Benjamin Johnson was another of the agents from Yorkshire who moved north to run the Beaumonts estate and business. He was baptised at Beeston in January 1786, the son of a Nathaniel Johnson. At the time of his marriage he was said to be of Cliffe House, at Crigglestone near Wakefield, not far from Bretton. His wife was Mary, the only daughter of David Wood, who was the ‘resident agent’ at Bretton between 1802-16. It seems highly likely, therefore, that Johnson knew the Beaumonts from at least this time, if not earlier, and perhaps had some junior role within the estate management structure. Judging from the birthplace in 1817 given for his daughter Marianne in the 1851 census, Johnson was still in the Wakefield area then. From an aside in one of his later letters it would seem that he was employed by TWBeaumont (TWB) as his land agent in the Northeast from around 1819, the year in which Beaumont bought the Bywell Hall and estate. (This was from a series of letters, now apparently lost, but used in an essay by a Bretton College student in 1984.) In 1821 Johnson moved to Bywell Hall, his base for what appear to have been a difficult next seven years for him, working for an apparently indifferent and absent TWB while caught in the crossfire between TWB and his mother. He made at least one attempt to leave, in 1824, but decided he could not afford to do so, with a growing family to educate, but finally left for Matfen Hall and Sir Edward Blackett in 1828. His principal difficulty appears to have been with Diana, for he came back to work for TWB soon after her death and replaced Thomas Crawhall as chief agent in 1832. He remained in this post until at least 1844, assisted –it seems- by his son, also Benjamin, who was enumerated in the census that year as a land agent at Bywell. By 1851 Johnson senior was working as a land agent back in Yorkshire, although his wife and family were to be found in Newcastle, so he had perhaps left the Beaumonts after the death of TWB in 1848. Johnson died in Scarborough in 1856, ‘late of Newcastle-upon Tyne, and late of Croft, Co. York.’ His wife appears to have remained in Newcastle, dying at Lovaine Place in 1868.
Yvonne Purdy and Greg Finch
M.Bell, ‘Letters Book: 1821-1828’, unpublished essay (1984), Brotherton Library, University of Leeds Special Collections ref BHDVC/CD/78a
S.J.Wright, Bretton, the Beaumonts and a Bureaucracy, (2001)
E.T.Hughes (ed), The Diaries and Correspondence of James Losh Surtees Society, Vol 174, (1963)