History of The Johnston Collection
The Collection is the legacy of William Robert Johnston (1911-1986) an antique dealer and collector of beautiful things. He loved objects that were unusual and visually arresting. He had a sharp eye for the beauty created by the harmonious balance of line and form. He delighted in arranging objects together to create extraordinary interiors.
When William Johnston was eight years old, his grandmother gave him an 1811 Minton cup - without the saucer, just the cup. That London shape cup with its delicate little chicken bone handle is still in the Collection today and is regarded as one of its most prized pieces. With this gift, young William's life was shaped - he had caught the collecting bug.
William Johnston was born in Lilydale in 1911, the son of a boot maker. At 14 he left school to work as a window dresser in Buckley and Nunn, now David Jones. After the Second World War, which had so irrevocably impacted on the social fabric of the landed gentry, William travelled to Britain. Knocking on the doors of English country houses he found that the owners, feeling the effects of new post war taxes and maintenance costs, were very happy to sell their antiques, albeit discreetly, to a willing buyer. William Johnston shipped antiques back to Australia in container loads.
In the 1970's with a shop in Greenwich (England) and Kent Antiques in High Street, Armadale (Australia) William Johnston decided he wanted the bulk of his now vast antique collection to be available to the public after his death. He had enjoyed collecting it, he had enjoyed using it and it was a source of immense satisfaction that his friends received so much pleasure from his Collection as well.
Ultimately a Charitable Trust was drafted to become effective after his death. The W R Johnston Trust was established in 1986 to preserve and develop this unique Collection and it is administered as an independent not-for-profit museum.