David Parr House: an Arts and Crafts marvel in Cambridge

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to write and produce the official ‘pocket guide’ for the David Parr House in Cambridge – for both creative and very personal (David Parr was my great-great-grandfather) reasons. I am currently in the process of writing a full-length, fully illustrated version of this fascinating story, which I hope to be able to publish in 2020, but it’s been a joy to write this condensed version as a sort of ‘taster’ in the interim.

Tamsin Wimhurst of the David Parr House Trust first approached me to write a more traditional museum guidebook for the house, but after brainstorming the concept we decided that, actually, a guidebook would be somewhat redundant for a museum based on group tours. Instead, we opted for a format inspired by the Victorian ‘souvenir guides’ that were popular during David Parr’s lifetime (1854–1927). The book was designed to reflect the modestly sized, highly decorated house through its diminutive format and its intricately patterned cover (designed, along with the inside spreads, by the super-talented Binomi Design), while its colour-plate section and tactile uncoated paper make it an object to keep and treasure, in the same spirit as the house, which Parr painstakingly hand-painted over 40 years.

As I wrote on the book’s back cover, the name of my publishing company, ‘Casita’, translates as ‘Little House’ – but was named before I was even aware of the existence of my great-great-grandfather’s house, adding another serendipitous twist to this incredible story of creative dedication, Victorian social mores and spirituality trumping adversity. The David Parr House opened to the public in May 2019.


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