Completed North West England: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C, Portraits: British 20th C 26 Information sought on artist Edward Parr

Topic: Artist

Does anyone have any information at all about this artist - Edward Parr?

This picture was purchased by Oldham Art Gallery in 1903 but it appears to be taken from life so perhaps the artist was active in the 1840s. There doesn't appear to be anything else on Art UK by Edward Parr.

Gallery Oldham, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Edward Stone,

This discussion is now closed. We have amended Edward Parr's artist record to show his year of birth and death (1815–1864). This change will be visible on Art UK in due course.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Oliver Perry,

I've found him in the 1861 census. He was a boarder in Radcliffe Street, Oldham, with a family whse name s given as "Harton", but is clearly the Wharton fmily, whose dughter he marrie a few weeks later. His age is given as 43, his profession portrait ainter, and his place of birth Dewsbury.

Geraint Richard Hall,

There's an Edward Parr, 'Portrait & Landscape Painter' registered on the 1851 national census. Living alone at 41 Albert Street, Oldham Above Town, Mumps Ward, Lancashire, England. Age 34, born circa 1817 in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, England.

I also found an Edward Parr on the registery of deaths for April, May & June 1876.
Birth place: Dewsbury, Yorkshire West Riding, England
Birth date: Circa 1818

I found both these records in the member's area of
Age: 58

Oliver Perry,

That's certainly him in 1851. But I think he was probably the Edward Parr buried in Oldham in 1864, rather than the one who died in Dewsbury in 1876. A Hannah Parr was buried in 1868, and in 1871 their 9 year-old daughter Elizabeth G Parr was living with her grandfather Thomas Wharton (though listed as his niece).

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, that’s definitely them, Oliver. They were both buried at Chadderton cemetery in Oldham, and the grave numbers are the same – it was in fact her (Wharton) family’s grave. There is no age given for Edward in the burial record or GRO index, but Hannah's (37) is right in both. See attached burial records. Edward Parr, of Church Hill Street, died 11th July 1864 and was buried on the 15th.

The birth of their daughter and only child Elizabeth Grandidge (or Grandege) Parr, who was living with her maternal grandparents (and two uncles) in the 1871 Census (and also the 1881), was registered at Oldham in 1861 (Q3), not long after her parents' 1861 marriage; she was baptized at Oldham (St Mary) the following January [father's occupation 'Artist'].

Already an artist, Edward Parr also appears in the 1841 Census at Huddersfield – which is almost exactly a third of the way along the road from Dewsbury to Oldham – and he is aged 25(-29), i.e.born 1811-16. The '51 & '61 censuses suggest he was b. 1816/17 or 1817/18, but such inconsistency is of course common, and I think he is very probably the Edward Parr baptized at Dewsbury in June 1827, but born 20th June 1815. This birth date concurs with the recorded age (45) at his marriage on 8th June 1861 (the most likely age to have actually been given by him). And like Edward's marriage record (with a different father surname), this baptism record suggests an illegitimate birth – only the mother's name, Sarah Parr, is given. She is probably the Sarah Parr baptized at Dewsbury in March 1798, and would have been just seventeen when she bore her son. She subsequently married, was widowed and married again, all in Dewsbury.

I’m attaching images of all the records mentioned so far.

Osmund Bullock,

Edward Parr is listed as an artist in Dewsbury as early as 1837 (in White's Directory of the West Riding), and he is also listed as a portrait painter in Whellan’s 1852 Manchester Directory – he’s at the same address in Oldham, Albert Street, as in the 1851 Census. And after a lot of failed searching I’ve finally found two mentions of him in the press (the Manchester Times – there were no Oldham papers yet): in 1845 he exhibited a portrait at a small local exhibition in the Town Hall, and in 1851 his house at Chat Moss** was badly damaged by fire.

Images of all these attached.

[**This was not the well-known Chat Moss west of Manchester (where George Stephenson famously “floated” the lines of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway across the huge peat bog), but a small area of housing in the Mumps area of east Oldham near Clegg’s (or Mumps) Mill. Albert Street was here – and the bottom of Greenacres Moor, where the first story records him, was also adjacent (and is probably synonymous). It was quite close to where Gallery Oldham stands today!]

