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Johnson Bros.

Details about Johnson Bros.

This was a tale of a real failure by a Hartlepool shipowner. Although trading as ‘Johnson Bros. (Cardiff) and West Hartlepool’ it was brought to light that Edward Johnson had no ties with Cardiff other than with his brother, William, who lived in Wales and had been named in 1882 as manager of the Morning Star.  This was Edward’s first ship, but William had contributed no funding. The ship was lost in May of that year and there had been no connection with Wales after that time. It appears that Edward had funded putting a further ship to sea using the insurance money from the Morning Star when the funds should have been used to pay creditors. Eventually it was all brought crashing down and in November of 1884 he was brought in front of the Official Receiver with debts amounting to over £11,000. In August of 1885 he was charged with committing an offence under the Bankruptcy Act. It was stated that he was first aware of his insolvency in October of 1884 but instead of handing over to the trustee certain personal property he had in his possession at the date of filing his petition he did nothing towards an arrangement of his affairs and he filed a petition a few days later stating he was unable to pay William Gray £6,000 that he owed him. It was found he had withdrawn all his cash from the bank and then falsified documents showing where the money had been spent. At the end of a lengthy court case it was concluded that although there was a great amount of suspicion on Edward Johnson’s actions there was not enough evidence to convict him and the case was dismissed.

Listed below are the four ships that sailed under the company name. One, Morning Star, was built in Hartlepool. The other three were built elsewhere and are listed under a general history.

Family History:

Edward Smith Johnson was born in 1852 at Sunderland to parents William Thomas Raine (cabinet maker) and Ann (nee Whitfield) Smith. In 1871 the family were living at York Street, Stranton. Edward became a clerk in a rolling mill and later a confidential clerk to Robert Irvine & Co. He married Elizabeth Owen in 1878 at Hartlepool. The couple were living Milton Grange, Milton Road, West Hartlepool. Edward probably moved from Hartlepool soon after his bankruptcy and on the 1891 census the couple had were living at Barry, Wales with their daughter and two sons with Edward listed as being an accountant. They remained in Wales until at least 1901. By 1911 the family had moved to 2 Akenside Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle-on-Tyne with Edward listed as a general agent and shipping surveyor.

Edward died aged 78 on 14th May 1931 at Jesmond leaving effects of £2,750.


William Thomas Johnson was born in 1850 at Sunderland to parents William Thomas Raine (cabinet maker) and Ann (nee Whitfield) Smith. He started his working life as an upholsterer. William married Clara Ann Cox in 1878 at Monmouthshire, Wales and the couple were living at Glamorgan by1881 with William listed as a steam shipbroker. By 1901 the family were living at Barry with William listed as a ship owner’s clerk. In 1911 the couple were living at Westbourne Road, Penarth with William’s occupation once again listed as shipbroker.


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