Henry Irwin Jenkinson 1838-1891
Updated: Aug 27
HENRY IRWIN JENKINSON
Champion of the Keswick Trespasses
This blog aims to shine a light on the life and work of Henry Irwin Jenkinson, most probably best known as a writer of guide books. An advocate of the joys of fell walking Henry dedicated much of his time to ensuring that the generality could have free access to open spaces.
Henry fell in love with the Lake District when he moved to Keswick in his early twenties and so made the town his home for the rest of his life. He referred to himself as “A mountaineer, tourist and writer of guide books”. I would add that he was also the driving force behind the creation of a public park for Keswick and champion of the public's right of access to the summit of Latrigg Fell, the outcome of which had far reaching implications and as such is detailed in a separate blog. Here's his story.
Henry was born on the 22 December 1838 to Robert and Mary (nee Shillito) Jenkinson in Brotherton West Yorkshire. Both parents were from local families and they remained in Yorkshire all their lives. They had seven children, five of whom moved away to set up home in different parts of the world:
-Robert Ebeneezer 1828-1884: Bachelor, remained in Yorkshire all his life, buried in York.
-Mary Jane 1830-1896: when thirty-one emigrated to New Zealand with her husband James Speight one of the founders of Speights Beer Co. still in existence.
-Benjamin Shillito 1832-1896: moved to Stratford, East London in his thirties with a young family where he lived for the rest of his life.
-Elizabeth 1834-1908: when forty-five (1879) emigrated to New Zealand with her husband Rev. Thomas Tonkinson and five children aged between 1 & 11 years old.
-James Jackson 1836-1900: in his early twenties emigrated to Canada then moved to the States where he settled.
-Henry Irwin 1838-1891: in his late twenties moved to Keswick in the Lake District. Author of walking guides and champion of the rights of access the fells. Bachelor.
-Frederick Herbert 1841-1853 died aged eleven years old.
Henry's father had died when he was nine years old and his younger brother Frederick when he was fourteen. Three of his siblings emigrated and his mother passed away in 1866 leaving two older brothers by the time he was in his early thirties.
This photo was taken c1875 in central London.
Standing on the left is Henry's brother-in-law Rev Thomas Tonkinson, on the right Henry and seated his brother Benjamin.
Henry studied mechanics at the York Institute of Popular Science and Literature graduating in 1858. At the Yorkshire's Union of Mechanics Institutes in the summer of 1857 he was awarded a certificate in algebra, geometry, mensuration and trigonometry in the Society of Arts Examinations. On graduating, at the awards ceremony October 1858 he was handed a first class certificate for arithmetic, second geometry and third for trigonometry.
Presumably Henry worked in this industry until in 1865 when he moved to Keswick, where he took up the position of station master at the recently opened railway station, (the station was opened to passenger traffic on 2 January 1865) A position he held until 1869.
In 1873 the post office directory of Cumberland and Westmorland has him listed as a commission agent based on the High Street, an occupation that he maintained all his life.
Henry was a keen fell walker and took an interest in the geology and topography of the Lake District. So much so that when Flintoft's famous model of the Lake District was exhibited at the town hall Keswick in 1871 he took on the role of curator. It was at this exhibition that he met Edward Stanford the publisher of maps and guide books (a business that is still going today). Henry put forward his idea for a guide book to the Lakeland Fells and so began his literary career.
There is an account of this meeting plus a description of Henry in The Graphic 31st August 1872, written by “An Old Man” who was in fact William White, principle doorman at the House of Commons. Here's a snippet:
“I was rather surprised when I saw Mr. Jenkinson. I had fancied that I should see a tall, sandy, Cumberland man; but Mr. Jenkinson is not that, not a Cumberland man at all, I learned, but a Yorkshire man. Nor is he so tall as most of the men are here. He is of the middle height, has no surplus flesh to carry, is well and compactly built, and, as one could soon see, very lithesome and active. Then there is nothing in his outward appearance to incline you to think that he could perform such all but super human feats as that which I have described. He received me frankly, and at this and other interviews I learned the story of his book. He had long been inspired with a desire to write a guide-book of this district. When in the summer of last year Sir. Edward Stanford, the eminent publisher of maps and books at Charing Cross, called to see the (Flintoft's) model, he expressed this desire to the publisher. Mr. Stanford encouraged him. Whereupon, as soon as the season was well over, Mr. Jenkinson set about preparing for his work.”
In 1872 Henry's first book “Jenkinson's Practical Guide to the English Lakes with maps' was published by Stanford. Henry was 33 years old at the time. He personally did all the walks and collated all the information in this comprehensive volume.
