Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parry, Thomas Gambier

599945Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 43 — Parry, Thomas Gambier1895Lionel Henry Cust

PARRY, THOMAS GAMBIER (1816–1888), inventor of the ‘spirit fresco’ process, born on 22 Feb. 1816, was only child of Richard Parry and Mary, daughter of Samuel Gambier and niece of James, lord Gambier [q. v.] His father and his grandfather, Thomas Parry of Banstead, Surrey, were directors of the East India Company. Parry was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge, becoming B.A. in 1837, and M.A. in 1848. On leaving the university he purchased in 1838 the estate of Highnam, near Gloucester, where he resided for the remainder of his life. He raised Highnam from a small hamlet to an important parish with a beautiful church, built and endowed by himself. Having considerable skill as a painter, he adorned the walls of this church with frescoes of his own designing, and in order to insure their permanence he invented and employed a process to which he gave the name of ‘spirit fresco,’ and of which he published an account in 1880. This proved so successful that it was adopted by Sir Frederic Leighton in his frescoes at the South Kensington Museum, and by Ford Madox Brown in the town-hall at Manchester. In 1862 and the following years, during the restoration of Ely Cathedral, Parry painted mainly at his own expense, from his own designs, and unaided by other than mere mechanical assistance, the frescoes on the six eastern bays of the roof of the nave—a work of great difficulty, which occupied three years. In 1873 and 1874 he decorated the lantern of the same cathedral with similar frescoes, and later the roof of the baptistery. He also painted frescoes in St. Andrew's Chapel, Gloucester Cathedral, and the decorations on the roof of the nave in Tewkesbury Abbey, the work in every case being done gratuitously. Parry's experiments in fresco-painting mark a distinct epoch in the history of English art. Being recognised as the chief authority on decorative painting, he was appointed to report officially on ‘ Painting on Glass’ in the Paris exhibition of 1867, and on ‘Mosaic and Glass Painting’ in the London exhibition of 1871. In 1887 he published a valuable work, entitled ‘The Ministry of Fine Art.’ He also formed a fine collection of Italian pictures and other works of art at Highnam Court.

In his own parish and neighbourhood Parry was a thoughtful and generous landlord and friend, and took a great interest in county and church affairs. Besides his work at Highnam, he founded and endowed in Gloucester the Free Hospital for Children, the St. Lucy's Home for orphans and for aged and incurable people, and the Gloucester Schools of Science and Art.

He was an accomplished linguist and musician, a great traveller, and a devoted archæologist. He also devoted much attention to landscape-gardening and horticulture at Highnam, and was one of the first to make a collection of pines (or pinetum), some of the varieties of this tree being subsequently called after his name. Parry died suddenly at Highnam on 28 Sept. 1888, being at the time of his death occupied on one of the paintings in St. Andrew's Chapel in Gloucester Cathedral. He was twice married: first, in 1839, to Anna Maria Isabella (d. 1848), daughter of Henry Fynes-Clinton of Welwyn, Hertfordshire; by her he had one daughter and five sons, the youngest and only surviving of whom, Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, director of the Royal College of Music, has attained high eminence as a musical composer. Parry married, secondly, Ethelinda, daughter of Francis Lear, dean of Salisbury, by whom he left two sons and four daughters. A portrait of Parry as a young man, drawn by Mrs. W. H. Carpenter, is in the print-room at the British Museum.

[Private information.]

L. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.215
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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387 i 29 Parry, Thomas G.: for (d. 1849) read (d. 1848)