Johnson family

Richard Johnson (1770-1844)
Elizabeth Phillips (1780-1861)

Jump down to the list of their children

Richard Johnson was born on. 31 Jul 1770 in London, his parents being James Johnson (b. 1741, d. 25 Jan 1817) & Anna Maria Cole (1741-1815). Richard was a watchmaker. He married Elizabeth Phillips (b. 1780, d. 1861 in Sydney) on 25 Dec 1800 in the Church of St Saviour, Southwalk, England.

A descendant, Ruth Fielding, wrote in her book A Johnson Family History (State Library, New South Wales, MLMSS 5582/5.)

Richard and Elizabeth arrived in Australia on 15th August 1833 aboard the ship Layton. The family did not all come at that time. Richard was a chronometer, watch and clock maker. They lived at a house called “The Grange” in Newtown. On the 18th August 1835 he was made Superintendent of Government Clocks.

The list of passengers on board the Layton can be viewed here. They include a number of Johnsons, all but one of whom are from the one family:  Richard (age 59), Richard (19), Eliza (22), Isabella (28), Elizabeth (24), Mary (17), Hannah (14), Elizabeth (53) and Ann (10). Immediately below Hannah in the list is an Elizabeth Byrne (age 23) who went on to marry Hannah’s brother Robert. The Eliza Johnson is probably not part of this family; she was listed separately, and we have found no evidence of her birth.

Soon after arriving Richard opened a watchmaker’s shop in George St, Sydney. He brought with him from London several testimonials which he used to advertise his new business.; from The Sydney Times, Tue 30 Sep 1834:


R JOHNSON returns his thanks to his Friends, and the Public generally, for the very liberal encouragement he has experienced since commencing the above Business, and solicits a continuance of the same.

R. J. begs to inform Captains of ships, that he repairs and rates Chronometers with the greatest accuracy, having made himself thoroughly acquainted with that branch of the business.

R. J. also announces that he has for sale a CHRONOMETER by Earnshaw, and a DITTO by Robert Pennington, London, a most beautifully finished and first rate Time-keeper in every respect. Also, several superior Dials for offices &c. very cheap. Two Skeleton Ornamental Clocks for drawing looms of the very best workmanship, and a number of highly finished ornamental FRENCH CLOCKS, at [unparalleled] low prices. Repeating, and all other kinds of Watches and Clocks, cleaned and repaired in the most approved manner, R. J. having had very great experience in making and repairing Watches and Clocks of the best and most complicated description. Clocks wound by the year. Glasses fitted to Time pieces and French Clocks.

R. J. has annexed for the satisfaction of the public, the following testimonials of his abilities as a practical workman.

“Cornhill, London, August 10th, 1833.

“I hereby certify that Richard Johnson is one of the best workmen in London, in the finishing, completing, making, and manufacturing of Chronometers and Watches. He is also a practical Escapement-maker, which is the finest and most delicate department in the manufacture of Chronometers, &c. Also, that there is no department in the above manufactures that he is not competent to undertake, either in repairing the same, or making. I also certify that I have for years continued to employ him, and that he served his Apprenticeship to learn the said business, to a Member of the Clockmaker’s Company, of the City of London, incorporated by Charter.

“(Signed ) R. WEBSTER
“Witness – James Cotton.

29 Duke-street, St. James’s, Aug. 12, 1833.

“To Mr. R. Johnson.

“Dear Sir – I hear that you are leaving this Town for Sydney, in New South Wales, with intention to follow your trade as a Watchmaker; and from what I know of your abilities, (having been under your tuition myself) I should say that you are thoroughly acquainted with the business, and can undertake the repairs of Chronometers, and every other sort of Watch and Clock. Wishing you and your family every success,

“I am &c.
“Watchmaker to His (late) Royal Highness the Duke of York, and the Duchess of Cumberland,”

London, August 13th, 1833.

“We hereby certify that Mr. Richard Johnson, about to leave England for Sydney, has been long in much reputation as a Watchmaker in London – is a very good workman, long practically acquainted with the most important branches in the manufacture, Escapement, making, finishing, Ac.

“Gray’s Inn Passage.”

Sydney, 4th July, 1384.