The success of this book encouraged him to write six other guide books, all using the same methodology and published by Stanford's;
-1872 Practical Guide to the English Lake District plus Windermere section and Keswick section. The English Lake District guide had nine subsequent editions and was last printed 1893 with a foreword by HD Rawnsley.
-1873 Eighteen penny guide to the English Lake District. 5 subsequent editions.
-1874 Isle of Man. 3 editions plus Smaller Guide to the Isle of Man. 3 editions.
-1875 Carlisle, Gilsland, Roman Wall and Neighbourhood, 2 editions plus Smaller guide, 2 editions.
-1876 Isle of Wight, 3 editions plus Smaller Guide to Isle of White, 5 editions.
-1878 North Wales, 4 editions plus Smaller Guide to North Wales, 3 editions.
-1879 Tourist guide to English Lake District, 7 editions last printed 1892
Also with other publishers:
-1873 Epitome of Lockhart's Life of Scott published by Adam & Charles Black Edinburgh
-1879 European Politics-a series of letters published Keswick
So for Henry the 1870's was spent touring, walking and writing. The following decade his focus shifted as he took up causes that would vastly improve the lives of the people of Keswick and beyond.
THE CREATION OF A PUBLIC PARK FOR KESWICK
On the 10 April 1880 the Keswick Guardian published a letter by Henry expressing his concern that the land known as 'Fitz Park' was going to be used for building plots and called for action to be taken before it was too late. The land was predominately owned by Mr S H Le Fleming of Rydal Hall and at that time could be hired for grazing and public events.
A Mr Thomas Hewetson (who was to become the main benefactor) saw this letter and raised the matter of a need for a recreation ground in Keswick with his good friend Mr John Fisher Crosthwaite the local bank manager. This led to a meeting being called later that same month to discuss the local authority purchasing the ground and turning it into a public park. A committee was established as follows: Chairman: Mr J Fisher Crosthwaite of the Cumberland Union Bank, Secretary: HI Jenkinson, and Treasurer: Mr P Thompson.
The entire area of the Recreation Ground comprised of 'Low Fitz'' belonging to Mr le Fleming of Rydal Hall, and a small parcel of land 'High Fitz' owned by the Keswick Hotel Company. On the 20th April the committee met with Mr le Fleming's agent to discuss the purchase of the land. Throughout the summer negotiations took place through Henry between the land owner and the Hewetson's and by November the committee was ready to call a public meeting to discuss the 'Proposed purchase of a recreation ground for Keswick'.
So it was on a Tuesday evening in mid November that a large number of people gathered at the court buildings in Keswick to discuss the scheme. From reading the transcript the main feeling was that the local people did not want the land built on. Mr Fisher Crosthwaite stating that their rights had been so encroached up that;
“In Keswick they had not a scrap left (of public land). They were literally without any recreation land whatsoever, except for which they paid or where they were found to be trespassers”.
The motion was put forward and unsurprisingly passed almost unanimously (only 6 against) to pursue the project. The committee was confirmed plus about 80 members who would go ahead and start the fund raising in earnest. The estimated cost of the project was £8000: £7500 for the 28 acres of land £500 for works.
Over the following 18 months letters written, fêtes organised and money collected. Henry as secretary had his work cut out, corresponding regularly with the Hewetsons. The local people organised a bazaar to be held over four days in August 1881 which raised a whopping £880.
Thomas Hewetson who had encouraged this scheme from the outset, had since relocated to Tunbridge Wells however he still maintained an interest in his home town. Along with his brother Henry they became the main benefactors, donating £4100 by 1882 which had increased to £5250 by 1887. There had been a suggestion by the people of Keswick to name the recreation ground 'Hewetson Park, but the brothers would have none of it.
By February 1882 the purchase of the land for the park was nearing completion and a public meeting was called by the Park Committee at which an announcement was made by the chair Canon Battersby to a packed room. They were just £200 shy of the full amount required and a proposal was made to sell the Towns Field currently belonging to the local Council and seldom used in order to make up the funds. The motion passed unanimously to much applause. As with any public scheme there were opponents and detractors, but they were few and far between as the majority of the population of Keswick were behind the project.
By end of April 1882 the purchase was complete. Two years on from the original meeting. Quite an achievement! Plans were drawn up for the lay out, put out to tender and works commenced in earnest in 1883. The grounds were laid out in a very ornamental style following the designs by Mr Fletcher a landscape gardener from London, and spaces apportioned for games. The trustees reserved the right to close 'Low Fitz' for nine days of the year for shows and games. By the following year the recreation ground was in full use, with a bowling green and cricket pitch.
