A Yorkshire legend, rumoured to have lived for nearly 170 years, has for generations been remembered by pubs bearing his name.
Henry Jenkins, an unlikely super centenarian, is said to have been born in 1501 and lived to the age of 169, having been a butler, a fisherman and an archers’ aid.
Across Yorkshire, he has been honoured for decades by pubs carrying on the legend of his incredible tale. And now, as the last Henry Jenkins faces the final call, campaigners are battling to save his story – and their village pub – from disappearing forever.
“Henry Jenkins was obviously a very energetic character who, when you delve into history, lived in a momentous time,” said Richard Sadler, of the Save the Henry Jenkins Committee, as protesters gathered outside the pub in Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon, on Saturday. “It would be a terrible shame if this remarkable man’s name was lost.”
Henry Jenkins, buried in Bolton-on-Swale, who claimed to have been butler to Lord Coniers of Hornby Castle and to have carried arrows to archers for the battle of Flodden Field, died begging for alms in 1670. Such is his fame that there is a Henry Jenkins Memorial Society, with Lord Hague said to be one of its best speakers, which meets annually to celebrate his history. And while there were once several sites bearing his name, the Kirkby Malzeard pub, now threatened with demolition to make way for four houses, is the last one standing.
Planners in Harrogate are to make a decision tomorrow about its future, with a flurry of objections from residents calling for a halt to the plans.
“For many years the Henry Jenkins Inn has given variety and character to the centre of our village,” said villager John Bishop. “It may be a source of financial gain to the owner to replace this with two or three houses but what a great loss to the spirit and character of the whole village.”
And as protesters gathered outside the pub to demonstrate the strength of their feeling, they say this is about more than the loss of yet another country pub.
“This is the last of several pubs which bears Henry Jenkins’s name,” said Mr Sadler. “Something could be made of that. It’s part and parcel of the history of the area. It’s the last one and if that’s gone, it’s gone forever.
“If we lose this pub, we will end up a dormitory village, with lots of houses and not much else. We think it’s worth fighting for.”
The pub has not been given the chance to survive, villagers say, but deliberately run into the ground and left ramshackle to make it unattractive to buyers.
There have been refusals to sell the pub, they add, with offers to purchase it rejected outright.
But owner David Fielder, who bought the pub six years ago, argues that it simply is not viable in such a small community.
“When I bought this pub it was closed,” he said, adding that he has been looking for a buyer or landlord for years but realistic and credible options have not come forward. “I didn’t close it. I’ve done what I can.
“They’ve tried to paint us as trying to deliberately run it into the ground. We haven’t done that at all – this pub has been failing since the 1990s.
“It’s not viable down to the amount of investment that is needed.”