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David Parr House

A talk by Tamsin Wimhurst on its restoration

Thursday 17th October 2019

The talk given by Tamsin Wimhurst in October provided a fascinating insight into this house, which is a 'time capsule' of the work of a working-class Victorian decorative artist who worked for the Cambridge firm of art workmen, F R Leach & Sons on Arts & Crafts and neo-Gothic projects.

The house is located on Gwydir Street off Mill Road in Cambridge. Tamsin first saw it in 2009 when David Parr's granddaughter was living there and bought it, with her husband, in 2014. They subsequently gifted it to the David Parr House CIO Charity.

Tamsin admitted that the purchase was an act of faith and in 2016 David Parr House was successfully awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to allow two and a half years of conservation work to be undertaken. None of thius would have possible without a group of dedicated volunteers, supporters and donors who have worked tirelessly to reveal the hidden world of the house. Until 2022, every £1 donated will be matched by the HLF and, with Gift Aid, will become £2.50.

The intricacy and uniformity of the hand-painted decorative patterns is impressive and the technique of 'pouncing' was frequently used. With this, a decorative profile is drawn on paper and a series of small holes pierced around the profile. The profile is then held in position on a wall or ceiling and charcoal rubbed over the holes and repeatedly used to create a series of outlines for hand painting. It may sound simple but requires incredible painting skills.

Tours of David Parr House are available, but visitor numbers are limited to 2,000 people per annum, to avoid damage from wear and tear and also humidity. The popularity of House Tours means that the earliest bookable date is at present August 2020. See their website for details of the house and the tours that are available.

The prolific work of F R Leach & Sons in Cambridge can be seen in a free self-guided walking tour located in central Cambridge.