David Parr House

Restoration & Conservation, Cambridge


186 Gwydir Street is a rare survival of a nineteenth century painted domestic interior.  It was the home of David Parr, an artisan painter who worked from 1886-1927.  Parr worked for a local firm with important commissions all over the country including Cambridge Colleges. His exceptional talent is displayed in the interiors of his own house, documented in a set of diaries in which David describes the palette of materials and the techniques he employs.  

After David’s death, his twelve-year old granddaughter Elsie was sent to live at the house to keep her grandmother company.  Elsie continued to live in the house with her own family until her death in 2013.  

Then the David Parr House Charity purchased the house.  With Heritage Lottery funding the Trustees were able to embark on a programme of much needed conservation work. Cowper Griffith Architects were appointed to prepare and carry out a scheme of repairs in accordance with the Conservation Management Plan by John Maddison Ph.D, FSA.

Significant areas of damp had resulted in the loss of part of the decorative scheme in the front and rear rooms, so an early decision was taken to conserve the exterior in order to preserve the repaired interiors.  Old black and white photographs showed the front of the house covered in ivy which may have contributed to the retention of moisture, exacerbated by cementitious repointing of the brickwork. The repointing of brickwork in lime mortar, the overhaul of sash windows restored in original colours, and the repair of drainage were undertaken to solve the issues. In the garden the careful repair of a garden shed built by David Parr, together with rear extensions with inventive leaded lights & coloured glass has been completed.

Work to the interiors has involved the careful removal of friable plaster and its replacement with new lime plaster, the painstaking repair of architraves, painted joinery, and the repair & uncovering of decorative finishes.  The painted interiors are currently being conserved by Tobit Curteis Associates.  Once complete the house is due to open in 2019.

Architect: Cowper Griffith