Old Tom Parr

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Old Tom Parr
Thomas Parr from NPG.jpg
Born Thomas Parr
Parish of Alberbury, Shropshire
Died 1635
(aged 152 years, 270 days)
Burial place Westminster Abbey, London
Nationality English
Other names Old Parr
Known for Longevity claimant
Children 2 (died in infancy)

Thomas Parr (1483 (reputedly) – 1635) was an Englishman who was said to have lived for 152 years.[1] He is often referred to simply as Old Parr or Old Tom Parr.

A portrait of Parr hangs at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, with an inscription which reads "Thomas Parr died at the age of 152 yeares 9 months" "The old old very old man or Thos Parr son of John Parr of Winington in the Parish of Alberbury who was borne in the year 1483 in Rayne of King Edward IV being 152 yeares old in the year 1635". The portrait was once in the collection of the Leighton family of Loton Park, which is in Parr's home parish of Alberbury.[2]


Early life[edit]

Old Parr's Cottage at Winnington, Shropshire

Records vary, but Parr was allegedly born around 1483 in the parish of Alberbury, Shropshire. He existed and even thrived on a diet of "subrancid cheese and milk in every form, coarse and hard bread and small drink, generally sour whey", as the physician William Harvey wrote. "On this sorry fare, but living in his home, free from care, did this poor man attain to such length of days." He married Jane Taylor at the age of 80 and had two children, both of whom died in infancy.

Later life[edit]

Tom Parr, etching by George Powle (1764–1771) after Rubens

Tom Parr purportedly had an affair when he was more than 100 years old, and fathered a child born out of wedlock, for which he had to do public penance in the church porch.[3] After the death of his first wife at the alleged age of 110, he married his child's mother at the alleged age of 122.[4] As news of his reported age spread, 'Old Parr' became a national celebrity and was painted by Rubens and Van Dyck.


Thomas Howard, painted by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)

In 1635, Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel, visited Parr and took him to London to meet King Charles I. However, he was blind and feeble when the Earl of Arundel met him, so it seems that he was very old, possibly a centenarian. Charles asked what Parr had done that was greater than any other man, and the latter replied that he had performed penance (for his affair) at the age of 100.

Parr was treated as a spectacle in London, but when Parr was eating with King Charles I, he choked on some food and died at the table. This seems to be someone's greatly exaggerated version of him simply not handling the change of diet after he went to London. The king arranged for him to be buried in Westminster Abbey on 15 November 1635.[1] The inscription of his gravestone reads:


Doubts of his age[edit]

William Harvey, who carried out the autopsy on Tom Parr

William Harvey (1578–1657), the physician who discovered the circulation of the blood,[5] performed an autopsy on Parr's body.[6][7] The results were published in the book De ortu et natura sanguinis by John Betts as an attachment. Harvey examined Parr's body and found all his internal organs to be in a perfect state. No apparent cause of death could be determined, and it was assumed that Parr had simply died of overexposure. A modern interpretation of the results of the autopsy suggests that Parr was probably less than 70 years of age.[8]

It is possible that Parr's records were confused with those of his grandfather. Parr did not claim to be able to remember specific events from the 15th century.[7]

Cultural references[edit]

Thomas Parr, from National Portrait Gallery


Keep your head cool by temperance and your feet warm by exercise. Rise early, go soon to bed, and if you want to grow fat (prosperous) keep your eyes open and your mouth shut.


  1. ^ a b "Information from Westminster Abbey on Parr's life, including the inscription on his gravestone]". Retrieved 10 January 2008. 
  2. ^ Shropshire Museums. "Darwin Country". Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Long Livers a Curious History by Eugenius Philalethes 1722
  4. ^ Pine, L. G. (July 1965). "Thomas Parr – the most long-lived Englishman". Shropshire Magazine. Famous Shropshire sons – no. 5. 17 (5): 26–7. 
  5. ^ William Harvey Archived 25 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine. San José State University. Retrieved on: 10 January 2008
  6. ^ Pitskhelauri, G. Z. (1978). "William Harvey and the anatomo-pathological dissection he performed on Thomas Parr's corpse (on the occasion of the 400 years anniversary of W. Harvey's birth)". Santé publique (Bucur). 21 (1–2): 141–145.  PubMed.gov. Retrieved on: 12 October 2017
  7. ^ a b Thomas Parr NNDb.com Retrieved on: 15 March 2011
  8. ^ Lüth, Paul (1965). Geschichte der Geriatrie (in German). Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke. pp. 153–4. 
  9. ^ Taylor, John (1635). The Old, Old, Very Old Man; or, The Age and Long Life of Thomas Par, the son of John Parr of Winnington. Internet Archive. Retrieved 19 January 2017. 
  10. ^ Sir Peter Paul Rubens. "Portrait of Thomas Parr". The National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 28 December 2007. 
  11. ^ Autobiography of Mark Twain, volume 1, p. 5
  12. ^ "Oldparr". FinnegansWiki. 
  13. ^ The Life and Times of Thomas Parr. northstar-website-design.com