It was necessary to continue raising funds to cover the costs of ongoing work. However by March 1887 a small debt had accrued resulting in the trustees putting an appeal in The West Cumberland Times to try and clear the £600 debt owed by The Fitz Park Recreation Ground Fund in time for the Queen's golden jubilee celebrations to be held that summer.
So on the 25 June 1887 Keswick celebrated the Jubilee with a huge parade starting from the town centre to Fitz Park where a gala was held. (Henry was also secretary of the Jubilee Committee). A podium was set up in the park from which the local dignitaries and committee members addressed the crowd. Mr Crosthwaite, took to the stage and to huge applause and the astonishment of Henry,. announced that the park fund was free from debt. This had only just been achieved and Mr Crosthwaite choose the time when people were gathered in celebration to tell the crowds. After all the thank yous especially to the Hewetson brothers, Henry addressed the crowd to huge cheers. The total cost of the project had been £9746.
An article in the English Lakes Visitor later that year detailed a public meeting where a proposal was put forward that 'some form of appreciation to Mr Jenkinson needs to be arranged for all his efforts that enabled Fitz Recreation Ground to be created'. It is heartening to know how highly Henry was regarded for all the work he had put into this project. It wasn't until after his death that this recognition came to pass.
Out of interest, Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley (1851-1920) one of the founders of the National Trust, was at the jubilee celebrations as he had supported the project and attended Fitz Park trustee meetings. He moved to the Lake District firstly to Wray Lake Windermere in 1878 and to Keswick in 1883.
THE KESWICK RIGHTS OF WAY TRESPASSES 1887
1887 was a busy year for Henry and his associates as it was the year of the Keswick Trespasses that defended the right of access through Fawe Park and to the summit of Latrigg Fell. The right to roam on the summit of Latrigg fell gained national interest and because of its importance the activities of the Keswick Footpath Preservation Society and Henry's involvement together with the ensuing court case are covered in detail in a separate blog.
HENRY JENKINSONS' OTHER PROJECTS
Henry was heavily involved in civic life and had many other projects that he put time and effort into especially his passion for organising events that would bring local people together.
The Keswick Old Folks Dinner
First held in December 1872 the Keswick Old Folks Dinner was an annual event originated by Henry, the purpose of which was to bring together local residents over sixty years old, from all backgrounds one afternoon between Christmas and the New Year to share a dinner and entertainment. It was a great success and continued for many years with an average around 200 people attending. There were still reports in the local papers of the 'Old Folks Do' as it came to be known, in 1919.
Here's an account from an early gathering from the Penrith Observer 6th Jan 1874. You'll see many familiar names involved with the event:
'KESWICK: DINNER TO THE AGED POOR. a committee of Keswick gentlemen (Mr H.I. Jenkinson Mr. J. F. Crosthwaite, Mr. R. Mumberson, & Mr. Fisher Banks) were enabled, on Wednesday last, to provide the old folks of the town, over sixty years of age, with a substantial dinner. The tables were set out in the Oddfellows' Hall. Several old people from a distance had conveyances sent for them, and at the time appointed, 160 were comfortably seated. The viands included soup, turkey, goose, roast and boiled beef, mutton, chicken, tarts, puddings, &c. Much praise is due to Mrs. Gill, for the way in which everything was served up.
It was indeed a pleasant sight to see so many old people dressed up in their best, and enjoying the good things before them. The oldest couple were Mr. and Mrs John Harrisen, of Row, both of whom had reached the age of 76 years. The oldest man was Mr. John Twentyman, (87 years), and the oldest woman Mrs. Thompson, (84 years), known as the "quilter," who has during her lifetime quilted 3.170 quilts, which had taken many thousand miles of thread to finish them. Those who could not possibly attend through infirmity had dinner sent to them—making the number altogether 219!'
Once dinner was finished the chair was taken by Mr. J. F. Crosthwaite and the vice-chair by Mr. Mumberson. There were speeches thanking all who had had a hand in organising the event with Mr. Jenkinson acknowledged as the founder of this festive meeting, and then the entertainment began. Once the festivities had concluded 'Conveyances were then in readiness to convey several of the old people to their respective homes. One and all expressing themselves highly gratified with the afternoon's proceedings.'
It became a tradition at the gathering to remember all those who had died during the past year and to acknowledge the oldest residents, and the average age of those over 60. Not everyone in Keswick was supportive of the event. The local temperance society were unhappy that beer was served, and wrote to the local paper accordingly. The committee gave the assurance that alcohol was not abused and no one forced to drink it!
