Family papers

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Progress so far

I started by organising Roy Jenkins' correspondence (over 200 boxes) chronologically and by area of interest: personal; family; political/working; congratulatory; non-political committee-related; financial and business; Chancellorship of Oxford; books and publications; journalism; and general files as organised by Jenkins' secretaries.

I have also chronologically arranged over fifty boxes of speeches, lectures and broadcasts, a series which was particularly well arranged by Jenkins and his secretaries. The series includes speech notes on cards as well as full transcripts and is notable for the fact that each speech is, almost infallibly, marked with the place and date of delivery. 

Some discoveries: Arthur Jenkins' diaries

Roy Jenkins archive includes correspondence and papers by and to his parents, Harriet (Hattie) Jenkins (1886–1953), who became a magistrate and county councillor, and Arthur Jenkins (1882–1946), a miner's agent and mine union leader who in 1935 became the MP for Pontypool and later parliamentary private secretary to Clement Attlee.

The archive includes Arthur Jenkins' pocket diaries for the years 1912-13, 1915, 1917, 1919-22, 1926-7, 1929-32, 1934-5, 1937-46 (it is possible that some of the missing years will be uncovered elsewhere in the collection). The diaries are phlegmatic in tone, with a brevity enforced by their pocketsize format and Arthur's discipline in sticking within the space provided for each date.

A prison sentence

One of the most notable events in Arthur Jenkins' life (and in Roy Jenkins' childhood) was his 1926 conviction and imprisonment for riotous assault and incitement to riot as a result of a confrontation between striking miners and police.

Roy Jenkins offers an account of his father's imprisonment in his memoir A Life at the Centre (Pan Books, 1992) pp. 15-16, and you will find images of the diary entries in question in the gallery below.

On 27 November 1926... my father was convicted of illicit assembly.... On 30 August of that year, during the long-drawn-out miners' lock-out which continued for six months after the brief May General Strike... there was an affray at a small mine-working known as Quarry Level.... Fifteen 'blacklegs' were working there, and a mass picket was assembled. My father was undoubtedly involved in organising the picket, and he addressed the crowd. A contingent of fifteen police was already there under the command of one Superintendent Spendlove. Under his orders they launched a baton charge against the pickets.

What was in dispute, and long remained so, was whether there was adequate provocation to justify the baton charge and whether my father's role had been a pacifying or an inciting one. At the time and to the end of his life he quietly insisted that it was the former, which certainly seems more in keeping with his character. His brief diary entry for that day reads: "At Quarry Level. Police batoned crowd very viciously... Home at 7. Not out after. Bed midnight."

[Life continued as normal for the rest of August 1926] But interspersed with this routine there were more doom-laden entries. For 3 September: "Got summons today re Quarry Level." For 20 September: "Was at Police Court from 10.30 to 5.30. The lies told by the police were appalling" ... and for 1 October: "Was in Police Court all day. In witness box from 10.30 to 1.45. Did well I am told. Referred to Assizes."

The trial began on 23 November and lasted five days before Mr Justice Swift, who did not enjoy a liberal reputation... he ended the case with a eulogy of the highly controversial behaviour of the police.

[On 23 November, Arthur Jenkins writes] "Hopkins [the manager at Quarry Level] and Spendlove lied terribly. Seems to be a dead set against me. I fear I cannot hope for bare justice..."

...On the fifth day he concluded: "about 5.00 p.m. sentences... I got nine months. To Cardiff by car. Got to Gaol alright.... What a night it was. And how was poor Hat?" Thereafter the diary stopped until 25 February 1927, the day on which he was released.

The day of Arthur Jenkins imprisonment, 27 November 1926, is a rare, possibly even unique, instance in which he writes a double entry (crossing out the printed date of the following day to continue his thoughts).

 

 

Arthur Jenkins served only three months of his nine-month sentence thanks to an act of clemency by the acting Home Secretary, Lord Birkenhead. As Roy Jenkins reports in his memoir: "The sentences, and my father's in particular, had caused outrage."

Roy himself, only six years old in 1926, did not learn of his father's imprisonment until years later. At the time, his mother, Hattie, told him that Arthur was on an extended tour of Germany.

 

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