I find it fascinating that the old and the new sit side by side in harmony in Darling Point.

And although there have been many changes in the suburb, St Mark’s Anglican Church has stood the test of time, welcoming a passing parade of parishoners through the years.

The history

Sitting proudly on the corner of Darling Point Road and Greenoaks Avenue, St Mark’s has watched over the neighbourhood for around 170 years.

The church was designed by Edmund Blacket. Born in Surrey, UK, Blacket arrived in Sydney in 1842 and within five years became Diocesan Architect for the Church of England. He designed many prominent buildings in Sydney and surrounds, including St Andrew’s Cathedral, the old Water Police court (now the Justice and Police Museum), and St John’s and St Paul’s Colleges at the University of Sydney.

St Mark’s was built between 1848 and 1860. The locals loved it from the beginning, and during its years of service, this classic Victorian Gothic Revival church has witnessed both the highs and lows of the community.

I wanna kiss the bride

With its gorgeous stained glass, wooden ceiling, amazing organ music and pretty gardens, St Mark’s has long been a popular wedding venue and has attracted its share of famous faces.

In 1922, Gallipoli veteran Allan Spowers married Rosamond Sandys Lumsdaine, niece of ‘Banjo’ Patterson, here. Their wedding photo perfectly captures the style of the era, the men sporting top hats and spats and the bride’s dress featuring a distinctive handkerchief hem and a daring show of lower leg.

Later, renowned political journalist Peter Harvey said “I do” – no doubt in that characteristic deep voice – at St Mark’s in the late 1960s, and baptised both his children here, too.

But it was in the flamboyant 1980s that St Mark’s stepped into the global spotlight. Elton John made international headlines when he married Renate Blaeul here on Valentine’s Day in 1984. Blauel, a sound engineer, had met John when they worked together on his album Too Low for Zero – which just happened to feature the hit I Wanna Kiss the Bride.

Around 3,000 white roses filled the church for the celebrity wedding and guests included tennis enfant terrible John McEnroe, Olivia Newton-John and Barry Humphries. Up to 2,000 fans lined the streets, with one man even breaking his leg in the crush to get a glimpse of the groom.

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In the 1990s St Mark’s hosted another world-famous wedding. This time, the bride travelled from the fictional town of Porpoise Spit to walk the church’s blue-carpeted aisle to the strains of her beloved Abba. Yes, the famous wedding scene of Muriel’s Wedding was filmed right here at St Mark’s.

Sad farewells

St Mark’s maintains its tradition of embracing and supporting the local community when it comes to funerals. In April 2010, Lady Sonia McMahon, wife of former prime minister Sir William McMahon, was farewelled at the church. Mourners included June Dally-Watkins, Malcolm Turnbull, and John Laws and his wife, Caroline.

Almost ten years later, in March 2020, Laws would return to St Mark’s for the funeral of Caroline, his wife of 40 years whom he affectionately referred to as “the princess”. Alan Jones, Paul Keating, Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Russell Crowe attended the service, during which Crowe referred to the Laws’ marriage as “a beautiful love story”.

And as Peter Harvey’s family life began at St Mark’s, so it ended here too. After the death of Harvey – whose resonant sign-off, “Peter Harvey, Canberra” became legendary – his funeral was held here in March 2013, with James Packer and fellow journalist Ray Martin among those paying their respects.

The Church today

Since 2013 St Mark’s has been led by Michael Jensen, who is the son of Peter Jensen, the former Archbishop of Sydney. St Mark’s runs services every Sunday at 8am, 10am and 5:30pm. You can find out more about their services and other events on their website. From a choral communion, to a family service, or contemporary style, everyone is welcome. And if you have your own story to tell about this building’s wonderful history you can contact their historical society.

 

Photo credit: Elton John and Renate Blauel at St. Mark’s Church