Barbara Bryant,

We have learned a lot about Yorkshire artist Edward Parr b. probably 1815 (but possibly 1816/17/18?) d.1864, who listed himself in the census of 1861 as a portrait and landscape painter. Of his personal life, it has been established that he married in 1861 and had a daughter shortly after. Thanks to Oliver Perry, Geraint Hall and Osmund Bullock for their contributions here.
Parr's style is provincial at best, but he made a living and exhibited as one of thousands of artists who worked in the regions in the early to mid 19C, where, until the era of photography, there was a steady demand for modest portrait images.
Parr's connection with Butterworth (1812-1848), the topographer, journalist and historian of Oldham and Manchester, is not established. The painting seems to have been bought by Oldham in 1903 as depicting Butterworth. Might the collection tell us if there are any old labels or marks on the back of the picture? This might tell us about the exhibition record of the painting and confirm it as a portrait of Butterworth (who would have been no more than in his mid-thirties when this portrait was painted as he died aged 36).

Osmund Bullock,

Very interesting find, Oliver. As well as one held by Oldham Local Studies, there is a copy of **Tait's book in the BL. I have a few things I want to look up there, so unless someone else wants to do it, I'll go up to St Pancras this week and try and get an image of the engraving for us.

[**Arthur Tait (1865-1946), was Secretary to the Lyceum 1891-97. I had wondered if he might be connected to the artist Arthur (Fitzwilliam) Tait, who in 1845 published a book of 'Views on the Manchester & Leeds Railway', for which Butterworth provided the text; however the two men seem to be quite unrelated.]

Osmund Bullock,

The three Oldham Lyceum exhibition catalogues mentioned by Oliver as being held by Oldham Local Studies & Archive (I can find no copies anywhere else) are of 1840, 1845 & 1854. The first year is probably too early for Edward Parr, who seems not to have arrived at Oldham until after 1841. Certainly it is possible that the 1854 one included other work by him, though we’ve no evidence of it; but it is the 1845 exhibition that holds most promise – especially as it’s quite possible that the “excellent likeness of an inhabitant by an highly-talented resident artist, Mr Parr ...” is in fact the very portrait of Edwin Butterworth under discussion.

My reasoning is that the report in the Manchester Times describing the exhibition may well have been written by Butterworth himself. The DNB entry for him notes that “ ... the main source of Butterworth's income was [therefore] writing news items and longer reports about events and current affairs in Oldham and district, which he regularly supplied under contract to several Manchester newspapers ...” And the heading of the newspaper column itself says that this and other reports under the heading ‘District and Local Intelligence’ come from “our District Correspondents”. It seems odd to single out a portrait for praise and then not mention the sitter’s name, and this may have been because Butterworth – described in an earlier (1922) edition of the DNB as “modest” – felt embarrassed to do so. It’s a possibility, at any rate.

Could someone ask Oldham Local Studies Library if they can look up what the catalogue itself says? This is the link to the item: . I’m very happy to email them myself, but an enquiry might carry more weight coming from colleagues at the Gallery. I know, though, how constrained your time for research like this is.

Gallery Oldham,

Thank you for all your efforts so far. Some fascinating info and really much appreciated.
I will ask our colleagues at Local Studies to check the Lyceum catalogues and report back.

Osmund Bullock,

The “Whitehead(?)” from whom the portrait is said to have been purchased by the Gallery in 1903 seems likely to be the same person (or his heirs) whose collection of (presumably) local interest books, pamphlets, newspapers, etc, is held by Oldham Local Studies & Archives. These, too, were a purchase, though the date is not specified: . The collector’s full name is also unspecified, but it seems very likely he was Joseph Whitehead of Oldham, whose May 1902 obituary in the Yorkshire Post (attached) describes him as an “ardent bibliophile”, with a library of over 12,000 books, many of them “rare and...curious”. Mr Whitehead’s will was proved in June the same year by two of his sons, Joseph Edwd & Thomas Wm, the executors. Joseph Whitehead senior, born in 1815, was a direct contemporary of Edward Parr, and a close one of Edwin Butterworth.

