Tregony: a clicker and a Jack of all trades

Site of Tregony’s former church of St James

Below the long street lined with houses that was Tregony the boats serenely sailed up the Fal. On reaching the bustling quay near the church below the town, supplies were unloaded to meet the demands of the folk from the surrounding countryside who thronged Tregony’s market. But not in the 1800s. Such a scene would have been last seen in the early 1300s, before the Black Death. As the river silted up the busy port vanished. The ships long gone, the quays crumbled, even the church that lay near the river had been demolished.

Tregony began a half millennium of stagnation. By the mid-1800s more than half of the families in this urban parish were dependent on farm labouring for their living. Even the occasional windfall from the bribery surrounding the election of Tregony’s two Members of Parliament had been brought to an end with the Reform Act of 1832. Only one of the five Tregony children of the 1850s in the database remained in the village in 1891. Two others had left Cornwall – one becoming a Baptist minister in West Ham and the other married to a farm labourer in Devon.

Yet not all Tregony’s offspring were bound to farm labouring for life. Thomas Beard was the son of a farm labourer, his grandmother receiving poor relief while living with the family in Fore Street in the 1850s. Thomas was given the unusual occupational description of ‘clicker’ in 1871, a clicker being named after the device used to drill eyelet holes in boots. By the 1880s he had married and moved into Truro where he did well. He became a master shoemaker and an employer by the 1890s and by 1901 had his own shoe shop.

Frederick Tonkin grew up in a stonemason’s family in Well Lane in Tregony. Also a mason like his father, he left home at an early age, marrying Ann Tippet in 1869 and then moving around mid-Cornwall. The pair were resident in at least two other parishes – St Enoder and St Ervan – before settling on Probus in the mid-1870s. That didn’t last long and the restless Frederick and Ann moved back to St Enoder in the 1880s to the Blue Anchor Inn where in 1891 he was combining innkeeping with bricklaying. The innkeeping clearly did not make his fortune and ten years later he was again relying on his mason’s skills alone.

Political excitement grips Tregony in 1887 as supporters of William McArthur gather. McArthur was the Gladstonian Liberal who narrowly won a by-election of that year, defeating a Liberal Unionist in the St Austell constituency, of which Tregony was a part. He went on to represent the area for another 21 years.

2 thoughts on “Tregony: a clicker and a Jack of all trades

    1. No, I think That’s the beginning of the u just visible and the end of the poster (with the r) hidden. McArthur’s opponent was Edward Brydges Willyams.


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