wilberforce's measure. In 1823 he filled the office of High Sheriff of Yorkshire.
Fawkes was a man of varied intellectual gifts, a cultivated writer, and, above all, a great lover and patron of the fine arts. In 1810 he published The Chronology of the History of Modern Europe, in 1812 a Speech on Parliamentary Reform, and in 1817 The Englishman's Manual; or, a Dialogue between a Tory and a Reformer; in all of which he set forth his political views and leanings with much perspicuity.
Fawkes is be best remembered, however, as the intimate friend and one of the earliest patrons of J.M.W. Turner, the artist. Turner had a welcome and a home at Farnley Hall, Fawkes's Wharfedale residence, whenever he chose to go, and used to spend months at a time there. Mr. Ruskin has borne eloquent testimony to the influence of Fawkes, Farnley, and Wharfedale on the genius of Turner, and the Turner collection still existing at Farnley Hall contains about two hundred of the artist's choicest works.
Fawkes was also a keen agriculturist. He did much towards the improvement of his estates, and was very successful as a breeder of cattle, his shorthorns being known abroad as well as in England. In conjunction with Mr. Jonas Whitaker of Burley-in-Wharfedale and the Rev. J. A. Rhodes of Horsforth he founded the Otley Agricultural Society, one of the first of its kind in England. The park which he formed at Caley Hall was stocked with red and fallow deer, zebras, wild hogs, and a species of deer from India.
Fawkes greatly enlarged the family mansion at Farnley, which he adorned with many collections. He married Maria, daughter of Robert Grimston of Neswick, and left a large family, dying in London on 24 October 1825, and being buried in the family vault at Otley.
- Chronology of the History of Modern Europe (1810)
- The Englishman's Manual, or, A Dialogue between a Tory and a Reformer (1817)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Fawkes, Walter Ramsden". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Walter Fawkes
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Yorkshire
With: William Wilberforce