The Johnson's Family History Website

  The Johnson Story

The village of Hayfield is situated in the centre of England at the foot of the Kinder Massif the southern most point of the Pennine Chain

The first written record of the place is to be found in the Doomsday Book when it was called 'Hedfeld' and was a natural clearing in the vast forest that once covered the whole of this area of North Derbyshire

It had no Lord of the Manor and tithes were paid to the Abbot of Basingwerke at Holywell in North Wales.  The Victorian Church in the centre of Hayfield was built on top of the first which dates form the 14th Ctry when in 1386 King Richard II granted 'land between the two rivers' (the Sett and Phoside) for a Church to be built.

In the late 1700s a law was passed that if a smaller church was linked to a larger church,   all weddings had to take place at the main church.  As a result the church in Glossop, Derbyshire, handled all the marriages for the small town of Hayfield,   as well as its own parishioners.

First Generation: John Johnson of Hayfield, Derbyshire

John Johnson married Nancy Garrit on 17th April 1796 .  He may have been a wheelwright.  (Piggots directory 1824)  They  had a son called Thomas Johnson, who  was born in Hayfield, Derbyshire, and baptised on August 25th 1797 

Second Generation: Thomas Johnson and Ann

Thomas worked as an agricultural labourer and as a cart driver. He  married Ann, and their children were:  Thomas,  Isaac,  Sarah,  William,  Ellen,  Moses, Daniel.

Moses Johnson  is a fairly unusual name and it helps us to track the family in the census returns, and marriage records.  The family appear to have lived in Bolton up to the birth of Ellen, and then moved to Staffordshire – which was where Ann had originated.  

Staffordshire: Often known as "The Potteries"  or "The Black Country"

Saggar making

A saggar was a large clay container which was made just to hold the more delicate china when it was put in the kiln.
The base for the saggar - seen in the picture on the right - was a simple job which could be done by the younger and less skilled workers - seen on the right.  A young lad who did this simple job earned the grandiose title of being "A saggar makers bottom knocker upper"

Third Generation: William Johnson and Anne Mountford

In 1869 William Johnson married Anne Mountford, daughter of Enoch Mountford, another unusual name.   Their marriage Certificate: December 27th 1869 gives details as  William Johnson, (potter) born 1842, son of Thomas Johnson, marrying  Annie Mountford, born 1846, daughter of Enoch Mountford.   One of the witnesses is “Moses Johnson”   In the 1871 Census we find him listed as William Johnson aged 28 – Born Bolton Lancs app.1843  and married to Annie (Mountford) Johnson aged 26 (Born Norton Staffs. App 1845.) 

At the time the local area was at the very centre of a movement known as "Primitive Methodism".  Huge crowds of many thousands would meet in  the fields and stand the open air to listen to preachers. Ann Mountford’s family were involved in this. One had used his house for meetings of the leading preachers and her cousin,  Thomas Mountford eventually worked as the Chapel caretaker after retiring from the mines.   Her religious commitment and family background would  influence  her children and would have far reaching consequences for her son Thomas.

The 1881 Census details :  William Johnson 39 Head of House – born Bolton Lancs 1841,  Anne Johnson 37 Born Norton Staffs. App 1845  Their children are:
 Florence, aged 9 – born Norton, Thomas,
Thomas Johnson   born April 23 1874 aged 6, 
John William aged 4,
Gertrude, aged 1
I found Gertrude particularly helpful in tracing the family. There were lots of William Johnsons and Anns,  not many Gertrudes.

William Johnson (1842)   is listed in deaths for 1889.

In the 1891 Census 1 Church Street  Smallthorne comes up under the district of  Norton,  Leek.  Ann Johnson, now a Widow,  is listed as  Head of House.  Most of the children are still living at home: 
Florrie Johnson aged 19, 
Thomas  aged 17, 
Gertrude aged 12, 
Anne aged 10,
Moses Johnson aged 7 
John aged 1

From the age of the youngest child it appears that Ann (aged 44) was pregnant when her husband William passed away.   Ann herself died at Wolstanton in  1894,   she was only 49 years old.

Fourth Generation: Thomas Johnson and Sarah Ann Lowe

Thomas Johnson now became Head of the family. Thomas was the first Johnson to work in the mines and would eventually lead his family to the North East of England but in 1894 he was only 20 years old - a big burden of responsibility.  The following year he  married Sarah Ann Lowe at St Saviours Church Smallthorne on 24th December 1895 and Their oldest son - John Thomas Johnson was born in Leek, Staffordshire, in 1897 

Ruth Mountford was adopted by her Johnson relatives when her own parents died.  We should remember that the Mountfords were heavily involved in religion.  If the Johnsons were close enough to adopt their cousin they probably shared many of those religious values.

 The 1901 census for  Milton in Staffordshire shows they were living at 99 Broadhurst Street: 
Thomas Johnson (Husband) aged 26  (Miner) born Norton Staffs,  Sarah Anne Johnson (wife)  aged 28 . 
Ruth Mountford – adopted daughter – born 2nd quarter 1894(Leek, 6b 305) 
Gertrude Johnson (Sister aged 21) 
Clara Church – servant aged 16
The  1901 Census does not mention John Thomas but shows the second son Arthur – 1 month old
Gertrude got married in Stoke in October 1902
William Johnson was born in Smallthorne on 20th April 1903

 In 1904 Clement Johnson was born.

