John Jenkins b1797

Born in 1797 in Llanidloes, John Jenkins is one of the more peripatetic of my early ancestors. In an age when few ventured more than a few miles from the parish of their birth, he travels 10 miles from Llanidloes to Newtown for work as a carder in the flannel industry by 1819, before moving to Llangollen 25 miles further on where he eventually died in 1878.

My conclusion is that "our" John Jenkins was baptised, son of Richard Jenkins and Mary his wife, on 19 Mar 1797 at Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire, a centre for the flannel industry. The ancient market town of Llanidloes in Montgomeryshire is in the middle of Wales and is of medieval origin on the banks of the River Severn. It became a focus of industrial unrest during the 19th century Chartist revolt, a campaign for democratic rights prompted by the collapse of the local textile industry.

Llanidloes Flannel Mill
Typical weavers' houses

In the early part of the 19th century the processes involved in flannel production were carried out separately, with carding, spinning and fulling operations based in water-powered factories and mills. The early stages of industrialisation saw the arrival of handloom weaving shops housed in tall three or four storey buildings, with large open workshops on the upper floors and living quarters for the workers beneath. There was typically an outside staircase for direct access to the looms. A common feature of weavers houses are the large windows in the upper floors to admit as much light as possible. Many buildings in Llanidloes and in Newtown survive from this domestic phase of the evolution of the flannel industry.

The rapid evolution of the flannel industry included periods of depression, with serious disturbances due to low wages and poor working conditions in the 1830's. The weaving masters set up shops on their premises where workers were forced to use tokens to buy essential goods at inflated prices, often leaving them with no wages to take home. In many cases all the members of the family would be working for the same employer, and unable to reach other shops during their opening hours. They were also likely to be sacked for buying elsewhere.

Llanllwchaearn Church, near Newtown, Montgomery

John Jenkins appears to have moved to Newtown by 1819, as he marries there in that year. My guess would be that he moved to Newtown in as it was expanding faster than Llanidloes at this time in order to get work as a carder.

1819 He married at Llanllwchaearn by banns to Mary Edwards on 1 Feb. 1819 (witness Edward Jenkins, perhaps a brother, and Thomas Howells). This parish is effectively part of Newtown, as it lies 1 mile east of Newtown, towards Abermule, which is a further 3 miles beyond Llanllwchaearn. Mary Edwards was from Manafon to the north of Newtown, and their son Thomas Jenkins was later born at Abermule.

IGI show the birth of a John Jenkins on 26 Apr 1819 to John and Mary Jenkins at Llanwyddelan, Montgomery (this parish is only 2 miles west of Manafon). I would suspect that this is their first child. There are no other Jenkins births in that parish, although the records exist

Map from 1880 of Newtown, Montgomery

Both Newtown and Llanllwchaearn were expanding rapidly Newtown from a population of 990 in 1801 to 4550 in 1831 (after 1831 it started to decline) and Llanllwchaearn from 675 in 1801 to a peak of 2847 in 1841 (after 1841 it too started to decline). The town of Newtown expanded with the coming of the canal and the building of bigger flannel mills. This corner of Llanllwchaearn parish was the industrial area of the town.

Industrial relations were bad in both Newtown and Llanidloes. 1819 Riots in Newtown resulted in 48 officers and men being summoned to Newtown by magistrates on 2 separate occasions in "aid of the civil power". These were on 30 Jun and 10 Jul. Further riots in Abermule on 12 Jul 1819 led to a detachment of troops being on duty there overnight. A rumour that employers were about to cut wages "on account of the indifferent state of trade" ignited the riots.

1825 children Jane and Evan born (twins? or vagaries of 1841 census age system) born Montgomeryshire.

1826 was a year of depression in the flannel industry in Newtown.

1830 saw more riots in Newtown. over the imprisonment of 6 men for seeking charity from a local landlord. A mob of 300 forced the release of the men, and although the crisis was eventually averted, large numbers of special constables were sworn in, and a permanent military presence in the area resulted

1831 Mary born Montomeryshire

1831/32 Cholera outbreak in the area.

1833 was a boom year. There were 50 factories in Newtown and its neighbourhood, with 50,000 spindles, 50 carding machines, 1200 looms employing 3000 workmen. And it is believed that the peak of manufacture was reached in 1835

1833/4 Thomas born at Abermule, Newtown.

1837 A depression started in the flannel industry in Newtown, and there was much distress in the town in the winter of 1837/38, with families leaving the town and 50 dwellings unoccupied. The number of unoccupied houses rose to 250 by 1841, enough to house 1000 people in an area that had a population of around 7000 at that time. The next decade was known as the "hungry forties". There was a mass meeting in November 1837 chaired by the Working Men's Association and attended by over 600 men

1838 In October 1838 the first Chartist Meeting in Wales was held in Newtown. Some 4000 people attended this outdoor meeting. There was a further mass meeting on Christmas Day 1838, which was policed by 35 special constables plus the Montgomery Yeomanry Cavalry who rode through Newtown with drawn swords.

