genealogy of the Bird and Musgrove families
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James Johnson (1811 - before 1881)

The story of a surgeon, an eccentric and a publisher of a treatise on poisons and antidotes with a connection to cattle thieves !

James JOHNSON was my great great grandfather on my father’s side.  He was born on 26th March 1811 at St Paul, Covent Garden, Westminster.  

In my Uncle Tony's unpublished auto biography he says : My grandmother "was born, I think, in 1845 or ’46 to a somewhat untypical upper-middle-class early Victorian background. It was untypical in that her father married a girl of eighteen when he was in his middle fifties, and the marriage was entirely successful. My great grandfather had qualified as a physician, and also read for the bar, but as he was quite a rich man he did not have to practise either profession: he had a number of hobbies and pursuits which, at that time, probably branded him as eccentric. He drew and painted reasonably competently and had a number of professional artists as friends, he dabbled in horology and electricity and although he did not practise he kept up with medical developments, contributed to the medical journals and published a treatise on poisons and antidotes."

As you will read, as with other sections of Tony's book, there is an element of truth and an element of fanciful exageration in his observations.

James' parents were James JOHNSON, a merchant, and Mary (surname currently unknown). Nothing is yet known about his childhood. He was 30 years old when he
married on 16th June 1841 in the Parish Church, St Luke’s, Chelsea. By then he was described as a “surgeon” living at 60 North Place, Grays Inn Lane, St Andrews, Holborn. His wife was a minor (!!) Charlotte Sherer BRIDGES of 19 Robert Street, Chelsea. Her father was Thomas William BRIDGES, a “Gent”. Emily BRIDGES and Emily Caroline BRIDGES were witnesses.

On 7th May 1842 their first child was born, Charlotte JOHNSON. James was still described as a “surgeon” on her birth certificate and they were still living at 60 North Place. Similarly, in July 1843 when Edythe Mary JOHNSON was born.

In 1845 a third daughter, Emily, was born and then two years later in February 1847 they had another girl, my great grandmother,
Marion Eliza JOHNSON (who married William Cole BENSON in 1874). By then they were living at Park House, Milton Road, Milton, Kent. He is still described as a “surgeon”.

The 1851 census has them living in Milton at “Park House Academy” and I have not been able to determine what sort of an establishment this was.  With them is his widowed mother, 63 year old Mary JOHNSON described as a “proprietor of houses”. It shows her as born in Holborn.  It describes Charlotte as being 29 years old, which means that in 1841, when she married, she must have been 18 or 19. It seems she was born in Hambledon, Hampshire. A few months later they had another child, a fifth girl, Sarah Fanny JOHNSON.

James & Charlotte are still in Milton on the 1861 census living with James’ mother, Mary – now 75 years old. None of their children are there. The address is 6 Park House School, Milton, and James is described as “School master M.I.C.L not practicing”.
What sort of school is this ?

They must have moved to High Offley sometime before the 1871 census. We now have James & Charlotte living with two of their children, Edythe and Marion. James’ profession harks back to when he was a surgeon – “Member of Royal College of Surgeons, England. Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries, retired from practice”.

It is believed that James died sometime before 1881 as on the 1881 census Charlotte (aged 59) is described as a widower living with Sarah Fanny JOHNSON at 3 Victoria Road, Kensington. I have not found his Will.  
Charlotte died in 1900 aged 78.

About the qualification

From the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, many medics gained the qualifications 'LSA, MRCS' or 'LRCP, MRCS'. During this period, the MRCS (Member of the Royal College of Surgeons) exam was taken by most medical practitioners at the outset of their career along with the LSA (Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries) or later the LRCP (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians). Many of these did not go on to practise surgery at all, but entered other fields of medicine.

In 1843 the College nominated 600 Fellows, and from 1844 examined candidates for the FRCS (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons). It was this higher qualification which became an essential prerequisite to entering surgical training and going on to practise as a surgeon.


The Clan do have a tartan but it is not worn as a kilt except by the official piper of the clan on special occasions.

We have a set of fish knives and forks with the clan emblem and I was always aware of the clan's motto “Nunquam Non Paratus” ..... Never Unprepared.

In The Origins of the clan system, Rennie McOwan describes the clan as follows : "
The Borderers were the product of a brutal frontier. Centuries of border warfare with England after the Scottish War of Independence had discouraged crop farming. Instead, the Borderers became restless and mobile, raiding the English and neighbouring Scots to replenish the cattle and horses that constituted their principal form of property. They were excellent horsemen. Dressed in a metal helmet (steel bonnet), reinforced leather jacket (jack) and high riding boots, with a long lance, cutting sword, and set of pistols, a Borderer was well adapted to his world. A monument at the Devil's Beeftub, a vast, sinister looking hollow near the source of the Annan river, records that the Johnstones used the place to hide cattle stolen in predatory raids." This was not news to me as I had been brought up knowing that the clan were somehow involved with thieving cattle.

C.L. Johnstone in The Historical Families of Dumfriesshire wrote: "It was the Borders warriors who for centuries preserved Scotland's integrity, and bore the brunt of every invasion, and among those the Johnston/es were the most noted. They owed their contribution to the Norman blood pervading the chief families."

Linked toCharlotte Sherer Bridges; Thomas William Bridges; Charlotte Johnson; Edytha Mary Johnson; Emily Johnson; James Johnson; James Johnson; Marion Eliza Johnson; Mary Johnson; Sarah Fanny Johnson

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