Although Henry was one of the organisers he rarely spoke at the do. However at the dinner held in December 1884 he was Vice Chair of the proceedings and addressed the gathering. This account from the English lakes Visitor 3rd Jan 1885 gives an insight into his thoughts on the purpose of the gathering and society in general.
“The VICE-CHAIRMAN said that although he deeply felt the honour the committee had done him by placing him in the vice-chair, he would rather have been a silent listener. Mr. Mumberson had generally taken the position, but last year Mr. Lancaster was appointed. His opinion was that it should be taken in turns by the committee, though he would exclude the clergy. (Laughter. Mr. Rawnsley: Hear, hear.) The speaker was very glad Mr. Rawnsley said "hear, hear." (Laughter.)
“Although they were delighted to have the presence of the clergy and to hear their addresses, still the committee were anxious to avoid class or denominational feeling. At one time it was said the Bishop might grace the table with his presence. If he had come he would have had a hearty reception, and his wisdom and wit would have been listened to with pleasure, but he would have had to give precedence to their chairman and take his seat as a guest. He had always been pleased to see Mr. Mumberson in the vice-chair as a representative of the Nonconformists. He was glad to see the Rev. Mr. Colville enter the room, for he would take that place. The two vicars present would understand his remarks and see how it was they were not asked to take that prominent position which appeared to be theirs by right. They were all glad to see Mr. Marshall amongst them, and though they hoped Mr. Crosthwaite would take the chair for many years yet to come Mr. Marshall would, by his position as lord of the manor, be the right man to follow.”
After a few more general remarks, he said “the desire to please and be pleased constituted one of the chief charms of this old folks' dinner, and made it regarded as the most social and pleasant meeting held during the year. This was the principle which actuated the committee, and it was curious that there are people who will persist in looking upon it as a charity dinner. Others look askance, and say the money was wasted and might be more profitably spent. After considering these different views the committee have decided not to let the movement drop, and he thought they had acted rightly. The money comes without canvassing. As an example, he might mention that Lieut.-Col. Campbell, who lives in Kent, takes such an interest in the movement that he always sends a handsome subscription accompanied by his hearty good wishes. (Applause.) Everybody seemed to look with affection upon Keswick, no matter whether they are born here, live here for a few years, or come as tourists. Perhaps this arises from the beautiful scenery and the fact that we are surrounded by mountains, which seem to make us into a little separate world. At these meetings people come together in a thoroughly Christian spirit, not to see and to be seen, but to proclaim a religion of universal brotherhood, which they were too apt to forget through pride, and class distinctions which are the great bane of English social and political life. Anything which has a tendency to bridge over these deserves our fostering care. There must be different grades of society, but that does not necessarily imply estrangement. He wished those who objected to this gathering were present that they might see the happy kindly spirit dwelling amongst them, and that they might all return home the better and happier for it, was his earnest wish. He closed by proposing the health of the Old Folks...”
Henry attended his last OFD in December 1890. At the planning meeting held earlier in the month Henry who had acted as honorary secretary for eighteen years, “desired to be relieved from office, but while there was a disposition to relieve Mr. Jenkinson of any work connected with the office, it was felt that he should be attached to the movement and his name was continued as hon. sec. Mr. T Crowden... kindly undertook to give all the assistance to Mr. Jenkinson that might be required.”
In later years HD Rawnsley became chairman of the organising committee of the ‘Old Folks’ Do’ and very rarely missed the event. His last appearance was Christmas 1919 when he presided over the dinner- (from the HD Rawnsley website).
In the English Lakes Visitor published 31 Dec 1898 there was an article about the OFD mentioning a photo album:“... the resolution to have, photographs taken of three of the oldest " men bodies " and three of the oldest " women bodies." They were to go to Mr Henry Mayson's at their leisure, and each was to have a copy, and a copy was to be placed in the Museum, in an album, with portraits of Mr Jenkinson the founder, Mr Fisher Crosthwaite for 23 years president, and the subsequent presidents.” It would be great to see that album, if it still exists.
It is worth noting that Henry had also wanted to organise a 'young folks do' to be held at New Year but this idea never got off the ground.
Out of interest
Henry was also noted for the following happenings, worthy of articles in the local papers:
-There was a lost tourist Ennerdale August 1876, Henry led the search and assisted in the recovery of the body for which he received in gratitude from the man's widow and children a valuable gold hunting key-less chronometer watch and chain and compass with inscription. The Lakes Chronicle Oct 1876
-He organised the Derwent water amateur regatta and athletics sports August 1877. Unfortunately the day was a wash out! “Even Mr Jenkinson couldn't do anything about the weather.”
