30 May 2014

Richard Johnson, Lord Mayor of Bradford 1926-1927





















Today’s photo is one I’ve had for many years and had put into the too hard basket because Richard Johnson is such a common name. This morning I was looking through my photos and for some reason this one caught my eye and on examining the back of it in minute detail noticed some words had been cut through on the edge:-


This was the clue I needed and it all started coming together after I did a bit of searching in Google and the online English newspapers. First I came across the fact that there was a Richard Johnson who was a J.P. and an Alderman on the Bradford City Council from 1896. This is part of the information about the ‘Memorial Institute Building in Esholt’ from the British Listed Buildings website:-


INTERIOR: The main entrance leads into a small porch area with doors to the main hall and the kitchen area to the left. The main room occupies the whole of the main block and has a wooden floor, half height tongue and groove panelling and a suspended ceiling. Above the suspended ceiling is the original roof structure with 4 trusses supporting a boarded roof and lit by the dormer windows. In the wing is a kitchen area, with modern fittings, divided from the main hall by a folding wooden and glazed screen, original. To the right of the kitchen is a cupboard housing the boiler, the original of which is in a display cabinet in the kitchen. At the far end of the hall is a door to the toilet block, rebuilt from a smaller original. On the rear wall is a framed stone inscribed THIS STONE WAS LAID BY/ THE CHAIRMAN OF THE SEWAGE COMMITTEE/ CITY OF BRADFORD./(ALDERMAN RICHARD JOHNSON J P)/ 30th JUNE 1920. Also on the rear wall is a metal plaque reading PARISH OF ESHOLT/ ROLL OF HONOUR/ EUROPEAN WAR/ 1914 1918, with a list of 53 names in 3 columns.

I even found a photo of it but no they weren’t the same steps that Richard Johnson was standing on so I turned to the newspapers and found the following:-

mayoral-electionThe date was a surprise to me as I had thought the date of 1925 written on the photo was his death date and presumably the 13 Sep 1855 his birthdate. But then I found his obituary in 1931 and realised the photo had most probably been taken by the newspaper when he first announced he was going to stand for office before the elections, well that’s what I’m presuming. This is the closest I can get to the steps at the Bradford Town Hall in Google, but to my eye they look hardly any different to those in the photo:-




His obituary finally put me on the path to tracking down the right Richard Johnson in the various census.

It mentioned that he was a shop assistant in Bingley then he moved to Bradford where he was connected with a millinery business. First I searched for a marriage in FreeBMD in either 1876 or 1877 (50 years before his two years in office), there was only one in Bradford but that Richard Johnson had the middle name of Frank and in all the sources for this Richard so far there is no mention of a middle name. So then I tried familysearch.org and found this marriage that looked promising, why I thought it might be the one is that I had found a Richard Johnson in the 1861 census who had been born in Bingley and his father’s name was John. In the 1871 census this Richard was boarding away from home aged 15 and a draper’s assistant, so far so good.

Name: Richard Johnson

Birth Date:1856
Age: 21
Spouse's Name: Sarah Ainsbury
Spouse's Birth Date: 1856
Spouse's Age: 21
Event Date: 04 Apr 1877
Event Place: Dudley, Worcester, England
Father's Name: John Johnson
Spouse's Father's Name: George Ainsbury
Marital Status: Single
Spouse's Marital Status: Single
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M01465-6
System Origin: England-EASy
GS Film number: 1470600
Reference ID: 89 p 45

By 1881 they had settled in Dudley, Worcester and Richard was an Inn Keeper with one daughter Edith Ainsbury Johnson. In 1891 they were back in Yorkshire and settled in Bradford and Richard was now a Draper and they had five children. In 1891 they have six children and Richard is still a Draper, visiting them is Edith Leaf who was a ‘milliner’s saleswoman’ so perhaps it was Edith that Richard later went into business with, maybe she ran the business while he was working for the council. In the 1911 census he was a Milliner with one of his daughters also in the business. So in all the census nothing is ever mentioned about him being an alderman, if it wasn’t for this photograph we might never have known!

There is one little niggle I have about all of the above, according to Richard’s obituary the ex-Mayor only had one daughter and one son when he died but in the 1911 census it tells us that Sarah had given birth to 8 children with 6 of them still living, surely 4 more of them hadn’t died before Richard? Possible I suppose.


1911-census    © Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England. 1911 Census.

The obituary also says his son is Mr H. G. Johnson but none of this Richard’s children have those initials although one of his sons was a town clerk (before he became a solicitor) & lived in Reading.

What do you think? Am I right in thinking this Richard is the one in the photograph or is there a mistake in the obituary? Unless I can find some descendants for this family I guess I’ll never know.




Richard Johnson died on 23 Jan 1931 at 17 Salisbury Gardens, Jesmond, Newcastle on Tyne and on the 26 Jan was buried in the Jesmond Cemetery.







References: FreeBMD; ancestry.com.au; familysearch.org; British Listed Buildings; Google; FindMyPast



If anyone knows anything about or is connected to this JOHNSON family please do contact me, I would love to pass the photo onto a family member, even a distant one. Contact by email is preferable but if you are going to leave a comment please don’t forget to include your email address.

Dawn Scotting


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