Shire Hall, side elevation facing Duke Street (erected January 2019)


Born in 1732, Johnson started work as a builder, later becoming a competent designer of town and country houses. His work is characterised by its consistency, with many of his designs containing recessed arches, neo-classical motifs and the innovative use of Coade stone features. 

Although he was an experienced architect in the capital, the proximity of London and Essex meant that Johnson became employed as the County Surveyor from 1782 to 1812. This work consisted of maintenance of county bridges, the gaol and houses of correction and the sessions house or shire hall.  During this time, Johnson designed the Stone Bridge as well as Chelmsford’s landmark building, Shire Hall, which opened in 1791.

Johnson was presented with a silver cup for his work on Shire Hall in 1792, after completing the project to the satisfaction of the magistrates, for less than the original estimate. The building served as the County Court for over 220 years, until its closing in 2012, and is now where the blue plaque commemorating Johnson is located.

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