The David Parr House

Stapleford History Society 14th May 2019

A talk by Tamsin Wimhurst

The David Parr house is at 138 Gwydir Street, Cambridge. From the outside, this ivy-covered house looks like any other Victorian worker’s home. However, on the inside it is a unique jewel with hand-painted walls and ceilings decorated in the Arts and Crafts style of William Morris and Philip Webb, with elements of George Bradley’s neo-Gothic ecclesiastical flourishes.

It was only discovered after the death of David Parr’s granddaughter, Elsie Palmer, who lived there from the age of twelve and until 2004. Tamsin Winhurst, the Trustee of the David Parr House, gave this most interesting illustrated talk, which was full of detail about David Parr (1855-1927) himself, his family and working life.

David Parr was an extremely talented workman who worked in cathedrals, churches, palaces and university colleges. His imagination was clearly stimulated by what he was being paid to do and, on returning home at night, he created all the decorative elements over many long hours, probably to the annoyance of his wife who must have endured hours of upheaval!

We also learned a great deal about the firm of Frederick Leach, Cambridge, where David Parr learnt his trade. Because the house is small, the number of visitors is limited to groups of six and tours are fully booked for the rest of 2019. Fortunately for us, examples of David Parr’s expertise, together with that of his fellow workers, can be seen in the glass at Michaelhouse, the ceiling painting of Queens’ College Old Hall, Jesus College Chapel and the highly decorated All Saints’ Church.

A visit to the Church will be well-rewarded, especially if you possess a very good zoom lens on your phone or camera. High up near the ceiling is the list of names of the decorating team. Rather poignant is the information that DP did some of the original work and his own son made subsequent repairs after damage had been caused by the blackening and condensation of the gas lighting.

The National Lottery’s Heritage Fund has twice provided money which will help to preserve this unique house. For any further information, you can consult