The Rev John Owen Parr’s marriages — 2

The following is the article in the Preston Chronicle that revealed the vicar’s secret marriage. 1
More on the Rev Parr’s marriages

Marriage of the Rev. Canon Parr, Vicar of Preston

Not very long ago the Rev. John Owen Parr, Vicar of Preston, after a somewhat protracted indisposition, proceeded to France, and for the good of his health took up quarters at the fashionable watering place of Nice. The balmy breeze blowing over the old town recruited his energies; the sight of Marseilles and Genoese steamboats plying to and from the port often interested his vision; letters and newspapers from his native place cheered the brave old man, who is between seventy and eighty years of age; and in time he was even so intellectually recruited that-noticing by the papers of Preston a bias in the local clergy favourable to the establishment of a School Board in their midst-he penned one or two letters on the Education Question, quite at variance with the clerical views entertained in the town, and so fascinated one or two aldermen with the cogency of his reasoning that they forthwith threw down the gauntlet in his favour, and defied all comers. The culture, the epistolary incisiveness, and the mental acumen of the Vicar had much weight in numerous quarters; deference was paid to his effusions, respect was shown to his-letters; his olden prestige weighed strongly, and there was a wish – subdued perhaps, but keen – for him to be back again.

Suddenly a cloud not much bigger than a man’s hand, but rapidly increasing to the size of many hands, arose: it was reported that the Vicar of Preston – understood previously to have been a serious widower, after outliving two wives, for many years – had got married again to one of his servants! Then there came a cabbalistic murmur of tongues that he had been married for a considerable time; after that a report developed itself that he had, very soon after his second wife died, been joined in the bonds of wedlock to his housekeeper, at some place in the north of Ireland; finally there rose to the surface an incongruous tale that his wedding had been solemnised with somebody at some place about fourteen years ago. There was much indignation expressed by all classes during these rumours; fair maidens field up their hands paralytically at the awfulness of the “arrangement;” matrons “looked daggers” at the seriousness of the situation, and asked for thunder and lightning when excuses were offered; and there was a general bewilderment and uproar of the elements when it was said by particular parties credited with knowing the most recondite matters that there could be no doubt the Vicar was a married man.

This peculiar mixture of rumours induced us the other day to communicate with our special agent in London, and yesterday morning a despatch from him indicated that he had searched the marriage registers of the most fashionable church, in the metropolis without finding in them any such name as that of the Rev. J. O. Parr, of Preston. Later on in the day we had another message from him, intimating that the name had been found in the books of St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, and a copy of a register in those said books, now before us, states that on the 21st of June, 1858 – just 14 years ago yesterday – John Owen Parr, widower, gentleman, residing at the time of marriage in St. James’s, Westminster, was married to Alice Stewardson, spinster, of Chester, daughter of William Stewardson, liquor merchant; that the marriage was performed in St. James’s Church, by the Rev. Philip Perring, curate; and that the witnesses thereof were Anthony Greatorex and Margaret Stewardson. The lady whom the certificate quoted names as having been married in June, 1858, to J. O. Parr, is a native of Cheshire. She was educated at Casterton School, near Kirkby Lonsdale, subsequently and originally entered the household of the Rev. Canon Parr as nurse, afterwards became what may be termed a companion to his daughters, and eventually assumed the character of his housekeeper. She is about 35 years of age – nearly 40 years younger than the Rev. Canon Parr – has an amiable, educated address, and is mild and subdued in manner.

About three years ago – that is to say about eleven years after she had become the wife of the Vicar of Preston, she regularly “kept company”, for about twelve months, with a young man who now does a prosperous trade in Friargate, Preston. He had no idea, at tile time, that she was married. We saw him yesterday, and he told us all about it – felt very jolly in having escaped everything approaching a complication; and in reflecting upon the fact that he had for a year, innocently of course, courted the wife of a live vicar, seemed to realise with keen interest the correctness of the old proverb – that a man may now and then entertain an angel, without knowing it.

The rumours (which latterly, through accumulating evidence, have pointed to something real) as to the Vicar’s marriage, have created immense surprise in every local circle; and that the marriage took place fourteen years ago without being known until now will only tend to intensify the general astonishment. Since his second wife died there has never been a whisper of another marriage – everybody had an idea that the Vicar was a widower; but it seems that for 14 years everybody has been deceived; and why the marriage should have been a comparatively secret one, and why its celebration should have been kept in the dark till now, constitute a mystery which we cannot pretend to either solve or offer an opinion upon. It is also rather peculiar that only three heirs ago an innocent and blooming Preston tradesman should have been whispering the soft moonshine of love into the ears of “Mrs. J. Owen Parr.”

1 Preston Chronicle P5, June 22, 1872, British Library Newspapers,

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