Samuel 'Maggoty' Johnson, alias 'Lord Flame', was a poet and musician of considerable talent. He appears to have been one of England's last professional jesters, employed by the Lord of Gawsworth, but available for hire to the local gentry where, because of his sharp wit and endearing repartee, he was invarably allowed free license.
In 1729 he made an appearance in London as an author, with a play bearing a title to match his own eccentricity. 'Hurlothrumbo, or 'the Supernatural', ran for fifty consecutive nights at the Haymarket Theatre. Johnson himself took the leading role of 'Lord Flame', a name that he subsequently adopted for himself throughout the rest of his life.
He had numerous other works published including 'The Blazing Comet' and 'A Vision of Heaven', whilst several others, including some of his own personal favourites, were destined to remain only in manuscript form.
He retired to New Hall, a property in Gawsworth granted to him by the lord of the manor, where he lived along with a faithful female servant for many long years. As a mark of respect for her he designed her a special tomb, which he had built in Gawsworth woods, one of their favourite haunts. His plans to have her buried there were thwarted however by her brother who insisted on her receiving a Christian burial.
On his own death in May 1773 he himself initially received a Christian burial in the local churchyard. It was only then discovered that his wish was to be buried in the vault, which he had originally designed for his servant. His body was duly disinterred and reburied at the intended location.
The epitaph that he left himself suggests that this intention was to thwart those having designs on any of his bones on the day of resurrection, being intent on keeping them for himself. A stone carrying the following epitaph surmounts the brick built vault.
Under this stone
Rest the remains of Mr. Samuel Johnson Afterwards ennobled by the grander title of
Who after being in this 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 5
A.D. MDCCLXXXIII - Aged 82
'Stay, thou who chance or ease persuades
To seek the quiet of these sylvan shades
Here, undisturbed and hid from vulgar eyes,
A wit, musician, poet, player lies
A dance-master, alone in grace he shone
And all the acts of opera were his own.
In comedy well-skilled, he drew Lord Flame
Acted the part, and gained 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, here laid alone,
No friend and he should quarrel for a bone
Thinking that there were some lame old gossip nigh,
She possibly might take his leg or thigh.
Maggoty Johnson's Wood lies about 5 kilometres south west of Macclesfield alongside the A536.