-Henry arranged a tour for the Skiddaw Rock Band among the principal Cumberland towns. Concerts were held at Cockermouth, Workington, Maryport, Whitehaven, Keswick, Penrith and Carlisle. The Skiddaw Rock Band comprised of Mr Daniel Till, of Keswick, and his two sons with vocals by two ladies Miss Till and Miss Armstrong. The Westcumberland Times 4th Oct 1879 reported: The history of the rock harmonicon has elsewhere been written, and the character and constitution of the musical stones have been fully described by the Rev J. Clifton Ward, of geological fame. Mr Till and his sons were engaged eight years in perfecting their unique instrument. It consists simply of stones, eighty in number, and varying from half-a-foot to four feet in length picked up on Skiddaw and the neighbouring mountains. But these simple fragments of rock, under the hands, or hammers, of Messrs Till, can be made to produce—in harmonious concatenation—the most dulcet sounds in universal nature. A musical stones harmonica is kept at the Keswick museum.
FINAL YEAR AND LEGACY
In 1890 Henry's health was starting to fail him, he was only 51 years old. The time and energy he had put into everything he was involved with was taking its toll, and by the spring of 1890 reports of Henry's ill health were making the local papers. This from the Penrith Observer 27th May:
Mr. H. I. Jenkinson, of Keswick has not been a great deal heard of during the last year or so, and we very much regret to learn that broken health is the cause of his retirement from public affairs. No more genial man, nor one more worthy of esteem, ever trod the streets of Keswick, and there is scarcely a visitor to the English Lake District who does not owe some of the pleasure there obtained to the self sacrificing labours of Henry Irwin Jenkinson. The public memory for services rendered is notoriously short, and it is to be feared the gratitude of a large section of Englishmen is to be measured by an equally short span. We have had many opportunities in years gone by of noting the extraordinary capacity for work possessed by Mr Jenkinson, and have frequently marveled how he managed to get through it. It is a matter of common knowledge that frequently his own affairs were neglected in his anxiety and zeal for the public welfare, especially of the community in which he lived. Certainly the people of Keswick have had in him a servant such as is rarely found, for the simple reason that his services were gratuitous. No thought of reward, we thoroughly believe, ever entered his head, his sole aim being to secure the rights and enjoyments of the people. Mr. Jenkinson found ample recompense in a walk round the Fitz Park, watching the children, the youths, and the adults of the town, to say nothing of the thousands of visitors, enjoying themselves in that miniature fairyland. To his indomitable energy, patience, and skill the public owe the preservation of many valuable rights. The Keswick and District Footpaths Preservation Society, in its early stages especially, meant Mr. Jenkinson, the other officers and members being only too willing to follow his lead, and since Mr. Jenkinson's illness the Society does not appear to have done the slightest good. Beyond the service rendered in the directions already indicated, Mr. Jenkinson has done more than any other single person, by means of his graphically written guides, to popularise the beauties of the Lake District. We are informed that by way of recognising Mr. Jenkinson's public services lists have been opened at the banks in the town. As there cannot be a question that his long-continued work on behalf of his fellow-men has been the chief cause of his break down, it is sincerely to be hoped there will be a worthy response to what is nothing lees than a call to duty.
At this news his friends set up the Jenkinson Testimonial Fund. Lakes Herald 30th May 1890 “We are informed that by way of recognising Mr. Jenkinson's public services lists have been opened at the banks in Keswick. As there cannot be a question that his long-continued work on behalf of his fellow-men has been the chief cause of his break down, it is sincerely to be hoped there will be a worthy response to what is nothing less than a call to duty. -The Odd Man.”
He recovered to the extent that by the end of the year he was writing letters, attending a meeting of the Fitz Park Trustees on the 6th December 1890 at which reference was made to his ill health. At this point Henry was not willing to step down despite his friends concerns, even so Mr T Crowden was voted in as assistant secretary.
His friends concerns were well founded, The following year in May 1891 whilst in Ingleton quite some miles from home, Henry suffered a severe stroke which paralysed him:
Lakes Chronicle 29th May 1891: REPORTED ILLNESS OF MR H I JENKINSON. It was reported in Keswick last evening that Mr. Henry Irwin Jenkinson had been seriously ill at lngleton. As far as we can learn Mr. Jenkinson was seized with paralysis, and speechless when the news was dispatched to Keswick.
His brother Benjamin had him brought to a hospital in East London so that he could be near to his family. He died on the 28th Aug 1891 aged 52 at Brentwood, Essex and he was buried at West Ham Cemetery in the September. His brother Benjamin and niece with her husband (Emily Ada Birks nee Jenkinson & George Birks) were the chief mourners.