Barbara Bryant,

Might the collection tell us if there are any old labels or marks on the back of the picture? or post a photograph of the back of the painting? This could hold useful information about the past history (exhibition labels, provenance, etc.) of the portrait.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, the print of Edwin Butterworth in Tait's 1897 'History of the Oldham Lyceum' is clearly based on this portrait - as is another one in a biography of Butterworth in the 1904 (Vol 22) 'Transactions of the Lancs & Cheshire Antiquarian Society'. The text of the latter can be read here , but the images haven't scanned. However I found both works at the BL, and attach images.

Also attached is a PDF of some further pages (just quickly snapped, not scanned, sorry) from the 'History...'; these talk in some detail about Butterworth and his library, while others refer to the exhibitions of 1840, 1844-45, and 1854 (the pictures in 1854 were hung for the Lyceum by William Agnew).

Perhaps most significant, though, is confirmation that Joseph Whitehead (1815-1902), Oldham's Assistant Overseer of the Poor, was the portrait's owner in 1897; so it was undoubtedly his family who sold it to the Gallery in 1903. There is also a reference to him owning at least one other Butterworth item in his collection, a document relating to the fate of the historian's literary property. As previously mentioned, Whitehead was a contemporary and fellow-townsman of both artist and sitter, so there seems no doubt that the identities are correct.

There is no other mention of Edward Parr in either book.

Gallery Oldham,

Thanks to all for your fantastic work on this picture. We've taken the time to do a few things here in Oldham so here is an update.

There is no further information on the back of the painting.

Checking our original accession register there is more information about the donor than we had on our database. It states ''Purchased from the sons of Joseph Whitehead, sometime overseer of Oldham'

The three Lyceum exhibition catalogues are fascinating. There is no mention of Edward Parr in 1840 or 1854 (although Edwin Butterworth is on the 1840 exhibition committee and loaned several items for that display).
In the 1845 exhibition there are several paintings by Parr
Portrait of Sir Humphrey Davy - loaned by the artist
Head after Julian - loaned by Mr Wm Buckley
Arab Chief protecting his daughter - loaned by Mr J Bentley
Portrait of His Royal Highness the Duke of York - loaned by the artist
Portrait of His Grace the Duke of Wellington - loaned by the artist

So no sign of this particular portrait. However there are several entries where both sitter and artist are unidentified - ie Portrait of a gentleman etc

Osmund Bullock,

Great work at your end, too, Rebecca, though surprising (and a little disappointing) that there seems to be no Parr portrait in 1845 that could fit the press description of a "likeness of an inhabitant", Butterworth or not; in fact all those portraits must have been copies of others.

The only thing I have to add is the possibility of a relationship by marriage between Butterworth and Parr. In the Butterworth papers at Oldham are books of newspaper cuttings kept by him to assist in Lancashire history – many relate to local genealogy, and one is for an 1832 marriage at Manchester of William Butterworth and a ‘Miss Parr’. See (page 23) & attachment. Edwin had a brother called William (1800-1834) who lived at Manchester, and he may perhaps be the groom. The bride proves to be Joanna Parr, daughter of Samuel – I can find no obvious connection between her and Edward’s mother Sarah, but they might have been related (or Edwin may have thought they were). Certainly it was an odd cutting for him to keep otherwise, as he usually limited himself to those about people of higher status/wealth ( ). Joanna’s background was not – despite the ‘Esq’ appended to her father’s name, at his daughter’s 1808 baptism at Eccles he was described as a labourer.

In truth, though, we don’t really need a family connection. Edwin Butterworth was a co-founder of the Oldham Lyceum in 1839, and highly active in its affairs up till his death; moreover his finely drawn and decorated maps suggest he had an artistic eye himself (see attached). His near-contemporary Edward Parr was a young artist newly-arrived in the town, and doubtless keen to get to know the right locals. What could be more natural than that they should meet at Oldham’s sole artistic and literary institution, and one that was immensely popular?

Patty Macsisak,

The title of the painting has been updated (i.e., "Edwin Butterworth (1812–1848), Historian of Oldham"), but the artist information has not (i.e., "Edward Parr (active before 1910)").

Also note the discussion above could provide a basis for the non-existent artist profile in ArtUK.

