The grave of Maggoty Johnson, Gawsworth, 1773.

The grave of Maggoty Johnson, Gawsworth, 1773.


In Maggoty Wood, Maggoty Lane, Gawsworth, Cheshire.


A brick tomb standing in a beech wood. The final resting place of Samuel Johnson (1691 - 1773) is unusual in that it is not in a graveyard or other consecrated ground, and there are two memorial stones with alternative inscriptions.

The first inscription is joyful and was probably dictated by Johnson himself. The second placed, there three generations later in more righteous less joyful times, scorns the first's mocking of Judgement Day.

Born Samuel Johnson, in life he became known as Lord Flame, and in death as Maggoty Johnson. He was a wit, musician, actor, and playwright; employed as jester and dancing master at Gawsworth Hall. He was buried in this unconcencrated ground at his own request, unusual in a country where most were buried in a churchyard.

The Original Inscription

Under this Stone
Rest the Remains of Mr SAMUEL JOHNSON
Afterwards ennobled with the grander Title of
Who after having been in his Life distinct from other Men
By the Eccentricities of his Genius
Chose to retain the same Character after his Death
And was, at his own Desire, buried here May 5th
A.D. MDCCLXXIII aged 82.

"Stay, thou whom Chance directs or ease persuades,
To seek the Quiet of these Sylvan shades,
Here, undesturbed and hid from Vulgar Eyes,
A Wit, Musician, Poet, Player, lies
A Dancing master too in Grace he shone,
And all the arts of Opera were his own,
In Comedy well skilled he drew Lord Flame,
Acted the Part and gaind himself the Name,
Averse to Strife how oft he'd gravely say,
These peaceful Groves should shade his breathless Clay,
That, when he rose again, laid here alone,
No friend and he should quarrel for a Bone,
Thinking that were some old lame Gossip nigh,
She possibly might take his Leg or Thigh.

The grave of Maggoty Johnson, Gawsworth, 1773.

The Later Inscription

If chance hath brought thee here, or curious eyes,
To see the spot where this poor jester lies,
A thoughtless jester even in his death,
Uttering his jibes beyond his latest breath,
O stranger pause a moment, pause and say:
"Tomorrow should'st thou quit thy house of clay,
Where wilt thou be my soul? in paradise?
Or where the rich man Lifted up his eyes".
Immortal spirit would'st thou then be blest,
Waiting thy perfect bliss on Abraham's breast,
Boast not of silly art or wit or fame,
Be thou ambitious of a Christian's name,
Seek not thy body's rest in peaceful grove,
Pray that thy soul may rest in Jesus love,
O speak not lightly of that dreadful day,
When all must rise in joy or dismay.
When spirits pure in body glorified,
With Christ in heavenly mansions shall abide,
While wicked souls shall hear the Judges boom,
"Go ye accursed into endless gloom",
Look on that stone and this, and ponder well,
Then choose twixt Life and Death,
Heaven and Hell.

Maggoty Lane, Gawsworth, Cheshire.

Maggoty Wood, Gawsworth, Cheshire.

Carl's Cam