top of page

Reverend John Sutton

John Sutton was born in 1817 at East Hanney, Berkshire, England.

From the book 'Redcliffe 150 Years' by Leslie E Slaughter :

"When Queen Victoria signed Letters Patent on June 6 1859, she appointed Sir George Ferguson Bowen as the first governor of the new Colony of Queensland. At the same time, she created the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane and appointed the Right Reverend Edward Wyndham Tufnell DD. as its first bishop.

A shipboard Romance:

When Ralph Edward Godschall Johnson left England in 1859, with Governor Bowen's party. he left his family behind. They were Ellen, Frances and two brothers. Johnson was a widower.

Early in 1860, the four members of the family, with a chaperone, left England for Australia on the sailing ship 'Vimiera'. On the same vessel was the first Bishop of Brisbane, the Right Reverend Edward Wyndham Tufnell and seven bachelor clergyman, most of them young.

Frances Johnson (she was Fanny to her relatives and friends) was an attractive girl of 18 years.

Therefore the chaperone was careful to advise her against allowing her charms to effect the young clergymen.A sea voyage from England to Australia in those days, in a sailing vessel, occupied from four to five months. The Reverend John Sutton was older than the other clergymen being 41 years of age. When the chaperone noticed a friendship developing between Frances and the Reverend John, it caused no concern to her. She thought that the difference of ages of the two would be a safeguard."

Photo: "On board the sailing vessel 'Vimiera' in 1860. Second from left Ellen Johnson, Fourth from left the Reverend John Sutton. Fifth from left, Frances Johnson. it is evident in this scene that the Reverend John has made an interesting remark to Frances"

"The 'Vimiera' arrived in Sydney on 16 August 1860. Bishop Tufnell, six clergymen, the Johnson's and the chaperone disembarked. (One of clergymen died on the voyage)

They left Sydney on the coastal steamer 'Yarra Yarra' on August 29 and arrived in Brisbane on September 2.

The Reverend John lost no time before visiting Government House where Ralph Johnson Frances' father was living with Governor Bowen. The Reverend's mission was to ask for mr Johnson's approval of Francis' engagement to himself. Johnson readily granted the request.

The Reverend John Sutton's first appointment was to establish an Anglican church in Gladstone.

In January 1861, he returned to Brisbane for his marriage to Francis.

It took place at St. John's Church, William St, on the 22nd of the month.

Bishop Tufnell officiated. Robert J.W. Herbert (later Sir Robert) first colonial secretary (today it is Premier) was best man and Edith Flora Darvall was bridesmaid.

Ralph Edward Godschall Johnson was an Englishman. However his daughter Frances was born in St Omer, France.

He was appointed Assistant Clerk in the Department of the Legislative Assembly on July 2 1860.

Their children were Florence, Percy, Cholmondeley, Holly, Sydney, May and Joseph".


John Sutton first purchased 21 acres of portion 227 on the 12th September 1865 in the Redcliffe Agricultural Reserve. He paid 21 pounds for the 21 acres.

3 years later on 1st January 1869 he purchased 2 portions of land , 26 acres of portion 189 for 20 pounds, and 20 acres of portion 191 for 20 pounds.

c.1878 map of the Township of Sutton, Redcliff Point.

John Sutton helped create the great Redcliffe land boom by placing one section of the 87 acres of prime beachfront real estate he owned in central Redcliffe on the market in May 1878. He had no choice because the ambitious attempt by Scarborough and Woody Point to pre empt Redcliffe Point as the most prosperous part of the Peninsula His close friend Thomas Jones also owned 71 acres of prime beachfront land next to John's land. Between them they owned the best land at Redcliffe and John Sutton's later role as a councillor on the Redcliffe Divisional Board meant that he had some influence on where the vital services, especially roads, were given priority attention.


Brisbane Courier Saturday 11th May1878:

"Monday May 20.

By Order of the Rev. John Sutton.

For sale by public auction. The Redcliffe Estate comprising 60 large marine villa sites each lot having a frontage to the bay. directly opposite to the main Entrance at the North Point of Moreton Island.

To Merchants, Government Officials, Doctors, Invalids, Hotelkeepers, Speculators and Others.

John Cameron has been favored with instructions from the Rev. John Sutton to sell by public auction at his Real Property Mart, Town Hall on Monday May 20 at Eleven O'Clock. 60 magnificent Marine Villa Sites each lot having a frontage of at least 1 chain to THE BAY opposite the Northern Entrance. THE REDCLIFFE ESTATE occupies the centre of the peninsula generally known as HUMPYBONG which is one of the most fertile and picturesque spots bordering the shores of Moreton Bay, the level beign from 20 to 50 feet above high water mark, with a gentle incline inland, the soil being a rich chocolate, capable of growing any product congenial to the climate. The only permanent water on Humpybong is upon this Estate, and within a few yards of the Beach.

THE BEACH immediately in front of the REDCLIFFE ESTATE requires to be seen to be thoroughly appreciated. it is unusually wide and as hard as a macadamised road, with comparatively deep water right up to the low water mark.