Chartism was a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom during the mid-19th century between 1838 and 1848. Chartism was possibly the first mass working class movement in the world. Its leaders have often been described as either "physical" or "moral-force" leaders, depending upon their attitudes to violent protest It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838, which stipulated the six main aims of the movement as:

* Universal suffrage for all men over the age of 21
* Equal-sized electoral districts
* Voting by secret ballot
* An end to the need for a property qualification for Parliament
* Pay for members of Parliament
* Annual election of Parliament

1839 A meeting in Newtown attended by 200 people took the advice from the Chartists in London that it was legal to bear arms, and it became the custom to drill both with and without arms. A major riot in Llanidloes led to the troops being sent to police Llanidloes and having to pass through Newtown, where they were pelted with stones.

1841 After the polls closed in the local elections, a series of disturbances occurred. 260 special constables tried to restore order, and two were killed during the riots. The riot act was read by the magistrates, and eventually the mob dispersed. The troops stayed in the town until 1846.

Houses in Old Kerry Rd, Newtown

1841 by the census in 1841 he had moved to Kerry Road, Newtown, Montgomery and was a carder in the flannel trade. The census gives the family as all born in Montgomeryshire. John Jenkins 40, and his wife Mary Jenkins 40, living at Kerry Road, Newtown with Jane 15, Evan 15, Mary 10 and Thomas Jenkins, 7. Kerry Road is in the town of Newtown, a "flannel town". Flannel was originally made from carded wool, and John Jenkins was a carder. Carding is the processing of brushing raw or washed fibers to prepare them as textiles. Carding can also be used to create mixes of different fibers, or different colors. Carding ensures that the fiber is thinned out and evenly distributed along a roll to facilitate spinning. The expansion of its production is closely associated with the spread of carding mills, which prepared the wool for spinning, this being the first aspect of the production of woollen cloth to be mechanised (apart from fulling).

Between 1801 and 1841 the population Newtown rose from under a thousand to over four and a half thousand. By the 1830's Newtown was meeting stiff competition from elsewhere, particularly Rochdale, and workers' wages were being driven down. The town became a centre of discontent. These were heady times in Newtown, and may have led to John Jenkins moving his family away from Newtown to a safer home. John Jenkins and his family are not in the 1851 census at Newton.

1843 1200 men were on strike for 8 weeks until forced back to work by hunger. They were complaining about the "truck system" that forced them to buy their food and provisions from shops owned by their employer.

Wool prices remained low throughout the 1840s and employment therefore suffered in the area. Many people moved away from Newtown to get work elsewhere.

1849 Another cholera epidemic swept the county.

High Street. Llanfair Caereinion

1851 census does not appear to list them as a family. They disappear until we pick them up in 1871 in Llangollen. Perhaps the enumerators book is missing. The family that might be part of Richard Jenkins remarriage to Hannah Rowlands in 1819 includes a Benjamin Jenkins (who would have been a half brother to "our" John Jenkins) and who was living at Crop St, Llanllwchaiam in 1851 census and Kerry Rd, Newtown in 1856 when a child of his was born. There is John Jenkins, "carder" age 54. lodger at 14 High Street Llanfair Caereinion (5 miles due west of Welshpool, and 9 miles north of Newtown), born Llanidloes,Montgomery, Unmarried. Montgomeryshire was an important centre in the production of woollen flannel cloth. The main centres were the towns in the Severn valley (Llanidloes, Newtown and Welshpool) where communications were easier, but there were weaving sheds in Llanfair Caereinion so John Jenkins could gave gone there for work. It could be that he was a lodger meant that his age was slightly out, and they would have no reason to put him as married.

Age 54 and trade "Carder"

On balance I think that is probably "our" John Jenkins, his place of birth is correct. It is difficult to know what happened to him and his family at this time.

1861 census: Our John Jenkins must be alive, in as much as the wedding certificate for his son does not have "deceased" beside John Jenkins name, but does against the bride's father. And his wife is Mary. Further we can find him in 1871 census

The Jenkins house at 19 Church Street, Llangollen

John Jenkins and his wife re-appear in Llangollen in the 1871 census when they lived by or with Thomas Jenkins, their son, and his family at Church Street, Llangollen. He is listed as age 67, carder, born Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire, with his wife Mary, also 67

Llangollen was a major transport junction with the new railway and canal passing through the town. There were also flannel mills so he could have moved there for that reason.

1878 I have death cert. He dies 6 Dec 1878 at Church St, Llangollen (where he is in 1871 census) aged 82. Death reported by Elizabeth Jenkins, daughter in law, of Church Street, Llangollen. Strangely his profession is given as "groom". His wife Mary probably dies the following year (Mar 1878 aged 84 Corwen 11b 336). It was probably his parents deaths in the late 1870's that prompted their son Thomas to move to Ffestiniog, where we find him in the 1881 census

Family fan chart