Headington history: People

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John Johnson (1882–1956)

John de Monins Johnson (1882–1956) was born on 17 May 1882 at Brocklesbury Rectory in Lincolnshire, where his father was Rector.

His father was then appointed Vicar of Kirmington in Lincolnshire.

John Johnson was was sent off as a boarder to Magdalen College School, Oxford, and went on to Exeter College, Oxford to read Literae Humaniores (Classics). The 1901 census shows him at the age of 18 at Kirmington vicarage, described as an undergraduate at Oxford, with his father John Henry Johnson (60), his mother Anna Braithwaite Johnson (54) née Savory, and his elder sister Anna (21). The family had a cook, two housemaids, and a groom.

Johnson then learnt Arabic and worked in the Egyptian civil service from 1905 to 1907. He then returned to Oxford and was a senior demy at Magdalen College from 1909 to 1912. During this period he edited papyri and also conducted explorations in Egypt, and discovering the earliest known manuscript of Theocritus.

Johnson was deemed unfit for active service in the First World War and in 1915 was appointed acting Assistant Secretary to the Delegates of Oxford University Press, and later Assistant Secretary. In 1925 he was appointed Printer to the University, and remained in this post until his retirement in 1946.

Johnson is best remembered for the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera held by the Bodleian Library.

On 31 July 1918 at St Peter-in-the-East Church, Oxford, John de Monins Johnson, who was living in Holywell, married Dorothea Cannan, who was living in Magdalen Gate House in the High Street and was the daughter of Charles Cannan, the Secretary to the Delegates of the Clarendon Press. They had two children:

  • Charles Cannan Johnson (born in the Headington registration district in 1922)
  • Pauline Bollingbroke Johnson (born in the Headington registration district in 1930).

They lived in Headington at Bareacres at 29 Barton Lane from 1929 until 1956. Dorothea’s sister Joanna Cannan wrote scathingly of the development taking place in the Barton area in the 1950s, presumably after paying them a visit.

John de Monins Johnson died at the Radcliffe Infirmary on 15 September 1956 and was buried at Headington Cemetery.

There is a much fuller entry on John Johnson in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The ODNB online is available free to many public library users, including those in Oxfordshire:
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© Stephanie Jenkins

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