“I beg to certify that I have seen much of the work of Mr. Johnson, Watchmaker, George-street, and consider him a good practical workman, perfectly competent to undertake the repairing of repeating and other Watches and Clocks, and the rating and repairing of Chronometers.

“J Robertson

There was a theft from his shop reported in The Sydney Monitor on Wed 12 Aug 1835:

James Morgan, William Hughes, and James Rice, were indicted for having on the evening of the 19th of June, stolen from the shop of Richard Johnson, watchmaker, George-street, five gold rings, of the value of £5, and Catherine Green was indicted for receiving a part of the same, knowing them to have been stolen. It appeared from the evidence, that on the evening named in the indictment, the three male prisoners had  “starred the glaze,” or cut a pane of glass in the window of the prosecutor’s shop, and with a piece of brass wire, which was afterwards found inside the window, hooked out the rings; they would have taken more property, had it not been for a young woman named Oliver, a dress maker, who lived in the house of prosecutor, coming up to the window at the time; seeing her they immediately made off. They were clearly identified by a man named Johnston, who had met them close to the spot previous to the robbery, and to whom they communicated their intentions; he also saw the stolen property afterwards. There was no evidence against the female prisoner to establish a guilty knowledge, except that at the request of the prisoner Morgan, she had offered two of the rings for sale to her landlady, who declined purchasing. Greta, Not Guilty; Morgan, Hughes, and Rice, Guilty.— Remanded.

The depression of the early 1840’s severely restricted Government expenditure and Richard Johnson was apparently superannuated at this time and went to live in Maitland.He set up business there and was working to the day he died. This advertisement was placed in The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser on Sat 12 Oct 1844:

HENRY HOPKINS, Watch and Clock Maker, and Working Jeweller, begs leave to return his sincere acknowledgments to his friends and the inhabitants of Maitland and surrounding districts for the kind and liberal support he has received from them since the death of his late employer, Mr. Richard Johnson, and trusts by strict attention and punctuality to his business, together with the most moderate charges, to merit a continuance of their favors.

Next door to Messrs. D. and J. Dickson’s Stores, West Maitland.

The Maitland Mercury, 02 Mar 1844, records Richard’s death “at his residence, West Maitland on 28th February 1844 aged 69 of Mr Richard Johnson, Watchmaker much and deservedly regretted”.

Richard & Elizabeth’s family:

01. Anna Maria (b. 10 Nov 1801, d. 10 Feb 1802)

02. James (b. 1803, d. 13 Apr 1860) baptised 04 May 1803 in St Mary Woolnoth and Woolchurch, London

03. Isabella (b. 1804, d. 1838) drowned at sea in a shipwreck between Sydney and Newcastle

04. Richard (b. 01 Jul 1807 at St James, Clerkenwell, Islington, Middlesex, England, bur.  11 Mar 1814)

05. Edward Gomery (b. 09 Sep 1808, d. 1893)

06. Elizabeth (b. 30 Nov 1809, d. 09 Jun 1860 at Bathurst)

07. William Jonathan (b. 09 May 1811, d. 03 Oct 1866)

08. Robert Ebenezer (b. 27 Dec 1812, d. 06 Nov 1866)

09. Phillip (bap. 12 Sep 1814, d. 26 Jul 1869)

10. Mary Ann Cole (bap. 21 Aug 1816, d. 22 Feb 1884)

11. Richard (b. 1819, d. 1878)

12. Hannah (b. 06 Jun 1821, d. 05 Nov 1890)

13. Anna Maria (b. 1822, d. 30 Dec 1887) her marriage record has her as Anne, her death record as Anna

Generation 2

05. Edward Gomery Johnson does not appear in several online family trees, however his birth is confirmed in Ruth Fielding’s list of Richard and Elizabeth’s children: “Edward b.1803 d.1893”, and also by his funeral notice. However, the date of his birth in Ruth’s book is incorrect. English records show that  he was born on 09 Sep 1808 and baptised on 09 Oct 1808 in St James Church, Clerkenwell, England; Edward is the name at the bottom of this image:

