The Story of Old Tom Parr, The Man Some Claim Lived to 152

There are many tales of people who have lived to be very old, but the story of Old Tom Parr is perhaps one of the most interesting; some claim that he lived to be 152 years old! 

Obviously, this cannot be confirmed, but some evidence suggests he may have been quite elderly when he died. Let’s explore the life and legend of Old Tom Parr and try to determine if we can verify his age.

Old Tom Parr

Documented Old Folks That We Know

According to science, factors such as diet, exercise, and genes play a role in lifespan. However, those who have lived to see 100 years say they’ve used other methods for reaching their old age. 

These people have reasons for living so long, but no one truly knows how they’ve done it. Such people you may have heard of include:

  • Agnes Fenton, 110 – Died in August 2017
  • Gertrude Weaver, 116 – Died in April 2015
  • Alexander Imich, 111 – Died in June 2014
  • Susannah Mushatt Jones, 116 – Died in May 2016

There are many tales of long-lived people throughout history, but few have been as well-documented as Old Tom Parr. 

Born in Winnington, near Shrewsbury, in 1483, Parr was said to have lived to 152 – making him the oldest man ever recorded. 

Though some dispute his age, and there is no concrete proof that he lived to such an old age, the story of Old Tom Parr is still interesting. 

At least, there’s no proof in the way you might expect there to be; there were no photographs taken of Parr in his later years, as photography had not been invented yet. 

The only “proof” of his longevity comes from verbal accounts, stories like John Taylor’s The Old, Old, Very Old Man or the Age and Long Life of Thomas Parr passed down through the generations. 

There is also a gravestone in Westminster Abbey where King Charles I buried him; it has an inscription describing Thomas Parr, and visitors can see it when they go to the Abbey.

Old Tom Parr’s Life

Not much is known about Thomas Parr, but he lived a simple life as a farmer and didn’t marry until he was eighty. 

He lived through approximately ten different monarchs and served in the military. Living off a diet of poor-quality milk and tough bread, he was said to be working in his fields constantly, as that’s all he knew. 

According to verbal records of his testimony, Parr married his first wife, after which they had two children. Unfortunately, both children died in infancy, and his wife died when he was 110.

During his marriage, he had an affair and fathered an illegitimate child; he later claimed to have served penance for his crime. 

After his wife’s death, Parr said he married another woman, a widow named Jane Lloyd, at 122. 

However, the older man claimed he was still young and spry, able to walk 15 miles a day and work in his fields. 

It was when Parr was 130 that the old man began to slow down. News of Parr’s extraordinary age supposedly reached Thomas Howard, the 21st Earl of Arundel, who was so fascinated that he visited Parr in Shropshire.

A few years later, King Charles I heard about Parr and summoned him to court. While making their way to London, Parr, his daughter-in-law, and Thomas encountered many interested people. 

When they reached court, everyone was eager to meet the man said to be the oldest in the world; he was a celebrity. 

During his time at court, the king reportedly grew very fond of Parr and showered him with gifts. The older man ate lavishly and enjoyed the creature comforts he had never experienced.

Unfortunately, after only a few months, Parr became ill and died in Westminster Abbey at 152. 

After his death, an autopsy was performed, and it was determined that he had the organs of a man half his age but that he likely died of pneumonia from London’s polluted environment. 

So while the story of Old Tom Parr is fascinating, it’s important to remember that there is no concrete evidence that he lived to be 152 years old. Nevertheless, he remains an exciting part of history.

No Guinness World of Records Entry

Although there are records of people living to be over 100 years old going back centuries, the Guinness Book of World Records only began keeping track of the oldest person in the world in 1955

This means that he wouldn’t have been included even if Old Tom Parr had been alive when the records began. Even still, had there been the capacity to add him to the records, there’s another problem; the Guinness Book of World Records requires that verification is indisputable.

As mentioned earlier, the only “proof” of Parr’s longevity comes from verbal accounts passed down through the generations. While this may be enough for some people, it isn’t enough for Guinness. 

William Harvey, the physician who examined Thomas Parr’s remains, mentioned that the older man died of natural causes as his organs looked pristine. 

Modern authorities revisited the autopsy results, and the man likely couldn’t have been 152 years old. Many more speculate that he was probably 70 years old when he died.

It’s also stated that Thomas Parr’s records were confused with his grandfather’s, which started the controversy about his age. 

Not to mention that based on the time, most people didn’t live past 50. With all of these discrepancies, there’s no way to verify Parr’s age or induct him into the Guinness Book of World Records.

No Matter The Truth, Thomas Parr Left Behind a Legacy

The idea that Thomas Parr lived to be 152 years old is highly unlikely. However, his story has been passed down through the generations, and he remains an interesting part of history. 

Parr was a man who enjoyed the simple things in life and was content to live out his days in Shropshire. You can still see his gravestone in Poet’s Corner, and he had a whisky named after him. 

So while he may not have been the oldest person to live, his story continues to be told.

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