The Woolwich Arsenal Subbuteo team

67: Caesar Augustus Llewellyn Jenkyns

Jenkyns framed

Kit from 1895/1896 season

Position: centre / half back

Previous clubs: Small Heath St Andrew’s, Small Heath Alliance reserves, Unity Gas, Small Heath (now Birmingham City)

Arsenal Debut – 2 September 1895 – Grimsby 3-1 win at home

First Gunners Goal – 2 September 1895 – Grimsby 3-1 win at home

Final game – 18 April 1896 – Darwen 1-3 loss at home

Benefit – none

Later clubs: Newton Heath (Now Manchester United), Walsall, Coventry City, Unity Gas, Saltley Wednesday, Old Heathens

The players I have chosen are those who interested me while writing a number of books on The Arsenal in the Woolwich era. Some are not necessarily those who were the best players, but the magnificently moustachioed Caesar Jenkyns was a top notch performer, indeed he was the first man at Arsenal to be capped in an international match, achieving this landmark for Wales versus Scotland on 21 March 1896. Jenkyns, the 67th player to don the red shirt of Arsenal, was a very big, determined, defender with a menacing presence who took no prisoners on the field.

Caesar, in the middle wearing a cap, ready to lead the Arsenal in 1895.

Caesar Augustus Llewellyn Jenkyns was born on 24 August 1866 in Builth Wells, Wales, his family moved to the midlands from Wales when he was a child. He possessed the major qualities needed to be a first class defender in this period: the first of which was that he was a physically large man, indeed it was said he was the second heaviest player after Fatty Foulkes in this era. Additionally he had an ability to give the ball a huge punt up-field; gained renown for his prowess in the air, apparently he could head a ball as far as some could kick it; and as a bonus showed a surprising turn of speed on the field of play.

By trade a compositor in the print industry, he went, via a number of junior midland clubs, to sign as a professional for Small Heath in 1888, the highlight of his time there was captaining them to promotion from the Second Division in 1893/94 season and into the top flight. Standing close to six foot and was well over 14 stone, the burly bruiser was notorious around the country for rough play, having been sent off multiple times prior to his time at Woolwich.

In April 1895 his contract was terminated by Small Heath after Caesar attempted to assault two spectators at the close of a game at Derby. Subjected to intense barracking at the final whistle, he held one of the Derby fans by the throat but was stopped by his colleagues who managed to persuade Jenkyns to abandon his onslaught before it escalated.  Ironically he turned up at Plumstead near the end of April 1895 just after the Woolwich Arsenal club had served a lengthy ground suspension for allowing a spectator to knock out a referee after being punched on the pitch.

It was a genuinely big coup for the Woolwich Arsenal directors running the management committee to be able to sign such a famous and well known player, indeed he was a household name in the late Victorian era of football. Even better it was achieved with many other clubs vying for his services, but the lure of the Woolwich sovereign won out. Belying his reputation for aggression he enjoyed the gentler sports of cycling and cricket in the off season. The first time he appeared for Woolwich Arsenal was for the football club’s cricket side in August 1895 in front of 1,000 spectators at the Manor Ground.

Immediately installed as captain of the Reds, Jenkyns scored on his debut after ten minutes, and as the first goal against Grimsby was also the opening Arsenal goal of the 1895/96 season. But it only took him nine games at the club to receive his marching orders away at Rotherham for foul play on 26 October 1895. However a review of the newspaper reports shows he was the victim of his reputation as the foul he was sent off for was not a bad one for the era, but the referee was intimidated by the vociferous Yorkshire crowd baying for his marching orders. Nevertheless he was suspended for 14 days for his indiscretion from the end of November.

“Spectators and referee defeated Woolwich Arsenal by 3 to 0 at Rotherham on Saturday. The utter want of sympathy which a football team finds so oppressive in distant fields became open animosity in the Rotherham crowd… while the proverbial weakness of referees in yielding to mob partiality was pitifully displayed to the prejudice of the visitors… to suffer the injustice of having their captain, Jenkyns banished from the field in obedience to rabble shouts.“ Kentish Independent 2 November 1895

“A correspondent of the Morning Leader – who is also editor of an influential paper in the north of England, and certainly not prejudiced in favour of the Southern team – thus describes the incident – “Bryant and Jenkyns both rushed for the ball; the Woolwich skipper kicked, missed the leather and caught Bryant, who at the same time came into collision with his burly opponent. The whole affair seemed to be a pure accident, and a free kick would have been full punishment for it. In an experience of 20 years, as player, spectator, and critic, I have never seen such a cruel and totally unjustifiable decision as that of Mr Furniss’s in ordering the Woolwich captain off the field.””  Kentish Independent 2 November 1895

“… a friend of mine from Sheffield who witnessed the match, declares that the whole thing was a pure accident, and that the Arsenal captain, missing his kick, merely came into collision with one of the Rotherham forwards. “Give a dog a bad name and hang him”. Is it possible that a referee’s judgement may be hampered and warped when he is dealing with a man with a past? I think it is. And the probability becomes strengthened when one considers the great disparity in weight between Jenkyns and the majority of forwards whom he is called upon to oppose” Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press 2 November 1895.

“Jenkyns is a man with a notoriety for rough play, and referees do not forget to bear the matter in mind!” Western Evening Herald 29 October 1895

The rest of his time at Woolwich Arsenal was relatively quiet as Jenkyns scored six times in 27 appearances, only missing three league games, two for his suspension and the other when he played for the Welsh national side. Yet reportedly he was not happy living in Plumstead, and after just one season decided to move away from the south.

The Sketch 15 January 1896

He went in May 1896 to Newton Heath (now Manchester United) – but his on field reputation remained and unsurprisingly continued to be sent off, eventually leaving the Manchester club after being suspended for not bothering to train in November 1897. Finding his way back to the midlands, he joined Walsall for a number of seasons, after which he saw out his playing days at local junior clubs.

Near the end of his playing career he took up as a publican amassing an impressive number of Inns as the Licensee. Initially in Wallsall he ran the New Inn, Birchills Tavern and the Old Oak before moving to the Saltley area of Birmingham. Later he ran the Horse & Groom in Digbeth, the Black Dog in Coventry and the Coach & Horses, Bordesley Green, Birmingham among others.

Caesar became involved with the Old Heathens – ex-players of Small Heath who played charity games against other ex-players of midlands sides, to raise money for local concerns. Also in the later 1920s Jenkyns was supervisor of the football and cricket sections of a large Birmingham railway related works side; John Wilkes, Sons and Mapplebeck.

“Forty years after he played for Wales at football, Mr Caesar Jenkyns was yesterday presented with a cap on behalf of the Welsh FA” Daily Mirror 29 Nov 1933

In November 1933 Caesar received a cap at the Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion’s ground, to represent his eight Welsh international appearances between 1892 and 1898. In this period the country did not give out physical caps and he asked for a memento of his time playing for his country. Writing to the Welsh FA they agreed to his wish and arranged for the special cap to be made and presented to him.

Caesar Jenkyns died on 23 July 1941 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham aged 75.


Caesar Jenkyns with the rest of the team so far: Hugh McDonald, Joe Murrell, Joe Shaw, Steve Theobald and Tim Coleman.

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One thought on “Caesar Jenkyns – Woolwich Arsenal 1895-1896

  1. Ken George on 8 January 2021 at 10:08 am said:

    Never knew there was more than one Gus Caesar !

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