Captain Robert Jenkins portrait

A portrait of Captain Robert Jenkins (that sold with his medals) – £33,000 at Minster Auctions.

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After Franklin disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage in 1845-48 a series of voyages set out to find out what happened. Edward Belcher’s search in 1852 also ended up as a failure. Belcher ordered four ice-bound ships to be abandoned in May 1854, apparently without justification, and was relieved of further command. Despite this, he was created a Knight Commander of the Bath in 1867 and became an admiral in 1872.

An Arctic Medal 1818-55 issued to Captain Robert Jenkins (1825-94) of the Royal Navy, who as a commander served with HMS Assistance conveying stores for the relief of Belcher, was a star turn in a medal group of six sold at Minster Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) on February 9.

Jenkins’ honours reflected the far-ranging mid-19th century activities of the British Empire, also including Syria (1848 Naval General Service Medal with bar for Syria), China 1842 with bar, South Africa 1853 and New Zealand 1863-64. They featured a St Jean D’acre Medal (also for Syria, issued by the Sultan of Turkey in 1841).

The medals were offered together with a portrait of Jenkins (pictured above, top); ink details to the back showing Robert Jenkins, Commander R.N. 1853, M.A. Wingfield, in contemporary gilt frame, 8 x 7in (20.5 x 18cm).

Estimated at £6000-8000, considerable interest emerged pre-sale with bids already up to £12,000. After a battle between a phone bidder and online the latter proved successful at £33,000.

Jenkins medal group

Captain Robert Jenkins' medal group (which sold with his portrait) – £33,000 at Minster Auctions.

Minster, of Leominster, Herefordshire, was formed by ex-Brightwells staff at the end of 2020 and this price sets the house record.

Dan Webb, one of the directors, said: “It was a family group; old customers of ours from the Brightwells days, and had descended through the family.”

Along with the Arctic Medal’s appeal, Webb felt that the fact Jenkins’ career was very traceable, starting as a cadet at 15, helped the result, as well as the China medal which, though correctly impressed, seemed to be a “discrepancy” given the date. Several other Jenkins family lots were sold separately, including a medal group for a Captain (then Colonel) CBH Wolseley-Jenkins for service in Egypt and South Africa, and a First World War medal to a Capt CW Wolseley-Jenkins, that made £4200.