THE VIEW embraces MORETON ISLAND, BRIBIE ISLAND, STRADBROKE ISLAND, THE SHIPPING IN THE BAY and all steamers and vessels passing to or from the Northern Ports, or that enter the Main Channel. THE REDCLIFFE ESTATE is admitted by all who have visited this spot to be the VERY PICK AND EYE OF HUMPYBONG the distance to which is only three and a half hours steam from the city, and about three and a half to four hours drive over a first class road. THE FISH that abound in this portion of the Bay comprise Whiting, Bream, Soles, Flat heads, and opposite some of the peaks HUGE SCHNAPPER which have been caught in large quantities. THE REDCLIFFE ESTATE has been subdivided with great care as to frontage, depth and arrangement of all the streets that intersect the allotments and lithographs have been struck off that will afford intending purchasers every information "


In 1879 when estates were being advertised all over the Peninsula and were called 'Redcliffe' or 'Humpybong' , John Sutton wrote to the Courier:

Brisbane Courier 11th January 1879:

"Redcliffe A Correction.

To the editor of the Brisbane Courier.

SIR . I can make every allowance for auctioneer's imaginations, especially in a fervid climate like this, but when you go to the length of imagining they are selling someone else's land for mine, I think it is time to object for the sake of the buyer as well as my own. Queen's Beach is described as situated at Redcliffe Point and the land offered as the pick of the water frontage at Redcliffe Point. This is like describing Newstead as situated at Queens Street. Queens Beach is adjoining Scarborough and is nearly three miles from Redcliffe Point. It is a very pretty place and will stand vary own on its merits. Redcliffe Point as anyone may see on the excellent Government maps, which one can got at the Land's Office for 1s, is on my estate, and it projects farthest out into the sea and is midway between Scarborough at the north end of the Peninsula and St. Leonards at the south. The whole reserve takes its name from the point and extends up to the Pine River, nearly ten miles off the road, so that the purchasers at Redcliffe should take great care about when their purchases are made or they may have a long journey before they get to the sea. No one can make a mistake by purchasing on the beach, for from one end to the other, five miles, there is not a bad bit, but a good deal of the country inside is unfit for residence.

Yours &c. J. SUTTON"


Rev. John Sutton was elected to the Divisional Board and generally interested himself in community affairs, donating 48 perches of land in Sutton Street for a church building and often officiating at church services and weddings. In the 1880s he subdivided his land and offered the blocks for sale. At the same time, in 1884, the Rev. Sutton appointed trustees for a reserve on the water frontage of some of his land at Redcliffe, near MacDonnell Creek, (Portion 189). A few years later more land near the Redcliffe jetty was added to this reserve and in June 1897 the Rev. John Sutton died after a long illness. Following his death, the Reserve was managed by the trustees whose ideas as to improvements to the area quite often differed from those of the council. Ultimately however, Council was able to resume the land and plan improvements.


"In later years the Reverend John Sutton was rector of St John's Church, William St, Brisbane.

He retired to Hurley House (now Sutton House). Redcliffe in February 1886."

"He was an early member of the Redcliffe Divisional Board and had a prominent part in many ways in the early progress of Redcliffe.

Francis or Fanny Sutton lived her latter years in Redcliffe. She was (and yet is) referred to as "Granny Sutton"

Everyone who knew her loved her. She died on October 4 1909.

Suttons Beach, Suttons St and John Streets and Suttons House perpetuate their name".


Eventually all this land was proclaimed as Sutton Reserve in 1911. This is the area now known as Suttons Beach. It was about this time that excursion traffic had increased to such an extent that public facilities on the beaches had become an increasingly urgent issue and in April 1912, a plan for a Kiosk was prepared, with working specifications, by the Shire Clerk.

For detailed information on the history of Suttons Beach please go to the History Redcliffe blog at:



The death is announced of the Rev. John Sutton, B.A., who a few years ago was a well known figure in the community, holding the important clerical position of rector of St. John's Cathedral in this city. The rev. gentleman was one of the oldest Anglican clergymen in Queensland, both in point of age and in reference to association with ministerial work. He came to Queensland first in 1859, when he formed one of a group of six clergy men who came here with Bishop Tufnell, the Rev. T. Jones, a fast friend of Mr. Sutton's, being another of the party. His first ministrations were devoted to the Gladstone district. On the resignation of the Rev. John Bliss, M.A., of the rectorship of St. John's, Mr. Sutton succeeded him and occupied that position for 14 years, when in 1885 he retired from active ministerial service and went to live at Redcliffe, where he continued to live up to the time of his death, with the exception of a two years' visit to the old country. At the time of his death he had reached the advanced age of 80 years, but right up to the last he maintained a vigorous mental activity, and took a lively interest in the general literature of the day and the topics of the times. For some time past the rev. gentleman had been suffering from an illness, which took a serious turn on Sunday last, from which he did not again rally. He passed quietly away at 9 o'clock on Wednesday morning, in the presence of his wife and all his family, with the exception of one son who is at Rockhampton, and his friend, the Rev. T. Jones, who went to Redcliffe when the change for the worse came on on Sunday. The bereaved family consists of Mrs. Sutton, five sons, and two daughters."



Rev. John Sutton is listed on the wall of the Redcliffe Wall of Fame:

A collection of portrait and information honouring the achievements of individuals who have influenced and shaped Redcliffe. The collection is in the Jetty Arcade at 139-141 Redcliffe Parade.

For a complete list of people who appear on the wall click on the following blog post:

281 views0 comments


bottom of page