At this time sad events were developing not far away at Hemsworth  in the Wakefield district of Yorkshire. 

In May 1904 the Kinsley Colliery was purchased by new owners and  became Fitzwilliam-Hemsworth Collieries Ltd. The owners wanted to keep wages down so as to get back what they had invested  but  the miners wanted more pay.  This was typical of England at the end of the Victorian era.  The rich were getting richer and the more organised workers in coal,  mining and steel were becoming impatient to get a fair share.

In fact the Kinsley  miners came out on strike and stayed out for 3 years .   By 1905 both sides were desperate and the owners had resorted to evicting the miners from their homes – which were owned by the company.  This was known as the Kinsley Evictions and has passed into mining history as an example of the miners struggles at their most painful. 

The Kinsley Evictions

An evicted mining family with their posessions

The miners cottages that belonged to the mine owners somehow were reduced  almost to ruins during the course of the strike, either by the owners – to stop the people moving back in – or by the miners – to prevent blacklegs being moved in. 

Elsie Radford, was born in Kinsley in 1900 described the "tent town" which was in what was called the "Feast Field" (common land) opposite where she lived. She said that the conditions were awful during the winter, people died and babies were born during very cold weather.

At the time of my writing,  this information was on the NUM website, contributed  by Mrs A Dear,  Elsie Radford’s Grand-daughter but it has since been removed,  however the events are well documented in the history books,  in fact
it was this bitter dispute which led to the passing of the Trades Disputes Act 1906.

Kinsley eviction tents.

Thomas Johnson was not directly involved.   This was happening in Yorkshire and he lived in Staffordshire,  more than 50 miles away.  But like many other Johnsons I know,  he was capable of having strong opinions !

Being a lay preacher, he preached a sermon in which he condemned the mine owners for their greed and blamed them for the suffering of the Yorkshire miners.Keeping in mind that his mother came from the "Primitive Methodist" tradition,  with its huge open air rallies,  this must have seemed like a threat to the authorities and the mine owners  in his own area. He was seen as a firebrand at a time when workers throughout the country were calling out for change.   As a result his employers sacked him and blacklisted him from working in the Staffordshire mines.

In 1906 Sarah was expecting another child but the family were evicted and had to flee the area in search of a new home in an area where they would not be known so that Thomas could find work..

The family barricaded themselves inside the house with timber (railway sleepers) to gain a few hours while Sarah had the baby, Reginald, but he died at birth. Shortly afterwards the family left Staffordshire, sneaking out of the house in the dead of night

They used a child’s pram to carry their possessions and walked from Staffordshire to Durham, in order to find an area where Thomas was not blacklisted by the employers. A month of walking brought them to Horden, where Clement died from the hardships the family had suffered on the journey.   Three year old William was the youngest to survive.  On January 18th 1910 Sydney was born, the youngest of their children.

Thomas served in the first world war,  in the Sunderland battery of the royal artillery reserve, possibly as a horse handler. When the war broke out the men were at summer training camp.  They were marched stright down to Sunderland docks and put on a ship to France.  This was the Germans called our  "Contemptible Little Army"   There were only 100,000 of them against a German army of 2 million. with the French army badly out of position and unable to defend Paris.

At the Battle of the Marne the small British army stopped the Germans,  giving the French time to reorganise.  Paris was saved and the Germans were unable to gain the quick victory they had hoped for.  Very few of those British soldiers survived,  and they proudly called themselves "The Old Contemptibles"  as a way of reminding everyone that they had stood up to the massive German Army and fought it to a standstill.

Thomas Johnson was one who survived.

Thomas and Sarah spent the rest of their lives in Seaham Harbour.  As for their sons:

John Thomas Johnson eventually returned to Staffordshire and has a family there
Arthur married Jemima Corrigan and after her death in 1942 he remarried Anne Sanaghan
William  Johnson married Jane Annie Rayner  at Easington in 1927  
Sydney married Winnie

One day,  when I was a child,  I was going back to Dawdon school after lunch, when I met with my Grandad.  I think he had been to the allotment and was walking past the school on his way home.

"Hello Grandad"   says I.

"Hello Son"  says Grandad.  "How are you getting on ?"

Now me being a well mannered little boy I said something like "Quite well thank you"

"Oh no," says Grandad.   "That's no good son. You see life can be hard sometimes and you always have to show people that you're tough enough to stand up to it.   If anyone ever asks you how you're getting on you have to tell them 'Great!',  'Champion'.

It was bold advice.   Especially coming from a man who brought up 11 children on a coal miners wages.  There must have been times when life was tough for him.  

But as the years have gone by I have seen that he was right. 
Nobody wants to hear your problems.
They like you if you make them laugh,  and they follow you if they think you're confident.  I always found it to be good advice.

Maybe someone reading this can pass it on.

I hope so.

The next generation were my uncles and my aunts.

After that came my cousins - too many of us to list here .

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