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Mysterious Bob Jenkinson

Bob Jenkinson, Filey

The latest Yarn Forward, No 33,  features the mysterious and elusive Bob Jenkinson.

Some time ago, Filey Museum’s lovely staff gave me permission to use this photo.  But there was no real provenance for it – just amongst a batch of things donated long before there was a protocol in place to record the whos and wheres, I’d guess.

So I went in search of Bob Jenkinson. He proved elusive- like all the best men.

I’ll chart this gansey’s pattern in my forthcoming book about the history of Yorkshire knitting – for anyone who’d like to knit it.

I re-wrote the article as I wasn’t happy with it – too much genealogy, too little knitting –  and in the light of some info the nice gents at The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Museum gave me, when I chatted with them a couple of months back. But I think the layout etc was already done, and YF were happy with the copy they already had.  Have I ever said how much I love Yarn Forward?

Here’s the re-write of Bob Jenkinson, for those who are interested.

We have some great ‘Knitting Genies’ coming up – a 1920’s knitted dress, and the earliest known photo of English angora bunnies, and hopefully, the earliest extant photo of a possibly Yorkshire knit stripey gansey.

For now, here’s Bob in his later, unpublished incarnation.

Robert Jenkinson’, Filey.
Photographer and date unknown.
Image courtesy of Filey Museum,

Penelope Hemingway

Stood in front of his nasturtium-clad cottage in a forgotten early summer, Bob Jenkinson wears his gansey proudly. The Museum have no date for this photograph – just the subject’s name written on the back.

The photographer is unknown, but likely to be a professional, given the clarity of detail and the deliberate soft focus of the nasturtium leaves in the background. The photo is good enough for us to be able to recreate this gansey stitch by stitch, if we wanted to!

Bob’s gansey is a typical Filey one – vertical allover patterns, divided by ropes.

Like many mariners, Bob wore the 2 X 2 ribbed welt turned upwards. The cast on is a strong one – possibly a knotted one, given its firm line. Above the welt, the knitter appears to have worked at least 30 rows plain. Somewhere in this area, hidden under his moleskin jacket, she is likely to have worked Bob’s initials.The  quality of the knitting really shows in that plain section above the welt. Filey Museum have some old sets of needles on display – they are plain steel, somewhere around 2.5mm.

Then the pattern begins. Like most Filey ganseys, it is an allover pattern in vertical bands, divided by six stitch ‘ropes’ (cables).  The ropes stand out against a background of moss or purl stitches. The gansey has a simple 2 X 2 ribbed neck and we can’t see the shoulder treatment.

The neck is finished in the traditional way. Before crew necks or polo necks, ganseys were often given a collar of about 2” of 2X2 ribbing, completed with 2 rounds of purl stitch, and 2 rounds of plain.  Bob wears a neckchief beneath this, to keep out the draughts!

It is a relatively straightforward piece of knitting – the ropes divided with strips of seeding stitches, in this case Mary Ann’s stitch/basket stitch. Ropes in ganseys are never mirrored, rarely  complex  and typically just 6 or 8 stitches wide.  This gansey, like most others, will no doubt have been knitted from a commercial yarn – Poppleton’s 5 ply worsted. (In Yorkshire called ‘wassit’).

Using my genealogical sleuthing superpowers, I went in search of ‘Robert Jenkinson’ – and found several  in Filey. The Jenkinsons were a notoriously complicated fishing family. Even the volunteers at the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Museum had heard of the family’s complexity, and told me it was a huge family, with one offshoot in Scarborough.

I’d dated this picture around the 1880s, going by Bob’s hairstyle and jacket. He looks to be in his late 50s/early 60s and sure enough, three Robert Jenkinsons fitted the picture.

All three Roberts were listed in Censuses as ‘Fisherman’!

In the 1881 Census, close to the photo’s date, only one Robert remained in Filey.  The other one lived at a village a short distance away and the third turned up as master of a vessel, the George Peabody.  The vessel was a 40 ton cod fishing ‘dandy’ out of Hull.

I realised, it was impossible to be sure which Bob Jenkinson this was.

The 19thC newspapers described the death of one of the  Bob Jenkinsons,  the former Master of  The George Peabody:

“FILEY SUDDEN DEATH – On Tuesday Mr Robert Jenkinson, fisherman, of Alma-terrace Filey, suddenly expired in his chair at home. The deceased was apparently in his usual health. He was a leading man in the Primitive Methodist Society. He has for many years gone round the town with the Primitive singers, and was with them on Christmas Day in excellent spirits”.

[The Hull Packet , December 29, 1882]

The logical conclusion is that if the image predates 1882, it could be any of the three Bobs! If it postdates December 1882, it can’t be “Master of The George Peabody” Bob!

The Scarborough ex fisherman I spoke to, told me that the Filey Singers were almost all what Scarborough folk call “Wessies” (ie: Wesleyan Methodists).  Apparently the current Filey Fishermen’s Choir mostly knit their own ganseys.  It is possible this gentleman sang in the famous Filey Fishermen’s Choir.

We can safely conclude the picture shows a direct descendant of the Robert and Margaret Jenkinson whose children were born in the late 18thC in Filey. And if knitted by a family member, according to Censuses, it was very likely knitted by Elizabeth Jenkinson nee Cammish, or Elizabeth or Rachel Jenkinson, maiden names unknown!  Again, we can come close to not only identifying this Victorian fisherman but even, possibly putting a name to the knitter of his gansey.

Image Courtesy of Filey Museum,

Also, see:

Free sites:

Subscription sites: [For British Library’s 19thC Newspapers Online. Can be accessed via some local libraries].


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