Unsold Bishopscourt, Darling Point gets eighth archbishop: He Said/She Said

Unsold Bishopscourt, Darling Point gets eighth archbishop: He Said/She Said
Unsold Bishopscourt, Darling Point gets eighth archbishop: He Said/She Said

Glenn Davies, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney is set to become the church's eighth archbishop to reside in Bishopscourt, the neo-Gothic Darling Point trophy home, after the historic property failed to sell over the past year.

The landmark 6,210 square metre property was listed last September after the church synod voted to seek buyers.

The decision was timed around Archbishop Peter Jensen's retirement.

The synod authorised a five-year window for the sale, so Archbishop Glenn Davies will presumably have Craig Pontey, of Ray White Double Bay, pop in periodically as he seeks to nudge his buyers closer to the $20 million level. 

The sale timetable window lasts until October 2017, but could be extended.

The Anglican Church has owned it since 1910, when its fifth archbishop John Wright moved into the sandstone trophy home. The new Anglican archbishop Glenn Davies, the 12th Anglican archbishop, has been based at his Chatswood home for about 12 years during his time as archbishop of North Sydney.

Our property contrarians Jonathan Chancellor and Margie Blok went head to head on its listing last September after an inspection of the property.

Discussing the merits of Bishopscourt, at 11 Greenoaks Avenue, as one of Sydney's most historic homes, Jonathan Chancellor said it wouldn't work well, and Margie gave a qualified yes, both signalling the difficult sales task ahead.

This week they were both righteously claiming the merits of their prior outlook.


The gothic sandstone home - especially the south-east facing wing - would just be too cold in winter. And the upkeep would be far too expensive - about $100,000 annually to keep the building in good repair.

The vast size of this mansion demands more cheques for a live-in housekeeper as well as several cleaning staff. The 6216 square metre grounds require a full-time gardener, as well as a gofer to do a daily sweep of leaves falling from the fig trees that line the gravel driveway and front garden. By the way overlooked by neighbouring blocks of flats. It would cost a bomb to renovate even if $2 million was spent recently on the chimneys and slate roofing.

It would also cost a motza to maintain the gorgeous leadlight-pane windows, let alone keep them clean - heaven knows how much the Moran family pay for window cleaning at their nearby historic mansion, The Swifts, which was previously owned by reclusive property investor, Carl Spies. I'd follow the approach of Spies who enjoyed a Howard Hughes-like reputation at The Swifts where he kept the front gates locked and the blinds drawn during his six-year ownership until 1992 when St George Bank took over as mortgagee-in-possession.

And let’s be honest, who needs a chapel in the house? So little wonder the market seems to have bought the expectations back a bit, seemingly to below $20 million.

This article continues on the next page.



For starters any Bishopscourt buyer will best revert it to one of its earlier names, either Percyville or Greenoaks. It really does rank among a handful of pioneer homes to have survived from the 1850s to now. Flowered in sandstone Gothic extravagances, its dates back to the pioneer Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, who built an empire on wool, dairy, meat, mining and shipping. A mansion that displays extraordinary self-made wealth.

Of course, as Jonathan maintains mansions are the palaces and cathedrals of mortals desirous of emulating the enduring permanency of the church and state. This one is the Brideshead of Sydney and perfect for a modern-day family of Marchmain-esque wealth and devout religious sensibilities.

One of Sydney’s most palatial and historic mansions, this opulent sandstone residence is truly magnificent, especially the superbly proportioned formal rooms with intricately detailed ceilings - but the piece-de-résistance is the private chapel with its sandstone walls, elegant timber panelling and towering ceiling. An inspired designer, such as Thomas Hamel, could do wonders with the interiors of this palatial home and transform it for 21st centruy living.

Last traded 114 years ago for £6,750, the Bishopscourt estate presents a once in a generation opportunity to purchase a significant holding on Double Bay’s doorstep. The only other heritage eastern suburbs estate sold during recent times is Bellevue Hill’s Rona – it was snapped up for just $20 million in 2006 by property developer Terry Agnew, one’s of the shrewdest real estate players in Australia.

Nothing at Hunters Hill, the suburb famed for 19th century sandstone houses, holds a candle to Bishopscourt – and city commuting is much quicker from Darling Point than Hunters Hill. As far as privately owned historic mansions go, Bishopscourt is without peer in the eastern suburbs – apart from the Moran family’s The Swifts in Darling Point Road with its ballroom bigger than Government House.

I recall The Swifts came with the Tooth family's latin motto (Perseverantia Palman Obtinebit) cut into its façade which translated means "Perseverance yields the prize." And this is the prize that many have prayed for the opportunity to buy. The church contemplated selling it in 1963, 1982, 1991 2001, and most recently in 2010 when defeated in the synod by the narrowest of margins. Given John Schaeffer, a heritage mansion collector who sold Rona to Agnew, now directs his attention to towering harbourside apartments, there's at least one obvious contender out of the running for the Bishopscourt estate.

This heritage estate is unlikely to attract nouveau riche mining types with a penchant for glamour and glitz. I maintain they'd much prefer fake gothic architecture sans heritage authorities telling them what they can and can't do. This one is for property bluebloods …..who won't be rushed into the purchase. The Marchmains always took their time.

He Said/she Said

Community Discussion

Be the first one to comment on this article
What would you like to say about this project?