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Charles Alfred Jenkins (1869–1955)

by Peter Boyce

This article was published:

Charles Alfred Jenkins (1869-1955), Methodist minister, was born on 3 September 1869 at Maldon, Victoria, son of James Jenkins, miner, and his wife Cathrine, née Jeffrey, both from Cornwall. After completing his secondary schooling, Charles became a lay preacher and was accepted as a candidate for the Methodist ministry in 1893. The rapid expansion of Western Australia's population during the 1890s gold rushes prompted an appeal to the Victorian and Tasmanian Methodist conference for additional clergy, to which Jenkins responded in 1896. At Wesley Church, Perth, on 9 April 1902 he married 20-year-old Nellie Bertha Ida Thomas. Ordained that year, he held circuit appointments in turn at Northam, Coolgardie and West Perth, and subsequently ministered at Fremantle and Claremont.

In 1911 Jenkins was commissioned as chaplain in the Citizen Military Forces. He was twice appointed to the Australian Imperial Force in World War I, serving in troop-ships in 1915 and in England in 1917-19. While continuing in the Militia, he ministered at Subiaco and was superintendent (1923-28) of the Central Methodist Mission, Fremantle. In 1929 he was promoted to superintend the Perth Central Mission, at which he was based until his retirement in 1938. He published A Century of Methodism in Western Australia, 1830-1930 (1930).

The combination of Evangelical fervour, a dignified presence and a warm disposition ensured that Jenkins attracted large and loyal congregations to his inner-city missions. He preached with authority, and, as chairman of Wesley College council, lent strong support to the cause of education. Survived by his son and daughter, he died on 4 December 1955 at Claremont and was cremated.

Two of his nephews served in the Methodist Church. Sydney John (1903-1983) was born on 20 October 1903 at Kanowna, near Kalgoorlie, eldest child of Victorian-born parents Sydney Arthur Jenkins, goldminer, and his wife Ethel Lucy Ellinor, née Holt. Following his father's death, Sydney left school at the age of 13 to help provide an income for his mother, and was variously employed as a bootmaker, farm labourer and French polisher. In seeking ordination to the Methodist ministry in 1926, he was sent to Wesley College, South Perth, for a special course. After stints as a home missioner in four parishes, he was ordained in March 1930. On 7 August that year he married Elsie Hamlyn Davies (d.1949) at Wesley Church, Perth; his uncle Charles officiated.

A chaplain in the C.M.F. from 1938, Jenkins was mobilized for full-time duty in 1942 and transferred to the A.I.F. that year. He performed staff and regimental duties in Western Australia and Victoria. After the war he remained in the C.M.F. and was senior chaplain (Methodist) at headquarters, Western Command, in 1948-52. In 1945-64 he directed the Home Mission department in Western Australia. At Wesley Church, Perth, on 6 September 1950 he married Gladys Mary Thurza Bales, a civil servant. He was chairman of Wesley College council in 1967-78 and appointed A.M. in 1980. He died on 1 November 1983 in Royal Perth Hospital and was cremated with the forms of the Uniting Church; his wife survived him, as did the son and two daughters of his first marriage.

His brother George Arthur (1907-1981) was born on 4 July 1907 at Kalgoorlie. He attended Fremantle Boys' School, but left at 13 to work in a tailor's and menswear shop. At the age of 18, he formed a preaching group which took regular Church services throughout Perth. Entering the Methodist ministry in 1932, he was ordained in 1935 and later studied at the University of Western Australia (B.A., 1944). At Wesley Church, Perth, on 17 October 1935 he had married Ethel Henrietta Brooks, a clerk.

Jenkins filled several parish appointments—some in the central and eastern wheatbelt—before becoming superintendent of the Central Methodist Mission, Fremantle, in 1958 and chaplain to Fremantle Prison. He served as president of the State's Methodist Conference in 1961 and retired from the ministry in 1968. Chairman (1963-77) of the Kingswood College Council and a former president of the Prisoners' Aid Association, he was appointed A.O. in 1978. Survived by his wife, son and two daughters, he died on 31 August 1981 at Wollongong, New South Wales, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Western Methodist (Perth), Jan 1956, p 5
  • Western Impact, 3, no 16, Oct 1981, p 4, 3, no 37, Dec 1983, p 5
  • West Australian, 3 June 1978, 8 Dec 1955
  • Uniting Church Archives, Synod of Western Australia (Perth)
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Boyce, 'Jenkins, Charles Alfred (1869–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 September, 1869
Maldon, Victoria, Australia


4 December, 1955 (aged 86)
Claremont, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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