Jenkins, Arthur

First name/s: Arthur
Last name: Jenkins
Known names / nicknames:
Date of birth: 03/02/1882
Year of birth: 1882

Life before Ruskin

Date and place of birth: 3 February 1882 at Farteg, Abersychan, Monmouthshire

Family: Jenkins was the son of Thomas Jenkins (1855/6–1929), a coalminer, and his wife, Eliza Perry.

Work: Jenkins left school aged 12, to work in Viponds colliery, Farteg.

Politics/trade union activity: At Viponds, Jenkins became involved in the South Wales Miners’ Federation (SWMF) and in the Pontypool and district trades and labour council, becoming its secretary. He continued with his education through evening classes and discussion groups. In 1908, at the age of 26, Jenkins won the Eastern Valley Miners’ scholarship to Ruskin College.

Trade Union membership (at time of entry to Ruskin) NUM

Life at Ruskin

Dates at Ruskin: 1908–1909

Source of funding: Eastern Valley Miners’ scholarship, South Wales Miners’ Federation (SWMF)

Campaigns/political activity: In 1909, Jenkins was one of the Ruskin ‘strikers’ who supported the radical principal, Dennis Hird, in a dispute over the teaching of marxism, and left the college for the Central Labour College (initially in Oxford, later in London).

Subjects studied at Ruskin: Unknown

Dissertation: Assumed unfinished

Qualification: Assumed refused

Life after Ruskin

Education: 1909 Central Labour College (see above); in 1910, Jenkins spent ten months studying (with his friend Frank Hodges, the future miners’ leader) at the Foyer de l’Ouvrier, Paris.

Work: After studying in Paris, Jenkins returning to Monmouthshire to work as a miner at the Tirpentwys and Blaensychan collieries. He also taught evening classes at Garndiffaith.

Politics/trade union activity: In 1918, Jenkins became deputy miners’ agent for the Eastern Valley district of the SWMF, and the agent in 1921. Later, he was on the executive council of the SWMF and, between 1934 and 1936, as the union’s vice-president was deeply involved in the struggle against the mining company and non-unionism. In 1918, he was elected councillor for the Abersychan urban district council, and in 1919 to Monmouthshire county council, of which he later became an alderman and chairman (1932–1933). He was on the Labour Party national executive committee (1925–1929, 1931–1933, 1935–1937), and was a magistrate, a member of the County Councils Association, and a member of the royal commission on licensing (appointed in 1929). In November 1926, he was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment for riotous assault and incitement to riot, following a violent clash between striking miners and police at the Quarry level, near Crumlin. Writing in the Oxford DNB, Chris Williams asserts that: ‘There was little doubt at the time, and even less afterwards, that the police fabricated evidence against him and that the sentence was disproportionate. The conviction was seen as unjust and vindictive even by political opponents and coal owners.’ In 1935, Jenkins was elected Labour MP for Pontypool (with two-thirds of the votes cast, a share that rose to 77 per cent in 1945). His parliamentary interests centred on the coal industry, unemployment and poverty, but also education and foreign affairs. He opposed the rearmament programme in the late 1930s. During WW2, he was chairman of the local appeal board at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Glascoed (with a special indemnity act passed to allow this, as he was an MP). In 1937, Jenkins became parliamentary private secretary to Clement Attlee, and in March 1945 (during the wartime coalition) appointed parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning; in the Attlee government, he was parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Education. Williams comments that it was his poor health (forcing retirement from government in October 1945) that prohibited the opportunity of a cabinet position after the war.

Family: On 2 October 1911, he married Harriet (Hattie) Harris (1886–1953), the orphaned daughter of the manager of the Bessemer plant at Blaenafon, who was then working in a Pontypool music shop. He was the father of Roy Harris Jenkins (later Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, born 1920), and another son (stillborn, 1915).

Place and date of death: St Thomas’s Hospital, Lambeth, London, on 25 April, 1946.

Date of death: 25/04/1946
Year of death: 1946

Achievements / Publications

Material in archives or already published articles


Notes on Image/s

Comment of contributor/s and sources

Williams C. (2007), ‘Jenkins, Arthur (1882–1946)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press available at [accessed 23 November 2013].


Carolyn Smith

created 08/11/2013 at 3:42 pm, updated 24/11/2013 at 3:48 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

fourteen − two =