Henry never married and lived in lodgings. He died financially poor, indeed with liabilities of over £100, as reported in the English Lakes Visitor 15th April 1893. A small amount was still outstanding by the end of 1893 and an appeal was made at the Old Folks Dinner in December that year.
There were many tributes published in the local papers all expressing the high regard with which they held Henry and give some insight into his character.
-West Cumberland Times 2nd Sept 1891:
DEATH OF MR HENRY IRWIN JENKINSON. It is seldom that intelligence of the death of a well-known member of a community evokes a greater expression of sympathetic feeling than did the news of the demise of Mr Henry Irwin Jenkinson when it reached Keswick on Saturday morning... His name will ever be a revered memory so long as Keswick has a history. To know him was to know one of the most unselfish of men. He was so devoted to the work of making the lot of his fellow men run on pleasant lines in this world that he had an utter unconsciousness of self, and exercised his talents wholly for the public good... Keswickians have lost a champion of their rights who can never be replaced. His courageous action in the matter of opposing the landowners who sought to close paths and roads over which the public sought rights of way should secure for him a never to be forgotten name amongst visitors to the Lake District. The town of Keswick would not now boast of its beautiful Fitz Recreation Grounds if there had been no Mr Jenkinson, for to him alone belongs the honour of its existence as a park. His labours on its behalf were never relaxed from beginning to end and his connection with it. In all things affecting the interests of Keswick Mr Jenkinson evinced a keen interest, and with the townspeople his opinion carried considerable weight. There is not a man living today who will be more missed than Mr Jenkinson in Keswick.
- English Lakes Visitor 5th Sept 1891:
DEATH OF MR HENRY IRWIN JENKINSON
In the death of Mr. Henry Irwin Jenkinson, Keswick has cause to mourn the loss of a true friend. He came here a young man more than quarter of a century ago, from Yorkshire, to take office as station-master. He soon learned to love the Lakes and mountains with an ardour which was the distinguishing feature of his character. At a later time while he had charge of Mr. Flintoft's model he was induced by Mr. Stanford to write his " Practical Guide to the Lake District."... The book was given its right position, and to-day is the recognised guide. ….What he did for the Lake District he did for the Isle of Man, North Wales, the lsle of Wight, Carlisle and the Roman Wall, and in each instance his work elicited the highest praise for its thorough practicality....But, standard as his books are, it is not so much for them that Keswick will hold him in remembrance.
He was the originator of the Old Folks' Gathering, a social party which seems yearly to gain favour, and which brings together all sections of our little community and adds a new strand to the bond of friendship and neighbourliness.
Our Fitz Park, one of the most beautiful public pleasure grounds in the kingdom, owes its existence to him, and while grass grows and flowers bloom so long ought he not to be forgotten. When he set about to save the land from the builder he had not the slightest idea how his efforts would ultimately be backed, but he was sanguine that he could accomplish the scheme he had then in view. He spared neither time, money, nor personal exertion to rouse a public opinion enthusiastic as his own. His soul was in the work he had undertaken or he would have given way under the rebuffs with which he met. Many a time was his sensibility badly wounded by insinuation. that he was seeking his own ends, but, conscious he was doing the best for the people, by some of whom he was grievously misunderstood, he affected to know nothing of the thoughts of his traducers and pushed steadily on.... Further he would have pushed the Trustees to complete his ideal, but they had to restrain him, afraid that his sanguineness would lead to inextricable difficulty. He wanted a building that should be a kind of everybody's club where innocent amusement could be sought at a free library, a gymnasium, baths, &c.
Before he had done with the Fitz Park business he undertook the duty of hon. sec. to the Footpath Preservation Association, and here his marvelous capacity for work was the mainstay of the whole organisation. The thousands of circulars he sent out, and the vast amount of correspondence which he had to attend to (all of which he seemed unwilling to let any other person share) trenched so much upon his time that it was not an uncommon thing for him to be busy writing during the night. No doubt the additional work which he took upon himself, coupled with troubles connected with his business, began to tell upon his constitution. He had been a strong, and hearty man and never felt the weight of years, but his friends saw there was a change, and a serious change too, taking place. Latterly his condition was such as to cause his friends great concern about him. It was felt that he needed rest, but rest was out of the question with him, for that sturdy independence which would own to no trouble was difficult to deal with, and rendered the assistance of friends very nearly impossible.
