The David Parr House

  • ©
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • ©
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • ©
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • ©
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • ©
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • ©
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • ©
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk
  • © Matthew Smith Photography - info@msap.co.uk

Application Type

AABC Conservation

Level of Award

Highly Commended

Region

Eastern

Local Authority Area

Cambridge

Information about this scheme

In 1886 David Parr, an artisan decorator moved into a modest terraced house near Cambridge railway station and started a life-long project to decorate and furnish it in the style of the college and church interiors he was involved with at work.  He kept a notebook of techniques and materials giving a glimpse of a past age and a Victorian working-class man’s aspiration of home. On his death in 1927, David Parr’s widow, Mary Jane was joined by his 12year old granddaughter Elsie.  Elsie continued to live in the house until her own death in 2013, aged 98, when the house was acquired from her daughters by the David Parr House Charitable Incorporated Organisation. In 2016 the project to conserve the site was awarded the first of two grants from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.  The project was broken down into three phases.  The first involved a Conservation and Management Plan, an assessment of the fabric and the internal painted plasterwork. Preliminary investigatory work involved surveys of the below ground drainage, moisture readings of the walls to identify underlying issues, both past and present, that had resulted in the loss of the decorative internal wall and ceiling finishes.  The Conservation & Management Plan highlighted the significance of the house and garden as a product of several generations.  David Parr had kept diaries documenting his work on the interiors and Elsie’s husband, Alfred had kept a similar record of his work in the garden.  It was agreed that the conservation of the external envelope would offer the best protection to the interiors.  The contents of each room were photographed, catalogued and removed from the house.  A schedule of work was compiled and sent out to tender.  Paint analysis was undertaken to determine the colours of both the external joinery and some of the interiors where the plasterwork had been damaged beyond repair. The roof was re-slated and insulated to stabilise the internal environment.  The windows and doors were overhauled. Drains and rainwater goods were repaired.  The breathability of the external walls was improved by the removal of external modern synthetic paints, the removal of cementitious mortar and the repointing of brickwork in lime, the capping, repointing and flaunching of chimneystacks. Volunteers carried out 18 archaeological ‘pit digs’ to investigate the planting schemes within the garden. David Parr’s diary offered information of the original planting scheme at the front of the house and the materials used for paths and railings. Alfred Palmer’s diaries shed light on the back garden. An important element within the garden was the shed which was carefully repaired. Due to its delicate interior and the need to ensure its future conservation, it was acknowledged that direct public access to the House could not be the only means of engaging with audiences. Additional methods of telling the story of the House and sharing its heritage needed to be developed with a wide variety of ways of publicising, communicating and engaging with a large number of people. An initial target of 10,200 visitor engagements was set with 20,000+ engagements being achieved through off-site events, outreach, education, website and social media.

Credits

Client

David Parr House

Conservation Architect

Cowper Griffith Architects LLP

Main Contractor

F.A. Valliant & Sons Ltd

Paint Restoration

Huning Decorations

Paint Conservation

Tobit Curteis Associates

Electrical Subcontractor

Secelec

Specialist Plaster

Simon Swann Associates

Paint Analysis

Hamilton Kerr Institute

General Plaster

G.Cook & Sons Ltd -

Architectural Paint Research

Jane Davies Conservation

Primary Use Class

Class D1e - Museums