The unusual attraction was originally inspired by one of the world’s oldest and most popular amusement parks

Hidden deep in the woods next to a picturesque Cornish river, lies the overgrown ruins of a 100-year-old pleasure garden, inspired by one of the world’s oldest and most popular amusement parks.

The abandoned fountains, arches, bandstand and swimming pool, appearing unexpectedly through the trees and undergrowth beside a woodland path in the village of Lerryn, were once attractions within the long forgotten Tivoli Park, named after the world famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park in Copenhagen.

Created by China Clay magnate, Frank Parkyn, who was born in the village in 1850, work began on the elaborate park around 1920, following his visit to the Danish Tivoli.

Inspired by the fountains, the octagonal Glass Hall, as well as the arches at the entrance and on the Nimb Hotel of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Parkyn cleared a large area of his woodland and built ornate structures and water features – including an octagonal pool – within the space.

In 1922, Cornwall’s Tivoli Park was opened to the public, and provided a new venue for the increasingly popular Lerryn Regatta. However, the annual event, once known as ‘The Henley of the West’, was held for the last time in 1968, and though Tivoli Park remained relatively clear into the late 20 century, it has gradually been reclaimed by nature over the last few decades.

Lerryn is a small village south of Lostwithiel on a tributary of the River Fowey. Notable for its Elizabethan bridge, its famous stepping stones, and being home to Paul King who played kazoo for Mungo Jerry. The village’s lost pleasure garden, which used to draw thousands of visitors, is now hidden from all but the adventurous.

According to the Lerryn History Society, Tivoli Park’s architect, Frank Parkyn, was born in the village in 1850 to Maragret and Francis Parkyn, “one of the last “Merchant Princes” of Cornwall, who traded in various commodities, especially wool from farms east of the River Fowey.”

By the time Frank reached 30 years old, he was registered as being a China Clay manufacturer employing 29 men and four boys. His mother and father had died some years earlier, but Frank remained at the family house in Lerryn with his sisters.

At this time, Frank formed a partnership with another local man in the China Clay industry, Woodman Peters, and together they took on leases of several prosperous pits in the St Austell area.

With his continuing success within the China Clay industry, Frank Parkyn moved out of Lerryn at the beginning of the 20 century, and into Penquite manor house across the river, which had previously been owned by Colonel John Whitehead Peard. Known as ‘Garibaldi’s Englishman’, Peard hosted the famous Italian general at Penquite in 1864, and soon after, Giuseppe Garibaldi commissioned an architect from Italy to build Trenython Manor for Colonel Peard to thank him for his help in the general’s Italian campaign.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Frank Parkyn welcomed Garibaldi’s son to Penquite where he stayed for one night in 1927. And it is said that Parkyn also entertained King Edward VII at the boathouse on the Penquite estate, where, according to a plaque, he ‘besported himself with young ladies.’

Having made his fortune in the China Clay industry, Frank Parkyn was keen to give something back to Lerryn and the village’s regatta, which he had inaugurated with other members of his family in 1870.

With a vast area of Lerryn Wood cleared, and ornamental fountains and cascading water features in place, the 1922 Lerryn Regatta was held at its new venue, with field events, music and paddling in the pool now just as much a part of the day as the regatta on the river.

Visitors to Tivoli Park would get to it through a grand entrance by the riverside, climbing up steps past trees and into the long clearing in the woods where a 200 metre running track was marked out on regatta days, stretching down to a bandstand and the octagonal pool with its ornate centrepiece at the southern end.

In fact, though the structures may have looked ornate from a distance, they were all rather crudely built out of concrete, and decorated with broken pieces of granite.

Near the entrance to Tivoli Park, at the opposite end to the octagonal pool, there were arches with water cascading down steps into a pond with a smaller fountain in the middle.

Last year, Jo Stark, who had recently moved to Cornwall, went to visit Lerryn, knowing that her great, great grandparents had lived there and that her grandmother used to love visiting them there. On a walk through the woods by the village, Jo stumbled across the ruins of Tivoli Park. Jo then searched through her grandmother’s old photos, and found this one of her sat at the cascading water feature at the north end of the park, believed to have been taken in the mid-1930s.

Jo also found this photo of her grandmother and great grandmother (in black), sat at what was initially used as a bandstand in Tivoli Park.

It is believed that, in the end, the bandstand was eventually deemed impractical by those who performed within it, and so it was planted with roses instead.

As Lerryn Regatta grew each year, so did the events in Tivoli Park. A poster for the 1936 Lerryn Regatta and Sports advertises that the sports in Tivoli Park would include 220, 440 and 880 yards races, as well as sack races, pillow fights, sheaf pitching and a tug-o-war ‘(no spikes to be worn)’. The Lostwithiel Silver Band played in the park, and led the torchlight procession and Furry Dance at 8.45pm, which was followed by a Grand Dance in the floodlit Tivoli Park at 9pm.

As if that wasn’t enough for your one shilling entrance fee into Tivoli Park, there was also a physical training display by the Royal Marines, swingboats and merry-go-rounds from Rowlands Fun Fair, and a licensed bar until midnight in a pavilion.

Water was pumped from the village into a large tank above Tivoli Park in the woods, where it was then piped off to the water features.

The pond at the northern end of the park with its cascading waters, ornamental urns and large obelisks on each side was a showpiece for visitors to admire.

Whilst the large octagonal pool at the southern end of the park with its extravagant fountain was designed for people to paddle in during the hot days of summer.

There were even changing rooms, believed to be dated 1923, so that visitors were encouraged to don their swimwear and take the plunge.

Lerryn Regatta was put on hold throughout the Second World War, and it was during this time, in 1940, that Frank Parkyn died aged 90. The 100 or so of his employees that attended his funeral and walked from his St Austell home to St Mewan church as a mark of respect, was a testament to how well Frank had treated those who worked for him.

The regatta was revived in 1953, the year of the coronation of Elizabeth II, and judging by a Lerryn Regatta brochure from 1955, the events continued much as they had before the war, with organisers estimating crowds of 5,000 attending.

However, the end of the Lerryn Regatta was in sight. The last regatta was in 1968 and, according to the Lerryn History Society, “by that time the close-knit community was changing rapidly, restrictive rules and regulations were creeping in and costs escalated. Sadly, the glory days of Lerryn Regatta were over.”

Frank Parkyn’s former home, Penquite, eventually became a youth hostel with one of the best views in Cornwall, until it was sold in 2014. It was then restored to its former glory, and put back on the market at the end of 2018 with a guide price of £2,750,000, before selling earlier this year.

Garden Decor

There was to be no such restoration for Tivoli Park though, with undergrowth and fast growing trees soon spreading over the open space and hiding the features inspired by a Danish amusement park, 100 years ago.

Buddha Statue, Stone Bathtub, Marble Fountain, Stone Sculpture – Magic Stone,