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James Jenkin (1827–1898)

Mayor of Oxford 1881/2


James Jenkin was born at Longwall Street, Oxford in 1827 and baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church, Oxford on 23 December. Around the time of his birth his family name was always recorded as Jenkins, but it had settled to Jenkin by the middle of the century.

He was the only son of the High Street tailor Gabriel Jenkin, who was described as being of Kenwyn, Truro, Cornwall when on 5 April 1825 he married James's mother at St Peter-in-the-East Church. His mother Ann Smith had been baptised at the same church on 4 January 1809, and was the daughter of James Smith and his wife Mary Bunce.

James's five sisters were also baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church: Mary Anne (1825) Harriet (1831), Eliza (1833), Emma Adelaide (1835) and Fanny (1838).

James’s father Gabriel Jenkin died at the age of 39 (before the baptism of his youngest child, Fanny) and was buried at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 1 April 1838. He was described as then being of King Street, which is the part of the present Merton Street that runs up to the High: he may have had a shop on the site of the present Ruskin School of Drawing, and possibly took over the business of another tailor, Richard Dry.

By 1839 James's grandmother Mrs Mary Smith was the publican at the Flying Horse (on the site of the present Eastgate Hotel) at 73 High Street in St Peter-in-the-East parish. At the time of the 1841 census, James and his five young sisters were living at the pub with their grandmother and their widowed mother Ann Jenkin, who was a dressmaker.

In 1844 his mother Ann, described as a single woman, gave birth to a son, Lester Jenkin, in the High Street (presumably at the Flying Horse). St Peter-in-the-East Church was then closed, so on 18 September 1844 he was baptised at St John the Baptist Church. By 1846 she had moved to The Plain in St Clement's. Lester died there that year, and was described as “Lester Jenkin alias Hoare” when he was buried at St Clement's churchyard on 18 October 1846.

By the time of the 1851 census she was living at Pembroke Street in St Ebbe's as the common-law wife of John Lester Hoar (40), an Irish upholsterer born in Dublin. She called herself Ann Hoare, and they had two more children children, Lester Harry Hoare (4) and Alfred Edward Hoare (2), and James's grandmother Mary Smith was living with them. When Mary's sons were baptised (Lester at St Clement's Church on 29 November 1846 and Alfred at St Ebbe's Church on 31 January 1849), his parents were recorded in the two parish registers as if they were married.

On 30 September 1851 at St Pancras Church in London, James's mother Ann Jenkin née Smith (described as living in Chatton Street, London) married her common-law husband, the upholsterer John Lester Hoare (described as being a widower of Aldenham Street, London).

Meanwhile in 1851 James Jenkin (23) was still living in the parish of St Peter-in-the-East with his sister Harriet (20). They were described as a schoolmaster and schoolmistress and had three schoolboys aged 13 and 14 boarding with them.

James Jenkin’s shop

On 26 April 1859 at St Peter-in-the-East Church, James Jenkin married Caroline Hounslow. She was the daughter of John Hounslow, who was a grocer and wine merchant at 67 & 68 High Street (right). William Tuckwell in his Reminiscences of Oxford described John Hounslow as “the Radical grocer in High Street”.

Jenkin and his new wife moved in upstairs at No. 67 (while his wife's parents continued to live over No. 68). They had the following seven children there:

  • George James Jenkin (baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 7 June 1861, died in infancy)
  • Harriet Emily Jenkin (baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 18 June 1862)
  • Walter Hounslow Jenkin (baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 24 September 1863, died aged two weeks)
  • Herbert Jenkin (baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 18 April 1865)
  • Sarah (baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 18 November 1866)
  • Kate Jenkin (baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 4 August 1869)
  • Caroline Jenkin (baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 25 March 1873).

At the time of the 1861 census James Jenkin was still a teacher living with his wife and their housemaid over No. 67. but at some point between June 1862 and September 1863, he gave up teaching and took over the business from. By 1867 he was listed in directories as a wine merchant as well as a grocer.

James Jenkin's father-in-law John Hounslow, now described as a Gentleman, died at 67 High Street at the age of 76 on 31 March 1871. His effects came to under £6,000, and his executors were his son John Wells Hounslow (a grocer in Reading), John William Mawer (a men's mercer of 4 High Street, Oxford), and James Jenkin himself.

At the time of the 1871 census James Jenkin (43) was described as a grocer employing three men and one boy, and had moved into the premises above No. 68 with his wife Caroline (37) and their four surviving children: Harriet (8), Herbert (5), Sarah (4), and Kate (1), plus a grocer’s shopman and two servants. His youngest child Caroline was born in 1873.

Jenkin was appointed Chairman of the Oxford Board of Guardians in 1874 (a post he was to hold for 24 years until his death).

In 1881 James Jenkin was living over No. 68 with his wife and their five children. His only son Herbert (15) was still at school, and also living in the house was Jenkin’s half-brother, Alfred Edward Hoare, described as a grocer’s assistant.

In 1881 Jenkin was elected Mayor of Oxford for 1881/2.

By 1891 Jenkin was described as a wine merchant as well as a grocer. He and Caroline were still living over the shop, and had two children at home: Herbert (25), described as a grocer’s assistant, and Caroline (18), who was still at school .The family now had just a 16-year-old servant.

James Jenkin

Because he was an Alderman when the new Town Hall was opened (1897), James Jenkin’s head is carved in stone in the Council Chamber corridor (right).

† James Jenkin died at 68 High Street at the age of 70 and his funeral was at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 2 June 1898. He was buried at Holywell Cemetery (Plot F33).

Jenkin’s wife Caroline continued to live over the shop until her death at the age of 77 in 1912. The the grocery business there was taken over by his only son, Herbert, who kept it going until his own death in 1922.

None of James Jenkin's five surviving children got married, and the funerals of all five of them too place at St Peter-in-the-East Church: Caroline Jenkin (1912), Harriet Emily Jenkin (1915), Herbert Jenkin (1922), Sarah Jenkin (1939), and Kate Jenkin (1941).


See also:

  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 11 June 1898, pp. 2f, 5e (eulogy about his role on the Board of Guardians)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (St Peter in East), 891/16/5
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (St Peter in East), 1728/12
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (St Peter in East), 893/84
  • 1871 Census: Oxford (St Peter in East), 1437/90
  • 1881 Census: Oxford (St Peter in East), 1501/83
  • 1891 Census: Oxford (St Peter in East), 1167/88

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 21 August, 2021

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