What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “gentleman’s residence”?
Sweeping staircases, perhaps? Expansive hallways lined with portraits? Elegant sitting rooms and wood-panelled ceilings?
Welcome to Bishopscourt, one of Darling Point’s – if not Australia’s – finest mansions.
Darling Point has more than its fair share of grand homes. And it’s little wonder. With our suburb’s enviable waterside location, harbour views and easy city access, it has attracted discerning builders and buyers for well over a century.
But nothing quite beats the Gothic grandeur of Bishopscourt, at 11a Greenoaks Avenue.
Bishopscourt could easily be mistaken for the manor house of one of Britain’s landed gentry. Indeed, the property is listed under both the NSW Heritage Act and the Register of the National Estate.
Yet it wasn’t always so impressive.
In 1841, Thomas Woolley built a relatively modest two-storey sandstone cottage, designed by J.F. Hilly, on the land where Bishopscourt stands. Woolley, an ironmonger, merchant and local government councillor, named the home Percyville.
Then in 1845 along came Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. A founder of the AMP Society, Mort was also a successful entrepreneur with fingers in many pies. He is credited with pioneering food refrigeration, frozen meat export and weekly wool auctions in Sydney. He also maintained business interests in horticulture, sugar, dairy, mining, shipping and railways. A keen supporter of the Church of England, Mort donated land to build St Mark’s Church just up the road, and also helped fund the building of St Andrew’s Cathedral in the CBD.
Mort purchased Percyville and, with the help of Hilly, transformed the cottage into a gentleman’s residence. He renamed the newer, much larger home Greenoaks.
In God’s hands
Michael Campbell Langtree, grazier and engineer, bought the Greenoaks estate in 1892. He subdivided the land and in 1910 sold the home to the Anglican Church for £6,750.
On purchasing the property, the Church changed the name from Greenoaks to Bishopscourt, signalling its intended use as the residence of the Archbishop of Sydney.
The following year John Charles Wright, the fifth Archbishop of Sydney, moved in. He would be the first in a succession of seven archbishops to call the mansion home.
What kind of splendour did the archbishops enjoy?
Just researching the market?
From its steeply gabled roof to its lush gardens, Bishopscourt is as sumptuous as it gets.
The property sits on 6,216 square metres of land and boasts 15 bedrooms and six bathrooms. It features stained glass windows, ornate fireplaces and decorative timber ceilings. There’s also a beautiful chapel inside, added by the Anglican Church and showcasing detailed wood panelling and timber work.
At one time the property even housed a collection of heritage English armour and weaponry, along with a picture gallery. Add to this vast hallway and arched entranceways and the overall effect is distinctly grand and almost medieval.
Buying up big
Today, Bishopscourt is privately owned. Rising costs, coupled with losses during the global financial crisis, saw the Anglican Church unable to continue meeting the building’s expenses. By 2012 maintenance was said to total over $360,000 per year.
So in 2013, Bishopscourt was put on the market for $25 million.
The property made headlines when it finally sold in 2015 for $18 million. But it wasn’t the price tag that caught people’s attention. It was the buyer.
The media made much of the fact that while Bishopscourt was purchased by billionaire Wang Qinghui, he swiftly transferred the estate into his son’s name. He was just 17 years old at the time.
So the gentleman’s residence became the ultimate bachelor pad.
Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Contact me today.