Richard Johnson Obelisk

Related to City Art
Installed 1925
An engraved plaque on the front of a stone obelisk, reading "To the glory of God and in commemoration of the first Christian service held in Australia, February 3rd 1788, Rev. Richard Johnson BA the Chaplain being the preacher."
Corner view of a stone memorial obelisk, decorated in a gothic architectural style, with engrave plaques on each side and a large stone cross on top.
Pedestrians walk and sit near the base of a stone memorial obelisk. The obelisk is on a raised base and has engraved plaques on each side. There are shops in the background.

This obelisk, in memory of Richard Johnson, marks the site of the first church erected in Australia.

Artist: Burcham Clamp and Finch Architects

Artwork description

This 4-sided sandstone tower is topped by a Gothic-influenced spire and Celtic style cross. Each side has a polished pink granite tablet with a gilt inscription.

It was installed at the intersection of Hunter, Bligh and Castlereagh streets in 1925 in memory of Reverend Richard Johnson.

Richard Johnson was appointed ‘Chaplain to the Settlement’ of New South Wales in 1786 and sailed with the First Fleet.

With the support of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, which had donated more than 4,000 books, Johnson established the first lending library in Australia.

He spent 12 years in the colony before retiring to England. These years, particularly under Governor Grose, were fairly unhappy ones for him.

Historians of the time and the Anglican Church have endorsed Johnson’s legacy of holding the ‘first Christian Service’ in Australia.


The tower was built by the architectural firm of Burcham Clamp and Finch, architects and surveyors for this project. The principals of this company were Burcham Clamp and Clifford H Finch.

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