Worcester Cathedral, Worcestershire: monument to Bishop James Johnson, commissioned by Sarah Johnson, 1778 (6)
James Johnson (1705-74) was the son of James Johnson, rector of Long Melford, Suffolk. He worked as deputy master at Westminster School in 1733-48, and held clerical livings at Turweston, Buckinghamshire in 1741-44, Mixbury, Oxfordshire in 1744-59, and Watford, Hertfordshire in 1744-59. He also served as chaplain-in-ordinary to King George II in 1744, and held a residency at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1748-52. Following this he was elevated to Bishop of Gloucester in 1752, and then became Bishop of Worcester in 1759. Johnson remained at Worcester until his death on 26 November 1774, when he fell from his horse in Bath. He was buried in Lacock, Wiltshire, and four years later his sister, Sarah Johnson, commissioned designs from Robert Adam for a funerary monument to be carved by Joseph Nollekens RA (1737-1823) for Worcester Cathedral.
Adam made variant designs for two separate schemes, one being a modest wall-mounted monument with a large central inscription panel, and the other being a more extravagant free-standing monument, with a sarcophagus and a bust of Johnson, either set against a pediment, or a pyramid in relief. It was the latter – a free-standing monument with a fluted sarcophagus, supported by fluted volutes, and ornamented with a mitre, crozier and inverted torch (the symbol of death), surmounted by a bust, and set against a pyramid in relief – which was executed and signed by Nollekens. The monument survives in situ in the west end of Worcester Cathedral.
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, index pp. 31, 77; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 363, 367, Volume 2, p. 267; ‘Johnson, James (bap. 1705, d. 1774)’, Oxford dictionary of national biography online