John Thomas BEST (1857–1887)
His cousin Charles JOHNSON (1861/2–1870)
(+ Thomas JOHNSON, possibly their grandfather of that name)
St Giles (Ss Philip & James) section: Row 31a, Grave K43
JULY 25, 1870, AGED 9 YEARS
JOHN THOMAS BEST
WHO DIED FEB. 25, 1887
AGED 29 YEARS
Thomas Johnson was born in Wytham in c.1815 and was probably the child of that name, son of Gabriel & Sarah Johnson, who was baptised at Wytham on 23 April 1815. His wife Ann was born at Wycombe Marsh, Buckinghamshire in 1807/8. They were the grandparents of John Thomas Best and Charles Johnson (the young man and boy buried in this grave).
Thomas & Ann Johnson were living in St Clement’s by 1839, and their two daughters were born there:
- Jane Harriet Johnson (born at George Street (now renamed Cave Street) in 1839 and baptised at St Clement’s Church on 25 August)
- Sarah Johnson (born at New Street (probably Cherwell Street) in 1843 and baptised at St Clement’s Church on 23 April).
Thomas Johnson was a labourer at the time of the 1841 census, living at Cave Street in St Clement’s with his wife Ann and their first daughter Jane (2). By 1851 he was working as a carrier and living at Cherwell Street in St Clement’s with his wife and two daughters Jane (11) and Sarah (8).
Jane Harriett Johnson, the elder daughter of Thomas & Ann Johnson, was an 18-year-old seampstress living at Blackfriars Road when on 22 February 1857 she was married at Holy Trinity Church, St Ebbe’s to Albert John Best, a shoemaker who also lived in Blackfriars Road.
The family is very hard to find in 1861, but by 1870 Thomas Johnson was a beer retailer at Navigation House, Heyfield’s Hut. Their grandson Charles Johnson was then living with them.
Charles Johnson was born in 1861/2. He is hard to identify, as he does not appear to have been born in Oxfordshire, and died too young to appear in any census. He may have been the illegitimate son of Thomas & Ann’s daughter Sarah, who was 19 at the time of his birth. His grandparents brought him up at Heyfield’s Hut.
Charles drowned in 1870 in the canal near Heyfield’s Hut at the age of eight (although he was probably nearly nine, the age given on the gravestone):
† Charles Johnson drowned in the canal near Heyfield’s Hut at the age of eight on 25 July 1870 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 28 July (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church).
The inquest, which was held the day after Charles drowned, was reported thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 30 July 1870:
FATAL CASE OF DROWNING.— On Tuesday afternoon an inquest was held at the Navigation House, Heyfield’s Hut, before W. Brunner, Esq., Coroner, touching the death of Charles Johnson. Mr. Henry Warland was foreman of the Jury. From the evidence adduced, it appeared that the deceased was eight years of age, and was a grandson of Thomas Johnson, of the Navigation House, his father being dead. About three o’clock on Monday afternoon he went out to play, and on his grandmother going to search for him at the drawbridge near The Hut, she saw his cap floating on the water. Suspecting the child had fallen into the Canal she obtained help, and in two hours his body was found in the water near Port Meadow. He was quite dead. He was seen in the lane leading from Dolley’s to the drawbridge about half-past three o’clock by Wm. Howse, and he was then going towards the water. Eventually, after a strict search, his body was found in the Canal near his home, a man named Thomas Dutton having got into the water and felt the body with his feet, the man being in the water fully an hour in search. Verdict, “Accidentally drowned.”
At the time of the 1871 census Thomas Johnson (56), described as a beer retailer, was living at Heyfield’s Hut with his wife Ann (63) and their unmarried daughter Sarah (28). Their grandson John Thomas Best (13), who was still at school, had come to live with them.
On 15 July 1877 at Ss Philip & James’s Church their other daughter, Sarah Johnson married Anthony Harris, a dealer: both were then living at Heyfield’s Hut, and Sarah was able to sign her name, but not her husband.
In 1881 Thomas (66), described as a coal merchant & licensed victualler, and Ann (70) were still living at Navigation House, 13 Heyfield’s Hut, and their married daughter Sarah (39) and her husband Anthony (43) were living with them, as well as their grandson John Thomas Best. Both John and his aunt Sarah were described as assistants to Thomas Johnson, and the family also had a 14-year-old servant girl.
John Thomas Best
John Thomas Best was the eldest son of Jane Harriett Johnson, the elder daughter of Thomas & Ann Johnson. She was a seampstress living at Blackfriars Road when on 22 February 1857 she was married at Holy Trinity Church, St Ebbe’s to Albert John Best, a shoemaker who also lived in Blackfriars Road. Although she was only 18, she was described in the register as being of full age. They had the following children, with John himself born very soon after the wedding:
- John Thomas Best (born in Angel Passage in 1857 and privately baptised by St Peter-in-the-East Church on 13 May)
- Richard Charles Best (born in Kidlington in 1859 and baptised there on 13 November)
- Thomas Johnson Best (born in Angel Passage in 1862 and privately baptised by St Peter-in-the-East Church on 8 October)
- George Best (born in Jericho in 1863/4 and baptised at St Paul’s Church on 6 June 1869 at the same time as his younger sister)
- Annie Best (born in Jericho in 1864/5 and baptised at St Paul’s Church on 6 June 1869)
- Albert Best (born at Albert Street, Jericho on 4 February 1870 and baptised at St Barnabas’s Church on 3 April)
- Ada Jane Best (born in Oxford, presumably Jericho, in 1872/3)
- Charles Best (born in Jericho on 26 April 1875 and baptised at St Barnabas’s Church on 2 August)
- Sarah Jane Best (born in Jericho on 2 March 1878 and baptised at St Barnabas’s Church on 9 June)
The family was living at 1 Angel Passage (beside the Angel Hotel in the High Street, Oxford, in St Peter-in-the-East parish) by 1857. The 1861 census shows them still living there: Albert John Best (26) was a boot and shoe maker, living with his wife Jane (22) and their first two sons John Thomas Best (3), and Richard Charles Best (1).
The Best family had moved to 12 Nelson Street in Jericho by 1869. By 1871 their eldest son John Thomas Best had gone to live with his grandparents at Navigation House, 13 Heyfield’s Hut Lane, and he spent the rest of his life with them. In the 1881 census, when he was 22, he was described as his grandfather’s assistant.
John Best died in 1887 and was buried with his cousin:
† John Thomas Best died at Heyfield’s Hut at the age of 29 on 26 February 1887 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 1 March (burial recorded in the parish register of Ss Philip & James’s and St Giles’s Church).
His death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal read simply: “Feb. 25, at Heyfield Hutt, Oxford, after a short illness, John Thomas Best, aged 29.”
At the time of the 1901 and 1911 censuses John Best’s parents Albert and Jane Harriett Best, née Johnson were living at 37 Canal Street in Jericho, and John’s father was still working as a bootmaker at the age of 77. His father died in Oxford at the age of 80 near the end of 1914, and his mother at the age of 84 near the end of 1923. They are likely to be buried in the St Paul (St Barnabas) section of St Sepulchre’s Cemetery.
Charles & Ann Johnson, the grandparents
Mrs Ann Johnson died at Heyford’s Hut at the age of 73 and was buried on 19 February 1882, probably in the St Giles’s section of St Sepulchre’s Cemetery.
Thomas Johnson appears to be remembered on the third side of the base of the cross of this grave (left), and may be the man of that name who died at Oxford Workhouse the age of 81 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard. Headington Quarry on 30 January 1897.