A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
Cecil Henry and Maggie Jenkins
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Jenkins was a familiar name at Preston - in 1911, there were no less than twenty-five folk who shared that surname. Cecil Henry was one of those. He was born on 24 September 1900 - the son of William and Minnie Jenkins who were living in a ramshackle cottage at School Lane. Cecil married Emily Elizabeth Mumford at St Pauls Walden on 8 September 1923 and the couple probably settled in that parish. They had four children - Jean Emily Edith (born 1924), Cecilia P (1926), William HC (1932) and Edward G (1937). The family was living at 2 Council Cottages, Pirton, Herts in 1939 and Cecil worked as a general labourer. Cecil and Emily later divorced as noted on his second marriage certificate. Emily is noted on a web page as dying at Oldham in 1988.
Cecil as a young man
I believe that this is the wedding of Cecil and Emily’s son, William Jenkins. Cecil and Emily are to the left of the bridegroom.
Cecil took another bride; another Jenkins: Maggie. She was the daughter of Herbert “Herbie” and Phyllis Jenkins (born 28 October 1911) who were living on the north side of Chequers Lane in 1911. Herbie was a pig farmer’s herdsman at Castle Farm for much of the first half of the twentieth century. Both Cecil and Maggie were former pupils at Preston School.
(Above) Four studies of Maggie including her country dancing - she is the second from the right. The photograph bottom left was taken around the time of their marriage.
Cecil and Maggie’s wedding certificate. They married at Hitchin Register Office on 27 September 1951. Maggie was working as a post-woman. Their witnesses were A Currell and K Perry - probably Alec and Kathleen who were living at Holly Cottages, Preston at the time.
Then, on 3 July 1953, Cecil’s daughter, Jean, was killed by her husband Clifford Albert Minter. The couple married in the summer of 1943, had three children and were living at 9 Claggy Road, Kimpton. Clifford was working as a capstan lathe operator at Percival Aircraft Ltd., Luton. There had been marital problems created by Jean’s dalliance with other men. Matters came to a head and she threatened to move out with the children. Clifford stabbed her above the left breast and hit her head with a poker. He told the investigating constable, ‘I didn’t really mean to do it...She drove me to it’. Jean’s funeral was held at Kimpton Church and was attended only by Cecil and Maggie, Jean’s sister, Celicia, and her husband and two other women. Clifford was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to a mere three years in prison. There were mitigating circumstances - notably his excellent character and that he had ‘done his utmost to make the best of a difficult married life’. Remarkably, this evidence was given by the dead woman’s father, Cecil. Following the trial, Clifford’s solicitor sent Cecil a personal letter. He wrote, ‘I feel it is entirely due to you that your son-in-law’s life has been saved....May I also add this: that you are the only person during the past trying weeks that I have been able to turn to for help, assistance and advice’.
By the end of the 1950s, Cecil and Maggie were still living in the council house, 8 Whitwell Road, St Pauls Walden (right) on the B651, just north of the Strathmore Arms. (It was from here that Cecil had married in 1951.) Dad took me there to meet Maggie in the 1950s. I was also shown beagles in the nearby kennels. As well as being my first cousin once removed, she had served with my mother in the Women’s Land Army. A few years later as a lad, I found my way there from Preston. Maggie (who called her husband Ceecil) made me welcome. Then, I navigated my return through Hitch Wood. Fast forward almost twenty years and Cecil and Maggie were guests at our wedding (shown right). He worked as railway re-layer (1951), a railway labourer and was described as a retired factory worker when he died on 12 June 1978. The causes of his death were cardiac arrest, gastro- enteritis and senility. My wife and I visited Preston in 1977 and called on Maggie when the photograph below was taken.
Maggie was cared for by her niece, Ann Crouch (nee Currell), until her death on 16 December 1982 from cerebral thrombosis. Below left, is the last photograph of Maggie in her back garden with one of her beloved cats (described as ‘feral’). Although living for the whole of their married lives at St Pauls Walden, their hearts remained with the village of their birth as both were buried at St Martin’s, Preston - Cecil (aged 77) on 15 June 1978 and Maggie (76) on 21 December 1982