....solely based on the above

Edward Parr, 1815–64

Edward Parr, a local artist and portraitist working mainly in Oldham, Lancs., was born in Dewsbury, Yorks., on 15 June 1815 and baptized there on 27th. He appears to have been the illegitimate son of Sarah Parr, a 17-year-old Dewsbury girl (b. 1798) who was later twice married there. No father name appears on his baptismal record, but at his marriage was given as John Smith, an ironmonger. Parr was listed as an artist in Dewsbury as early as 1837 (in White’s ‘Directory of the West Riding’). In the 1841 census he appears as an ‘Artist’ in Upperhead Row, Huddersfield, and in 1845 the 'Manchester Times' (22 February), reviewing an Oldham Lyceum exhibition at the town hall Oldham, stated that ‘An excellent likeness of an inhabitant, by an highly-talented resident artist, Mr Parr, of Greenacres Moor [Oldham], has attracted no slight attention.’ It is possible that this portrait was that of Edwin Butterworth (1812–48) local historian of Oldham and one of the founders of the Lyceum, who may also have written the review, since he was a local news correspondent for Manchester papers. Other, and presumably print-derived, works by Parr lent to the exhibition were portraits of Sir Humphrey Davy, the Duke of York and the Duke of Wellington (all from the artist), a ‘Head after Julian’ and an ‘Arab Chief protecting his daughter’. The Butterworth portrait, with other work by Parr, was subsequently in the hands of Joseph Whitehead (1815–1902), Oldham's Assistant Overseer of the Poor. In 1897 it was reproduced in Arthur Tait’s 'History of the Oldham Lyceum' and also in a biography of Butterworth in 'Transactions of the Lancs & Cheshire Antiquarian Society', (vol 22, 1904), by which time the Whitehead’s sons had sold it (1903) to the Oldham Gallery. In 1851 Parr is listed as living at 41 Albert Street, Oldham (Above Town) as a ‘Portrait & Landscape Painter’ and it may have been this house – stated as in ‘Chat Moss’ – that on 4 July was badly damaged by a fire starting in the roof while Parr was out or away ('Manchester Times', 9 July). The 1861 census shows him as an ‘Artist’ in Ratcliffe Street, where he was boarding with a family called Wharton whose 30-year old daughter, Hannah, a cotton weaver, he married there on 8 June, his address being then given as Royton Street. Their daughter and only child Elizabeth Grandige (or Grandege) Parr was born in the July-September quarter of that year and baptized at St Mary’s on 26 January 1862. Parr died at Church Hill Street, Oldham, on 11 July 1864 and was buried in the Wharton family plot at Chadderton Cemetery on the 15th: his wife Hannah joined him there on her death, aged 37, in 1868. Their daughter (then nine) appears in the care of Hannah’s father, Thomas Wharton, and family in both the 1871 and 1881 censuses. The Butterworth portrait at Oldham (so far the only one identified) suggests Parr was an artist of modest talent who made a living primarily by satisfying demand for portraits in the pre-photography years of the early to mid-19th century.

Jacinto Regalado,

It is interesting, even if it is beside the point, how much this picture resembles early or "primitive" portraiture in America.

Osmund Bullock,

That's great, Pieter. A slight mix-up with the early dates, though: Edward Parr was baptized at Dewsbury on 15th June 1827 (he was nearly 12), having been born there (according to the register) on 20th June 1815.

Ooops -thanks: sorry I missed that, but better a draft than none where there was nothing before or the backlog will just pile up...(perhaps the PCF could amend when this one closes?)

Barbara Bryant,

As I noted six months ago, we have learned a lot about Yorkshire artist Edward Parr who we now know was born in 1815 and died in 1864. He was a portrait and landscape painter. Of his personal life (see above), much has been established by Oliver Perry, Geraint Hall and Osmund Bullock.
Parr's style is provincial at best, but he made a living and exhibited as one of thousands of artists who worked in the regions in the early to mid 19C, where, until the era of photography, there was a steady demand for modest portrait images.
As per the more recent comments, and Pieter's summary, we can now close this discussion.

Edward Stone,

The collection has been contacted about this recommendation.