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Reverend Richard Johnson : 24-September-2012
Reverend Richard Johnson : 24-September-2012

Photographs supplied by Kent Watson / Peter Williams

A marble tablet commemorates Reverend Richard Johnson who was the Chaplain to the First Fleet which arrived in Sydney on 26th of January 1788.   He erected the first church in the colony in 1793.

Richard Johnson (circa 1756 – 13 March 1827) was the first Christian cleric in Australia.   Johnson was appointed chaplain of the prison colony at New South Wales in 1786. This appointment was due, in large part, to the influence of the Eclectic Society and two notable men, John Newton and William Wilberforce, who were keen for a committed evangelical Christian to take the role of chaplain.  Johnson and his wife sailed with the First Fleet and arrived in Australia in 1788.

Governor Arthur Phillip had first of all to find means of feeding and housing the soldiers and convicts and labour could not be spared for the building of a church. Services were held in the open air and even four years later, when Johnson appealed to Phillip for churches at both Sydney and Parramatta, he had no success.  In June 1793, tired of waiting on the authorities, he began to build a church himself, and by September completed a building capable of holding 500 people at a cost of about £67. Even allowing for the difference in the purchasing power of money and the comparative flimsiness of the structure, this was a remarkable achievementThis church was burnt down in 1798. Johnson, with his wife Mary, taught between 150 and 200 school children in this church.

A memorial stone was unveiled in St. Andrew's Cathedral on Monday afternoon, to commemorate the services of Rev. Richard Johnson, who was the founder of the Anglican Church in this colony 120 years ago. The Archbishop of Sydney, assisted by Canons Boyce, Sharp, and Bellingham, the Precentor, and Rev. W. Newmarsh conducted the service in the presence of many members of the Royal Australian Historical Society. The Bible and hymn book used during the service were the actual ones brought out to this colony by Rev. Richard Johnson, and in spite of their great age the print is still perfectly clear.  The memorial stone is in the form of a filar, made of white New Zealand stone, having a marble tablet in the centre, bearing an inscription. The tablet now erected is alongside that of the late Dean Cowper in the north transept.
Evening News (Sydney) 4 February 1908.  


Address:George & Bathurst Streets, St Andrews Cathedral, Sydney, 2000
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -33.874006
Long: 151.206581
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:People


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Monday 3rd February, 1908
Front Inscription

Grateful Memory of
Magd: Coll : Cambr :

Who Came As Chaplain To The Settlement
In N.S.W. In The First Fleet,
Reaching Sydney 26th Jany 1788.  
Erected First Church 1793. 
Laboured With Earnest Self-Devotion,
Amid Great Difficulties For Twelve
Years, Returned To England 1800
Where He Died 1827.

Source: MA, ADB
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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