Bishopscourt, Darling Point for sale with probable $25 million plus hopes

The Ray White Double Bay agency has been appointed to sell Bishopscourt, the Anglican Church's redundant Darling Point trophy home.

Bishopscourt, at 11 Greenoaks Avenue, is one of Sydney's most historic mansions.

"The sale of the iconic 1840s Darling Point property is expected to attract enormous local and international attention particularly given the strength of top end Sydney Eastern Suburbs residential property that has been setting new records over 2013," Ray White Double Bay agent Craig Pontey says.

"Not since the sale of Swifts, also in Darling Point, has a similar property been brought to market."

Ray White Double Bay will promote the Bishopscourt sale via its international network covering South East Asia, Indonesia, China, India, Abu Dhabi, Seoul, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

"It is in an extremely attractive location and when you combine this with the character of the building and the beautiful gardens, this is a unique offering," the group chairman, Brian White said.

"When fully restored, Bishopscourt would undoubtedly sit with only a handful of similar properties any where in Australia."

The very high-end residential market remained strong demonstrated by the sale of Altona for $54 million earlier this year, Mr Pontey said. 

Expressions of interest close October 31.

Last October Property Observer reported Bishopscourt, and the home of the recently retired Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen – was to be sold after a vote in favour of the sale at the 2012 synod.

The decision marked a reversal from when the proposal went before the 2010 synod.

Its sale was approved with a reported 452 votes out of 579 with the motion allowing a "sale window" of five years. The motion was moved by the diocesan registrar Dr Philip Selden and seconded by the Rector of Toongabbie, Raj Gupta.

Among their arguments was that it produced no income but cost at least $100,000 annually to keep in good repair.

The picturesque 1850s Darling Point mansion has been with the church since it paid £6,750 in 1910. It's been home to seven archbishops, including Sir Marcus Loane, Donald Robinson, Harry Goodhew and its present occupant, the 11th archbishop of Sydney.

In the past the church has baulked at selling Bishopscourt, having contemplated it in 1963, 1982, 1991 2001, and most recently in 2010 when defeated by the narrowest of margins.

"The passing of time has allowed more work, research, prayer and thinking and the result is an in principle proposal to authorise the sale Bishopscourt when market circumstances permit," one church official suggested.

Eastern suburbs estate agents gave it a probable $25 million sale price last October, which reflects the 2010 estimates. Ray White won't give any current price guide.

The decision falls against the backdrop of the synod's continued reduced financial capacity after stock losses following the 2008 global financial crisis.

In 2001 the then incoming Jensen let it be known that he was not keen on actually moving into the sprawling Greenoaks Avenue estate as he viewed the home as inappropriately grand for a servant of God and the sale proceeds could be better used.

"It's not really me, this house," he said in an interview with The Australian's Caroline Overington.

"I don't mean to complain. It's just that it's a bit like living in a wedding reception centre. And why does the church need such a residence? Every [financial] report that's ever been done says we should sell it, and I agree."

He wasn't the first to utter such words as in 1993 Bishop Goodhew, when he was Archbishop-elect, stated "I think the time has come for the diocese to build a new residence for the bishop; one which is functional but not opulent".

The support to sell was improved at the latest synod, the Anglican Church's own parliament with clergy and laypeople getting together to vote, because its nearing the end of Jensen's term as Archbishop as under church rules, he must retire before he turns 70 this year.

The Swifts, another Gothic home for archbishops in Darling Point, was sold by Catholic Church in 1986 for $9 million.

Bishopscourt, which could revert to its earlier names of Percyville or Greenoaks, sits among the handful of pioneer homes to have survived from the 1850s.

Flowered in sandstone Gothic extravagances, it was built for the pioneer Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, who built an empire on wool, dairy, meat, mining and shipping.

The residence - mostly obscured by the fig trees on its 6216 square metre holding - was designed by architects John Hilly in the 1850s and Edmund Blacket in the 1860s. It was built around an original three-roomed 1835 cottage built for an ironmonger, Thomas Woolley.

Mort was a great supporter of the church, giving it the nearby land to build St Marks.

The church bought the estate from a land speculator in 1910, 32 years after Mort's death in 1878 and the departure of his family.

Prior to the purchase of Bishopscourt previous Bishops of Sydney had lived in a rented house in Darlinghurst (1837-1852), a rented house in Millers Point (1855-1857), and then a new house built in Randwick (on land exchanged for a site in Newtown) (1858-1911).

The new Anglican archbishop Glenn Davies, who was selected last month, remains based at his Chatswood home which has been his abode for about the 12 years during his time as archbishop of North Sydney.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

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