Geo Parkes & Sons is proud of our rich history in the South African timber industry and the town of Knysna.
When George Parkes, chairman of AF Parkes & Co. Ltd of Birmingham arrived in the lagoon side town of Knysna in 1891, he immediately recognised the opportunities presented by the indigenous hardwoods of the Knysna forest. When he learned that a sawmill and a forest were up for sale, he purchased both and registered the Knysna Forest Company on 19 February 1892.
He bought the first woodturning machinery from America in 1892 and became the first local manufacturer of turned wooden articles such as tool handles, furniture legs and wagon parts and planks – all items that had to previously be sawn by hand. George Parkes pioneered the timber export industry by sending boxwood to England and France for use in the weaving industry.
His second son, also named George, arrived from England and joined the firm in 1897, followed less than a year later by his younger brother Stephen. When the Knysna Forest Company went into liquidation, George Snr bought out all the shareholders and, from 1902, operated under the name George Parkes & Sons. Howard, the youngest son, joined the firm in 1903.
Our current Managing Director, Howard James (Jim) Parkes, is the grandson of this Howard Parkes, and the fourth generation to serve the company.
A new and improved mill building was constructed of brick under an iron roof in 1919. Its rounded gables on the eastern façade are still a recognisable feature of today’s Woodmill Lane Shopping Centre. The company further extended its operations to the manufacturing of fine furniture and packing cases.
It became necessary to move the sawmill to the local industrial area in 1984, due to Knysna’s rapid expansion. It successfully operated from its new location until it was decided to discontinue the sawing of timber and to concentrate on forestry and the growing of trees in 2005.
The firm now operates from our offices at 1 St George’s Street, Knysna, built in 1924. The decorative work above the arched windows and doors is repeated in the design of some of the later additions to the Woodmill Lane Shopping Centre.
Geo Parkes & Sons has survived the turmoil of wars, global financial crises and natural disasters. The company has been upgraded and modernised, continuously aligning our business to our clients’ needs. We continue to care for the natural, indigenous forests, as well as the pine plantations of Knysna as per the stipulations of the Department of Forestry and the regulations of DEFF.
And we constantly strive to supply responsibly managed South African indigenous timbers directly to the trade, while conserving our forests for future generations.