His illness, as could only be anticipated in the circumstances grew upon him and the closing part of his useful life was clouded by pitiful infirmity. He died at Brentwood at one o'clock on Friday morning the -28th August, and was interred at West Ham Cemetery on Tuesday, September 1st Mr. and Mrs. B. S. Jenkinson (brother and sister. in-law) and Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Birks (nephew and niece) were the chief mourners. Poor Jenkinson! the grave has never closed over the remains of a more thoroughly unselfish man. His desires were constantly for the benefit of the people, and it may be truly said that the best part of his life was spent in their service.
The people of Keswick wanted to find a permanent way in which to remember and honour Henry. To this ends a public meeting was held very shortly after his death and much discussion was had trying to agree a suitable memorial. Meanwhile subscriptions were being paid into the bank. There was a proposal that the public should be asked to discharge the small debt left by Henry on his death, stating that 'Mr Jenkinson would, had he lived, never have rested until he had become free from these embarrassments, and that it would be a graceful compliment to his memory to wipe away such debts'. However there was a general feeling that 'many individuals will not contribute towards an undefined object'. John Peel 17th Oct 1891 West Cumberland Times.
Henry's nephew, GW Birks sent a letter to the English Lakes Visitor which was printed on the 12th Sept 1891 supporting a memorial:
THE LATE MR H. I JENKINSON, To the Editor of the Visitor and Guardian. DEAR SIR, -I read with much interest the very able letter from the pen of Mr. W. R. Fitzpatrick in your issue of the 5th. It is very gratifying to see that Keswick is not behind in coming forward with suggestions how to perpetuate Mr. H. H .Jenkinson 's name. Now is the opportunity for all who have been, and are interested in the English Lake District, to come forward and help to swell the number of those who are willing, both with suggestions and practical help, for the purpose of keeping the name of Mr. H. I. Jenkinson ever green before their minds. The present is the time, and Keswick the place, to show this sympathy with one whom I believe has given the best part of his life for Keswick and neighbourhood, rather than to himself. Some would and perhaps do say that he was an enemy to himself; let that be as it may; all those who knew him, whether in private or public life, can truly testify as to the value and benefit he has been to the Lake District. That alone, sir, ought to be an incentive to all who have come in contact with him, to do him honour. I do not write this letter for the purpose of giving suggestions or telling Keswickians what to do and how to do it. No! for that would he out of place for me to do so; but at the same time I feel a keen interest in the welfare of Keswick. For some years, from time to time, I have been coached up with its local affairs. Unless this interest is kept up by the local celebrities I fear any scheme that might be thought of will drift into oblivion. I wish to honour the dear name of Henry Irwin Jenkinson for his enthusiastic love of Keswick and the Lake District. Strike Strike!! while the iron is hot; and I trust that the public of Keswick will determine that it will do something, and do it well, to perpetuate his name, is the wish of yours faithfully; —Nephew to the late Henry Irwin Jenkinson, G. W. BIRKS, New Barnet, Herts, Sept. 8th, I89I.
At the Old Folks' Do held in Dec 1891, the first after Henry's death tributes were made. This account from the English Lakes Visitor 2nd Jan 1892:
The chair at the after proceedings was again taken by Mr. J. FISHER CROSTHWAITE, He said...”There was another letter from the Antipodes, in which a lady writes, " We have sent a lamb for the Old Folks' Dinner, which we hope you will receive in time. We have sent it in remembrance of my late brother, Mr. H. I. Jenkinson. I think the lamb will go by the ' Doric,' but am not quite sure. You can say it was sent by his sisters." Mr. Crosthwaite stated that Mr. Jenkinson had two sisters in New Zealand. He had correspondence with the late husband of one of the ladies—the Rev. Mr. Tonkinson.
Their late good friend, Mr. Henry Irwin Jenkinson, who originated this gathering, wrote to him last year a very characteristic letter, which be had that day found among his papers. In memory of Mr. Jenkinson, he thought he would read it. It said, " Dear sir—Don't appoint me to any office to-night; I always act as over looker and in charge of the beer." And so it was, he used to cut out the work and overlook it, it was his way always. He might take this opportunity to quote from the letter of another friend, who said, " Keswick owes much to Jenkinson. You are talking about some monument, the better the people do it the more honour they will do to themselves." (Applause.) The subject had been broached, but it " hung fire," not from lack of interest, but, he felt, because it needed to be put before the people in a more prominent way. He was sure if every person who can afford gave sixpence, a shilling, or half-a-crown,—if they put their hands in their pockets and did credit to their feelings—there would soon be enough to accomplish the object. The first thing sought was to put up a substantial monument to his memory in the Fitz Park—something worthy—that should endure as long as the park and there was another object along with it which might be effected.
