I had a lead: high up in All Saints’ church were painted the names of the decorators who carried out the pattern work that covers nearly every inch of its walls. There was plenty of evidence that this was a commission given to F R Leach, so I expected to see his name. But who else’s might be there?
Armed with a camera and details of the location – west window, north side, within the chequerboard pattern – I set off to discover and photograph the names. The church was hosting the Anglian Potters’ Christmas exhibition, so I was a bit distracted at first. When I finally got started, I realised that the zoom on my camera was not up to the job – try as I might I could not see any sign of writing. Luckily, the invigilator for the pottery show, Carolyn, had a better zoom on her camera. After much patient searching and crouching at a very awkward angle, Carolyn managed to get a good photo of the names – and I was very excited by what was revealed.
‘D Parr Senr: 1871’. This was not what I had expected. Our man, the owner of 186, actually painted the church interior and did it in 1871 when he was only 16 years old. This was the earliest piece of evidence of David Parr working for the F R Leach firm, at an age when he was no doubt an apprentice. I already knew he was an apprentice at this time from the 1871 census, but there it stated that he was a ‘joiner’s’ not a ‘painter’s’ apprentice. How do these two pieces of information fit together? Only more research may help answer this.
Underneath ‘D Parr Senr.’ was another surprise – ‘D Parr Jnr 1908’ – David’s son who ‘reproduced’ the design work (probably when it was repainted due to the damage done by emissions from the gas lighting). I did have evidence that David’s son followed him into the painting profession but it was wonderful to see that he followed in his father’s footsteps so closely.
This is one of those discoveries that ultimately poses more questions than it answers – but for me these are always the most exciting, indicating where next to focus my research.