Tuesday, 8 March 2016

David Parr House

In a back street in Cambridge, a hitherto unknown domestic interior, now over a hundred years old, has been discovered and purchased in order to preserve and share it.  

The [very] small terraced house was until recently the home first of David Parr and then of his granddaughter and her family. In his day job, David Parr was employed as an artist-painter by the firm F R Leach & Sons, responsible for carrying out many church and college decorative schemes in Cambridge and beyond – typically patterned mural painting on walls and ceilings with elaborate late-Victorian designs and colourways, inspired by Gothick architects and William Morris in the early days of the Firm


From the 1890s through to his death in 1927 David Parr brought his work home, with his paints, to cover the surfaces of his home with similar high quality ornamentation – foliage, flowers, motifs, scrolls, quotations – executed with perfect craftsmanship.  He kept a notebook too, detailing paints and tools and dates and costs, so the sequence of work is recorded. 

Having purchased the house from the family following the death of Parr’s granddaughter, who moved in aged 12 to look after her grandmother in 1927, the David Parr House charitable trust aims to preserve, conserve and open this modest yet remarkable building to the public.  

The painting is exceptional in itself and in terms of its virtually intact survival, as it were out of sight for so many decades;  of equal if not greater historical interest is that it is all the work of a journeyman house painter from the same period as that so vividly in The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell – men working for seven or eight pence an hour.  With the Leach firm, Parr was probably not subject to arbitrary wage cuts or lay-offs; nonetheless in the Edwardian era his income and family standard of living was very basic, while his meticulous accounts echo the philanthropists’ concern with pence and half-pence.   All the more amazing his creation of a unique interior. 

More details on the DPH website http://davidparrhouse.org/