The Vicar of CROSTHWAITE read the memorial sonnet which he composed at the time of Mr. Jenkinson's death and then went on to say, “He should always regret the taking away of their friend Jenkinson, for no man of his public spirit can be spared. From many talks with him, the speaker knew that upon this Old Folks "do " was centred much of his religious teaching. Mr. Jenkinson felt there should be some day on which all could meet on an equality, with social gladness, and in a way Christ would have them meet, with love in their hearts. They might feel that the spirit of that public-spirited man was with them. As long as they met he trusted they would remember what Mr. Jenkinson had done for the town and neighbourhood.”
Finally, after a number of meetings and much discussion the decision was made to have gates made to the entrance of Fitz Park that commemorated Henry. The money was raised, the work commissioned and in the summer of 1893 there was a formal opening of the Jenkinson memorial gates.
Photo © Stephen Craven (cc-by-sa2.0) Jenkinson memorial gates Fitz Park.
At the ceremony Mr. Fisher Crosthwaite represented the Fitz Park Trustees. There were speeches to much applause. Mr Crosthwaite was then handed the key by HD Rawnsley, the Vicar of Crosthwaite after which the gate was unlocked and the those present filed though into the park.
It was Henry's friend and associate in so many schemes, Mr Rawnsley, who gave the main address, the full version of which can be found in the English Lakes Visitor 8th July 1893. He said of Henry:
'We are met...to think of a Yorkshireman... who was a benefactor to this town, for Henry Irwin Jenkinson was a Yorkshireman who came here about twenty-eight years ago as stationmaster of Keswick. In a way Jenkinson needs no monument. If you seek one, look around. (Applause.) This beautiful playground and public park are really due to him.... Nor is this the only monument of his public spirit. The Old Folks' Dinner is a perpetual memorial of his kindness and his wish to see others happy. There is a third monument, of which I can speak with more knowledge. I mean the literary monument of Henry Irwin Jenkinson's "Guide to the English Lakes.'' It is a very remarkable book. and in its accuracy will stand the test of time. The same motive that inspired him to obtain the public park and the old folks' dinner, I know inspired him as he worked at that book—he wished that other people should enjoy all that he had enjoyed.
Mr. Jenkinson died, as you know, a poor man. If he had spent upon himself the time he spent upon the public he would have died a rich man. Indeed, if he had been able to get all that belonged to him he would have been in a much better financial position. He died worn out, not so much by work as by worry largely caused by what he regarded as debts of honour which hung about his neck like a millstone, and which be wished, and which he believed he would be able to honourably discharge. Mr. Jenkinson had his faults. We all have them. But he had a singular virtue, the virtue of public spirit and it would be bad for any community when such public spirited men did not exist and whenever public spirit is not adequately recognised.”
The testimonies speak for themselves. Henry had led a selfless life, gaining much satisfaction from making the lives of others more enjoyable. He was a passionate fell walker and mountaineer, a tenacious, courageous, public spirited man whose conscientiousness led to his own demise. He wished for a more equitable society and what he achieved during his life time for the people of Keswick and beyond went some way to achieving this.
I shall leave the last word to HD Rawnsley who wrote this sonnet on hearing of the death of his friend.
HENRY IRWIN JENKINSON
August 28th, 1891.
On moor and fell, in silent mountain places,
We meet him still to ask him of the way.
By pathless crag. where streams perplexing stray.
Each shepherd's track familiarly he traces
Or, where the Greta by the grey town races
And brims its pools, now solemn and now gay,
He mingles with the old men at their play
Or gazes on the children's happy faces.
But whether through green park or purple mountain
Free on the sunny height, by shore or wood,
That never-resting spirit haunts us still!
His heart of hope springs upward like a fountain,
Who blessed the far-off future, and whose will
Was ever set to serve the public good.
Researched and written by Sheila Wiggins, descendant of Henry Irwin Jenkinson.
Henry was my great-great uncle. His brother Benjamin my great great grandfather whose daughter Emily Ada Jenkinson married George W Birks, my mother's paternal grandparents.
The photographs of Henry have come from an album belonging to Ada circa 1884.
-British Newspaper Archives
-The excellent HD Rawnsley website regarding the LDDS & Derwentwater footpaths dispute. To find out more about HD Rawnsley go to https://www.hdrawnsley.com/index.php written by his great grand daughter Rosalind Rawnsley.
-If in Keswick do pop into the Keswick Museum to find out more about the history of the town and to see a small portrait of Henry displayed in the Hind Gallery.