We are not certain when he arrived in Australia. His middle name Gomery is confirmed by his death record and by other newspaper items. He was married and lived in Melbourne. In fact, we believe both he and his brother Phillip served together at some stage on the Richmond Borough Council: from The Age,Tue 21 Apr 1857:

RICHMOND MUNICIPALITY. The places of the three out-going members of the Municipal Council of Richmond, were yesterday filled by the re-election of Messrs Phillip and Henry Johnson, and the election of Mr Lambert. The polling commenced at 8 a.m., and continued unto 4p.m. Shortly after which hour the result of the poll was announced as follows:-

Phillip Johnson … 396
Henry Johnson … 392
Lambert … 308
Clarke … 227
Britten … 239
Sheedy 203

As usual, on such occasions, considerable interest was taken in the polling by the friends of the several candidates. The municipality was enlivened by the driving hither and thither of the election cars. Groups surrounded the Town Hall and the Committee-rooms all day long, more or less concerned in what was going on; and the result of the election was hailed with cheers by the friends of the successful candidates. After a vote of thanks to H. Miller, Esq., M.P., President of the Municipal Body, the proceedings of the day terminated.

We are also unsure what his profession was, but he had offices in Queen St, Melbourne; from The Age, Mon 16 Nov 1885:

The council of the Old Colonists’ Association met at Mr. E. G. Johnson’s office, 59 Queen-street, on Friday …

He and his wife attended several events (balls and receptions) held by the Mayor or Mayoress. For example, from The Prahran Telegraph on Wed 30 Nov 1892:

A Brilliant Social Gathering.
Who Were There.

… Mrs. Robert Johnson, Mr. Robert Johnson, …, Mrs. E. Gomery Johnson, Mr. E. G. Johnson, …, Miss Ella Johnson, …, Miss Nina Johnson, …, Mr. Arthur L. Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. B. Johnson, Misses Johnson…

His name also appeared in a couple of news items from Maldon, about 150km  north-west of Melbourne. Firstly. from the Bendigo Advertiser, Fri 07 Aug 1874:

We have received the following telegram from Mr. E. G. Johnson -“Eaglehawk United Company struck splendid gold stone yesterday at Maldon.”

Next, from The Argus, Fri 11 Jun 1875:


It being found advisable to have a board of advice for each riding of the united shire of Maldon, the old board which had been elected for the whole shire was superseded, and this was the day fixed for the nomination of the new board. No interest has been shown in the election, and only one nomination has been lodged for the Maldon riding, that of Edward Gomery Johnson. According to the latest intelligence from the other ridings, an equal lack of interest has been shown, there being only one name nominated in each riding, viz., Walter Rollason, for Baringhup, and Benjamin Pollard, for Walmer. None of the old board would allow themselves to be nominated.

His death notice in The Argus on Mon 06 Nov 1893 confirms his relationship to his brother Phillip, who is the father of Richard and Robert George Johnson mentioned below. The third person mentioned, William Johnson, is presumably his brother William Jonathon’s son:

JOHNSON.- Edward Gomery, of 38 Hanover-street, Windsor, uncle of Richard Johnson and William Johnson, solicitors, and of the late Robert George Johnson, aged 85 years.

10. Mary Ann Cole Johnson was christened on 21 Aug 1816 in Church, Saint Pancras, London,. She did not marry. She passed away at her sister’s residence, Hilton, in Homebush, on (The Sydney Mail, Sat 01 Mar 1884). She owned a school for boys, as described in an article on St Peter’s Church, Cooks River, 06 Dec 2008:

As for Mary Ann Cole Johnson, this ‘gentlewoman’ died at Hilton, Homebush, residence of her sister Mrs Way, on the 22nd of February 1884, aged 67 years. Mary Ann Cole Johnson was the sister of Robert Ebenezer Johnson who was a member of the first Legislative Council which met in 1856, after responsible government was granted. He lived at the Grange, Newtown. Her sister, Anna Maria Johnson married Richard Way in 1842. Mary Ann was not an idle spinster, for many years she is listed in the Sands Directory as having a preparatory school for young gentlemen at 65 Elizabeth Street, Sydney.

12. Hannah Johnson lived in Lichfield House, Albert St, Strathfield. She did not marry.

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