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Alderman Lewis Jenkins - Forgotten By History

This opaque figure was Alderman W L Jenkins JP. Why is it that his service is currently ignored and indeed it seems that has been the case since he died nearly a hundred years ago? Possibly it is the case that unlike Tip Williams, Colin Adams here and Don Griffiths as younger men they are recalled by the current generations. The Alderman was cut of different century but if you needed a Chairman in turn of the century Cowbridge then Alderman Jenkins was your man and it was he that steered he Club through good times and faced major challenges that lesser men would have shrunk from.

Alderman Lewis Jenkins was the proprietor of The Vale of Glamorgan Brewery located where The Vale of Glamorgan Inn is now. Here he produced beer and soft drinks, his ginger beer being a special favourite. As befitted a man of stature in the town he became a JP and was elected Chairman of the Club at it’s inception in the spring of 1913. The Club having been established to operate the ground, while the Ebsworth family and the Club sorted out a deal.

There were various sub-committees formed to run the sports, Mr Oakley was taken on as Groundsman. Arthur Gibbs, who would not survive the war, of was taken on as the Groundsman’s assistant. A skittle platform was considered but nothing came of it. A set of rules were drawn up which are not unlike the current edition.

Then the Alderman and the Town Clerk were about to receive a challenge. Mr Ebsworth was anxious to sell the field as part of his removal to Scotland but with a lack of present funds the Alderman needed all his sagacity to achieve a result that would deliver the field into the ownership of the Club but not at a price they could not afford.

The decision was reached to send a delegation led by the Aldermman to visit Mr Ebsworth. It turned out to be a satisfactory meeting as Mr Ebsworth gave the Club two yeas rent free occupation to allow it to raise funds. The asking price was £700; a pittance when considered against the input made by Mr Ebsworth on developing the ground.

In May 1914 each member of the Committee donated £5 towards the fund. The future was looking bright. Then on September 8th at their Meeting the ‘Chairman reported that a very loyal and gratifying response had been made by male members of the Club to the country’s call to arms and that most of the 1st and 2nd XI’s had including Pell the professional had enlisted in the military forces and as a consequence he had arranged for the closure of the field’. There was not much more to say at that juncture. The Committee approved some payments and the Chairman agreed to seek grazing.

In fact a theme of the minute book is of the Committee leaving things in the hands of the Chairman and the Town Clerk such was the confidence they must have had in their leaders.

The Committee did not meet until February 1915 when a letter offering to accept payment in installments for the field was received from Mr Ebsworth. Messers Jenkins and Gwyn were deputed to visit the Castle once more. On their return on February 22nd a meeting was held where despite all the reasons not to go ahead the Committee played a bold hand and agreed to purchase the field for £700.

How this would be achieved was a matter of some debate but Mr Micawber was right, something would turn up.  On the 27th July the Alderman and the Clerk reported to the Committee that indeed something had turned up, someone rather, than something. In fact it was the personage of Sir Sydney Byass who had bought the castle. Sir Sydney, a very keen cricketer offered the Club £400 for three years interest free. Once again the Committee was content to leave the arrangements to the Alderman and the Clerk.

By 1923 Alderman Lewis Jenkins JP had been in the chair for a decade. In recent months he had received the almost unique accolade for a resident of being awarded the Freedom of Cowbridge. In the Minutes of a meeting Lewis Jenkins proposed that the Committee stand in honour of Mr W T Gwyn. On 26th of April the Mayor took the Chair and his first task was to call for a similar action in respect of their former Chairman.

Lewis Jenkins had died with a record of achievement on behalf of the Athletic Club. Even today, a century on anyone who takes advantage of the facilities has unknowing cause to be grateful to Lewis Jenkins.  His portrait is now hanging in the Pavilion; it is the least his memory deserves.


History has a peculiar ability to drop from its ‘dramatis personae’ men and women who in their era were both important and well known. Just think about the Spanish Armada, it was Lord Howard of Effingham who commanded the British fleet not the pirate Drake. But who recalls the noble Lord now?

If you have a good look round the Cowbridge Athletic Ground you will find references to E H Ebsworth who bought the land and built the ground but nothing of the man who was the founding Chairman, who negotiated the purchase of the field, raised the money and saw the Club safely through the War.