David Parr worked for the Leach firm from 1871. Ongoing research has discovered him working for F R Leach & Sons as a decorative artist in places such as All Saints’ Church in Cambridge, St Paul’s in Newport on the Isle of Wight and St James’s Palace in London.
Frederick Richard Leach (1837-1904) set up his firm of Artworkmen in Cambridge in 1862 in premises on City Road. The firm worked for architects and designers such as George Frederick Bodley, William Morris and Charles Eamer Kempe, specialising in all aspects of church decoration, from wall painting to altar hangings and stained glass to candlesticks. They worked all around the country, in Cambridge and London, from the Isle of Wight to Dundee, from Liverpool to Rochester. They also decorated ‘artistic’ town houses, grand country houses and large civic buildings.
In the early years of the firm (1866), during the painting of the chapel ceiling in Jesus College, Cambridge, to designs by George Frederick Bodley and William Morris, the Dean wrote to Bodley to relate that “some astonishment is felt at the employment of a Cambridge workman in the execution of a work which was intrusted to Mr Morris”. Bodley responded defending the capabilities of the Leach firm and Morris’s faith in them:
“I would say that Morris finds Leach a very capable and able executant. The design and the exact shades of the colours are all done according to the directions given to him. Nothing of that kind is left to him. He is doing it quite as well as Morris’ men would.”
Later evidence of Frederick Leach’s reputation comes in a letter from Maud Darwin in April 1885, soon after she moved into Newnham Grange (now Darwin College):
“The men are waiting for the papers and paint to be chosen . . . I was in despair, when a happy thought struck me, why not have Mr Leach? Mr Leach is a man who has a great deal of taste and people send all over England for him to do their houses. So now he is a person in whom I shall have confidence and who is experienced. He lives in Cambridge.”