Home of oldest man ever rose again from ashes

There was an old man from Middletown...

nostalgia pic. Middletown area. Old Parr's Cottage, Shropshire. This is a Wildings postcard, probably Edwardian. The note on the bottom says 'now burnt down' but it appears to have been rebuilt. Thomas Parr was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1635 and was said to be 152 years of age. Postcard from Ron Davies of Minsterley. Library code: Middletown nostalgia 2005.
nostalgia pic. Middletown area. Old Parr's Cottage, Shropshire. This is a Wildings postcard, probably Edwardian. The note on the bottom says 'now burnt down' but it appears to have been rebuilt. Thomas Parr was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1635 and was said to be 152 years of age. Postcard from Ron Davies of Minsterley. Library code: Middletown nostalgia 2005.

A very, very old man as it happens, because he reached the grand old age of 152 years and nine months. If you are a cynical sort, you might think that points to some kind of flaw in the record keeping back in his times.

Nevertheless, the story goes that Thomas Parr was born in 1483 and lived in the reign of 10 kings and queens of England, being buried at Westminster Abbey on November 15, 1635.

He had been a colourful character. Reputedly at the age of 100 he did penance by standing draped in a white sheet in the parish church for being unfaithful to his wife and having an illegitimate child.

Such was his fame he became what we would today call a brand. On the back of his legend, in Victorian times you could get “Parr’s Life Pills” which were still being advertised on sale early in the 20th century.

Old Parr's Cottage, which was actually at the hamlet of Winnington about 10 minutes' walk from Middletown station, was carefully restored and opened to the public as a museum of relics of Old Parr and his times, with an interesting collection of antique furniture and utensils.

And as there are some nice postcard pictures showing his ancient cottage, which was over 500 years old when it burned down, we're going to showcase one of two of them.

After that fire on June 28, 1959, all that was left standing was the chimney stack. One of the features lost was the notable fireplace which had been restored by local antiquarian H.E. Forrest in about 1912, and the beam bore the inscription: "Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth; the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; teach me thy way O Lord and lead me in a plain path."

The owner of the cottage at the time of the blaze was given in a contemporary newspaper report as Andrew Forbes, but it seems it was in fact Gordon, who lived in Ruthin during the winter.

On the day of the fire he had arrived at the bungalow next door to the cottage to stay for the summer.

“I went to the cottage to tidy up and, as usual, burned some things in the fireplace,” he told a reporter at the time. A young couple had come to look at the cottage, and one of them suddenly shouted that the thatched roof was on fire. I went outside and saw that one corner of the roof was burning fiercely.”

Returning to the cottage, he rescued drawings and paintings of Old Parr and a framed page of the Bible. The page had been found in the chimney when the cottage was repaired in 1900.

Firefighters from three stations were unable to stop the cottage from being destroyed. Only a charred chimney stack and a heap of smouldering timber remained.

Work started on a painstaking rebuild in 1983, including recreating that fireplace beam, and Parr's old home lives on as a holiday cottage.

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