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William Wardell-Johnson (1834-1898)

William Wardell-Johnson was born at Worthington, Leicestershire on 28 Mar 1834, and baptised as William Johnson on 3 Aug 1834 at the Griffydam Wesleyan Methodist church, parents William Johnson (b1805) and Jane Bowles (b1805).

His parents left Leicestershire in the late 1830s, supposedly to look for a better life in the London area, and were living in Pinner, Middlesex during the 1841 census. In 1851, aged 17, William was at St Andrew's College, Harrow on the Hill.

He married Emily Green on 22 Jan 1857 in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Witnesses at the wedding were the bride's sister Elizabeth (Bessie), and the groom's brother-in-law John Parker (b1813), wife of the bride's half-sister Mary (b1820).

In the 1861 census, he was a Master at a school in Dedham, Essex. He later became a pastor and emigrated to Australia arriving 21 May 1869.

He died on 11 June 1898 in Albany, Western Australia, at the age of 64.

Hypenation and Enhanced Social Status

There are many mysteries with this man. He is alleged to have attended Oxford University and gained an MA but the Oxford Alumni does not record him nor his brothers who are all supposed to have gone there. Crockfords Clerical Directories attribute him the MA and say he attended New Inn Hall, and they say brother Theodore was attached to Kebble College. But nothing in Oxford Alumni. In Harrow, family tradition was that they attended Harrow School but no, it was a lesser school called St Andrews College where William and Abraham can be found boarding in the 1851 census.

The impression is that he never seemed to miss the opportunity to “guild the lily” just a little if it was to advantage socially or materially. When he married Emily Green in 1857, he presented himself as a "Gentleman", a man of means, and enhanced his name to become William Wardell Johnson, thus recalling his grandmother's surname (Wardle). It is unclear why he stated his name as such, unless he was trying to impress his wife's family.

Emigrating to Australia in 1869 gave him a golden opportunity to raise his social station further, although he was already a man of some accomplishment in England, having been Master of the English School in Dedham, Essex for a number of years before joining the priesthood.  Around 1874, he hyphenated his last two names, and he became known as the Rev William Wardell-Johnson.

According to a story relayed to Greg Wardell-Johnson by his great aunt in the 1970's, the death of William's grandmother Sarah Wardle was the reason he decided to hyphenate his surname. The story went that when Greg's great-grandfather Francis was 10 (i.e. about 1874), he and his 3 brothers Harry (William Henry), Percy and Basil were called into their father's study and it was announced that they were all now to receive another name - Wardell - as a tribute to the Rev Johnson's grandmother who had just passed away in England. Francis lost his middle name and the boys and their father were thereafter known as Wardell-Johnson.

The great aunt believed, however, that the hyphenation was to assist in trying to claim some inheritance from the death of Sarah Wardle. Apparently no such inheritance was ever forthcoming.

Finally, in order to protect his new enhanced Australian status, William had to carry out a subterfuge involving his mother-in-law Hannah Green, when she emigrated to Australia in 1875. This is further dealt with in a specific article on Hannah Green.

  1. William Henry (Harry) Johnson b 19 Feb 1858 at Burrington Herefordshire, m 1 May 1884 at Albany Western Australia to Phoebe Anne Moir, d 5 Nov 1943 at Subiaco, Australia;
  2. Percy Hugh Johnson b 16 Mar 1860 at Dedham Essex, m 5 Apr 1883 at Albany to Jessie Beatrice Hustler, d 3 Mar 1949 at Perth;
  3. Ernest Edward Johnson b3Q1862 at Dedham Essex, d 1Q1863 at Dedham;
  4. Francis Wardell Johnson b 2 Aug 1864 at Dedham, m 23 Jul 1893 at Albany to Grace Melville Moir, d 2 Sep 1935 at Bridgetown;
  5. Jessie Elizabeth Johnson b4Q1866 at Dedham Essex, d 4Q1866 at Dedham;
  6. Basil Monro Johnson b 24 Dec 1867 at Dedham Essex, d 18 May 1881 at Albany Australia;
  7. Elsie Winifred Johnson b 29 Sep 1872 At York, Western Australia, d 30 Sep 1872 at York;
  8. Janet Maud Johnson b 14 Mar 1874 at Albany, m 2 Oct 1901 at Albany to Francis Noel Bird, d 11 Jul 1943 at Perth;
  9. Algernon Theodore Johnson b 1 Mar 1876 at Albany, m1 21 Jan 1903 at Albany to Frances Kate Francisco, m2 11 Apr 1923 to Ruby Constance Dixon, d 9 Feb 1926 at Sawyers Valley, Western Australia;
  10. May Rosamund Johnson b 30 May 1878 at Albany, m 20 Nov 1901 at Albany to Herbert James Russell, d 16 Sep 1916 at Napier New Zealand;


John Lomas and Greg Wardell-Johnson, 28 April 2019