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Frank Parkyn

(1850-1940) – Civvy

Originally from Lerryn, Parkyn was too old to fight but continued to run Blackpool china clay pit with a reduced workforce. Although production was down in 1914-18, more than half the clay extracted was still exported. In 1927 Parkyn entertained Garibaldi’s son at his home, Penquite.

Credit: Lerryn History Group, near Lostwithiel

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Frank Parkyn was born in Lerryn in July 1850.  The son of Francis Parkyn, one of the last ‘Merchant Princes’ of Cornwall, who traded in wool and other commodities up and down the river Fowey, Frank became a China Clay manufacturer.  In the 1890s he bought Penquite, near Golant, a house previously visited by Garibaldi, the liberator of Italy.  Frank never married and in 1911 was living at Penquite with two servants.

Too old to fight, Frank continued to run Blackpool china clay pit in Trewoon with a reduced workforce. At this time there were 70 separate China Clay producers and the industry was still recovering from the 1913 strike for a 25 shilling minimum wage.  Clay workers were not in a reserved occupation and found they could earn more money by joining the army.  This led to a shortage of labour and wages as high as 63 shillings were paid in some clay pits.  More than half the clay produced was exported, but by 1917 most companies were operating at a loss and mergers began.

‘Parkyn and Peters’ stayed independent until after Parkyn’s death, a sign of Frank’s strong personality.  Frank was a caring employer and freemason who put the well-being of his employees, horses and machinery before profit.  100 of his workforce attended his funeral in 1940 and walked from his St Austell home to St Mewan church as a mark of respect. 

A highlight of Frank’s life was entertaining Garibaldi’s son, who came to visit Penquite, following in his father’s footsteps.  The cloak presented by Garibaldi to Penquite’s former owner Colonel Peard was among the items on display.  Frank also started Lerryn Regatta, created the Tivoli Park pleasure ground and patronised many local organisations including St Austell Hospital and local cricket clubs.  

Key words: home front, mining

Credit: Lerryn History Group