Wednesday 25 November 2009

Rev Charles Jenkinson - Essex/Leeds Socialist & Trade Unionist

Rev Charles Jenkinson

Revered Charles Jenkinson born 1887 Poplar, the son of a stone mason, he won a scholarship to Oxford.

In 1912 Jenkinson had became lay secretary to the Socialist Reverend Conrad Noel at Thaxted, Essex.

Jenkinson later helped establish many early branches of the National
Union of Agricultural Workers in Essex.

In February 1914, he was involved with the Agricultural & Rural Workers Union recruitment campaigns in Essex,

Jenkinson was the secretary of the North Essex Federation of the union, during the period that the Tory farmers of Helions Bumpstead sacked their labourers for refusing to resign from their union.

It was Jenkinson along with union General Secretary C. H. Walker (Fakenham) and Alan Dobson who offered the leadership to the workers fight against the farmers victimisation.

However, the farmers lock-out spread to other areas, as Ffarmers set out to destroy the union. Soon lockouts occurred in Ashdon, Steeple Bumpstead, Sturmer, Ridgewell and
Birdbrook, later spilling over into into Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. On the 26th July 1914 Sylvia Pankhurst addressed 2,000 people on the green at Helions Bumpstead.

The lockout was finally ended on August 3rd, the day before Britain declared war against Germany, all the men being reinstated and securing the release of the Ashdon Eight Martyrs from jail.

Jenkinson was involved with Rev Conrad Noel in the Establishment of the Catholic Crusade (a radical socialist Christan movement) in 1918.

After his ordination, Jenkinson became vicar of Holbeck, Leeds in 1927 and "Good old Jenky" was elected a Labour councillor for the area in 1930, one of the oldest and poorest areas of Leeds.

While in Leeds he carried out a great crusade to rid the City of it's slums, he estimated 33,000 slums the Tories estimated just 400. His vision was encapsulated in a programme entitled "Decent houses for All" which be came a blueprint for the first Labour administration 1933-1935 which made a start on seeping away thousands of slums.

In 1933 he became Chairman of the Housing Committee. In this role he was responsible for the demolition of 14,000 slum dwellings and building over 15,000 council houses,
the pride of these house building schemes was Quarry Hill estate close to centre of Leeds based on Karl Marx Hof flats in Vienna and therefore the Leeds Quarry Estate was sometimes referred to as the "Marx Flats".

Despite Jenkinson spending millions as a Councillor to wipe out Leeds Slums, he personally lived a very spartan life, using a second hand bike and wearing a second hand coat.
He died 1949

The Rev Charles Jenkinson made a significant impact on the lives of the people of Leeds and rural workers of North Essex, yet he has recievied very little recognition todate.


Conrad Noel (1869-1942) "Red Vicar" of Thaxted

Born in the Royal Cottages, Kew on 12th July 1869. Went to Cambridge
ordained (church of England) in 1898 and in 1899 became assistant priest to the vicar of St Philip's in Newcastle.

While at St Philip's Salford, Noel became involved in the Clarion socialist movement, Noel founded Church Socialist League in 1906, established by Stewart Headlam, and 1877 the Guild of St Matthew 1877-1909) Bethnal Green, working in slum areas in Paddington and the East End. He became Vicar in Thaxted from 1910. In 1911 and was elected to executive of the British Socialist Party.

Established the radical socialist "Catholic Crusade" on 10th April 1918 and the first mass being held on 13th April. Catholic Crusade even explored affilaition to the Third International.

Others involved in Catholic Crusade included, Rev Jack Boggis (secretary Braintree Labour Party), Rev Jack Putterill ( Thaxted) , Fr Harry Skellern, Rev St John B Groser (Stepney) , Rev Percy Dearmer - Parson's Handbook Primrose Hill)

Noel's allies included Ernest Maxted, the red vicar of Tilty (involved in the 1914 Essex Agricultural Labourers Lockout) , silk weavers at Halstead, and a number of radicals in Braintree. He was friendly with Gustav Holst who secured a holiday cottage close to Thaxted (where he began his famous work "Planets")

Conrad Noel is most famous for the "Battle of the flags" when his church at Thaxted flew a red and Sinn Finn flag.

Ashdon, Essex Eight Martyrs 1914
Walter Webb, Samuel Chapman, Thomas Symonds, Charles Smith, Water Marsh, James Marsh, Walter Symonds and John Smith as part of their release they joined the Army in 1914 at the outbreak of the War, becoming hero's to the local people)

Ref: Rural Crusader November 1949