Mary Jane Parr

Researched by House Guide, Nicky Morland and visitor to David Parr House, Molly Spink.

Mary Jane was David’s wife and mother to Mary Emma, David Douglas and Sarah Helen. She was a patient partner, bringing up their family as David frequently worked away and when home, spent his time intricately decorating 186 Gwydir Street – which was her home for over 60 years.

Mary Jane Parr

Early life and Tytherington

Mary Jane was born in 1860 to Enos and Sarah Wood in Tytherington, a town lying immediately north of the silk town of Macclesfield, near Manchester.

The Wood family address in 1861 was Bluebell Farm Cottage, on Bluebell Lane, Tytherington, which is where Mary Jane spent her early life. By 1871 the Wood family is registered as living on Tytherington Lane, which is the road linking Tytherington to Bollington, and by 1881 they were living at Oakenbank Cottages in Rainow Close, to the boundary with Bollington.

We imagine Mary Jane would have spoken with a regional accent, something that would have identified her as non-local when she moved to Cambridge.

Tytherington, 25 inch 1st Edition OS Map c1876
Bluebell Farm cottages, photos and research by Molly Spink.

Meeting and Marrying David

Mary Jane Wood met David Parr when he was working at Hare Hill House in 1879, we think probably whilst attending church. They married in 1883 in Macclesfield.

David and Mary went on to have three children: Mary Emma (1885-1963); David Douglas (1886-1975); and Sarah Helen (1889-1989), and initially lived at 12 Cross Street in Cambridge, before purchasing and moving to 186 Gwydir Street.

It must have been interesting for Mary Jane to move from Macclesfield to Cambridge to start a new life! She did visit her family – the new railways that allowed David to travel the country, meant this was easy for her to do, especially with Gwydir Street so close to the station. We also know she gave birth to their son, David Douglas, whilst visiting family in Macclesfield.

The Parr family portrait, with Mary Jane and David, and the three children

Moving into the Twentieth Century

Mary Jane and David lived together at 186 Gwydir Street well into the 1920s, raising their family and creating the beautifully crafted home we see today.

In 1911 David described himself as a house painter.  His son, David Douglas, was also living and working with him as a house painter.  His youngest daughter, Sarah Helen, was also still living at home and working as a typist.   

David and Mary Jane in the garden of 186 Gwydir Street, in older age

In 1915, Elsie Mansfield was born to Mary Emma Parr and John Summers Mansfield – Mary Jane and David’s first granddaughter. When David died in 1927, Elsie aged 12 moved into the house to keep her grandmother company.

Mary Jane in the garden with Elsie as a toddler by the washing line – which is still there today!

Elsie and Mary Jane lived together in their hand painted home until in 1945, Elsie Mansfield married Alfred Palmer, a railway driver from Yorkshire. The newly married couple moved in together into 186 Gwydir Street, with an elderly Mary Jane (she would have been 85). The three of them lived there until in 1948, Mary Jane Parr passed away aged 88.

Mary Jane’s Legacy

She left us not only a beautifully maintained home that she shared with David, but a legacy of careful custodianship – passed onto Elsie Palmer who lived in and looked after 186 Gwydir Street until 2009, when the charity began to conserve the house and open it up to the public.

Mary Jane also is traceable through objects in the house – we think the sewing bag belonged to and was used by her, and we think she darned and helped make other textiles, such as the bedcover from the back bedroom.

The drawstring sewing bag we think belonged to and was made by Mary Jane.
The cover from the back bedroom that we think Mary Jane made – taken during conservation.
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