Bishopscourt - house - Full LEP listing - Description in Further Comments | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Bishopscourt - house - Full LEP listing - Description in Further Comments

Item details

Name of item: Bishopscourt - house - Full LEP listing - Description in Further Comments
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Primary address: 11 Greenoaks Avenue, Darling Point, NSW 2027
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Woollahra
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
11 Greenoaks AvenueDarling PointWoollahraAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The historic core of a large early villa estate comprising an exceptionally fine mansion and grounds of prime historic interest built for Sydney's leading businessman, horticulturist, and pioneer of exporting frozen meat, Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. Mort was the friend and patron of Edmund Blacket, in the late nineteenth century Sydney's leading architect, and Blacket designed what is probably the best Gothic picturesque house in New South Wales. Greenoaks retains the core of a once celebrated landscape garden created by Mort and nurseryman and landscape gardener Michael Guilfoyle from 1849, which in its heyday became the "leading and model private garden of NSW", and set the tone in this fashionable Sydney resort. The grounds use the steep sloping site to provide a wild, romantic setting for the medieval mansion. A wide variety of plants were used to provide botanical and visual interest, some of which remain today. For many years the renamed Bishopscourt has been the home of Sydney's Anglican Archbishops.
Date significance updated: 30 Jan 04
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: Edmund Blacket
Builder/Maker: Mort
Construction years: 1846-1849
Physical description: Developing the site from 1846, Mort built a mansion designed by Edmund Blacket in academic gothic style. Very fine domestic Gothic house built 1850s around an already existing cottage considerably enlarged by Blacket and others. Built of dressed sandstone with steep pitched slate roof, projecting attics, interesting stepped gable topped by two freestanding chimneys. Windows and doors Victorian Tudor design, finely carved. Blacket added porte cochere in form of Gothic chapel in 1860. Grand stair hall with stained glass window. Elaborate ceilings. Fine Gothic fireplaces (RNE) Greenoaks set the tone among the fashionable villas of this choice Sydney resort. Mort employed the newly arrived landscape designer and nurseryman Michael Guilfoyle, and created a celebrated landscape garden from 1849. Guilfoyle used the steep sloping site to provide a wild, romantic setting for the medieval mansion, and a wide variety of plants to provide botanical and visual interest, most likely supplied from his "Exotic Nursery" in Double Bay, which adjoined Greenoaks to the south (Tanner & Begg, 1976, p.31)(Morris, 2002). Mort pursued hybridisation of cacti in Sydney's premier garden. An 1857 engraving of Greenoaks shows the generous expanse of the pleasure garden at one of Sydney's most celebrated villa gardens, and indicates prickly pear bushes (Opuntia spp.) in the foreground, dense shrubberies and trees, and an emergent Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) near the house. Coral trees (Erythrina sp.) on eastern side/bank near house were supposedly planted by one of the Archbishop's sons, c.1950s. A number of specimen trees and shrubs have been planted by Archbishops and their wives over the years, presented as gifts etc.
Modifications and dates: Professor Leslie Wilkinson designed a western two storey wing with garages below in c.1920s.
Further information: Full LEP description - Bishopscourt - house, grounds, fences, gates, 3 Moreton Bay Figs, 2 Norfolk Island Pines, Camphor Laurel, gardens, all on part Lot 1 DP 38275 Coral trees (Erythrina sp.) on eastern side/bank near house were supposedly planted by one of the Archbishop's sons, c.1950s.

History

Historical notes: Originally known by its Aboriginal name Yarranabbee, Darling Point was called Mrs Darling's Point by Governor Ralph Darling (1825-31 Governor) in honour of his wife. At that time the area was heavily timbered, but after New South Head Road was built in 1831 timber cutters felled most of the trees, and the land was subdivided. Most of the plots, covering 9-15 acres in this area, were taken up between 1833 and 1838. The suburb became known as Darling Point. Several notable people bought land and built homes here, including surveyor-general Sir Thomas Mitchell's "Carthona" and one-time home "Lindesay". Around the middle of the 1800s residents included Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1816-1878), pioneer of frozen meat exports, the Reverend George Fairfowl Macarthur, one time rector at St Mark's church, Darling Point, members of the Tooth family, brewers, at "Swifts", and Samuel Hordern, retail king. (Pollen, 1988) T S Mort, businessman and horticulturist, was born at Bolton, Lancashire, England and worked as a clerk, seizing the chance to migrate to Sydney in 1838 to bolster the family fortunes. In 1843 he set up as an auctioneer, becoming an innovator in wool sales. His pastoral interests included Franklyn Vale, in the Darling Downs, Queensland. By the end of the 1840s his fortune was made, but he restlessly pursued other projects, some ill-starred. His wealth facilitated his considerable horticultural ambitions. "Greenoaks" (later "Bishopscourt"), his Darling Point property, set the tone among the fashionable villas of this choice Sydney resort. Mort purchased Percyville, a cottage standing in more than 7 acres (2.8ha) of ground at Darling Point, and immediately began transforming the house (renaming it Greenoaks) and the grounds. Developing the site from 1846, Mort built a mansion designed by Edmund Blacket in academic gothic style. Mort employed the newly arrived landscape designer and nurseryman Michael Guilfoyle, and created a celebrated landscape garden from 1849. Guilfoyle used the steep sloping site to provide a wild, romantic setting for the medieval mansion, and a wide variety of plants to provide botanical and visual interest, most likely supplied from his "Exotic Nursery" in Double Bay, which adjoined Greenoaks to the south (Tanner & Begg, 1976, p.31)(Morris, 2002). Michael Guilfoyle (c1809-1884), nursery proprietor and landscape gardener, received his early training in London and rose to the position of foreman at the Royal Exotic Nursery, King's Road, Chelsea. This nursery, established in 1808 by Joseph Knight (and later owned by the famous Veitch family of nurserymen) specialised in greenhouse and stove plants. Knight had such faith in Guilfoyle's abilities that he sent him to many parts of the Kingdom to lay out or remodel parks and gardens frequently without even inspecting his work. In 1849 Guilfoyle and his family emigrated to Sydney, and established a nursery in Kellick Street, Redfern, which soon failed. He then gained the patronage of T S Mort. The grounds became the "leading and model private garden of NSW", described at length in the "Horticultural Magazine" 1865. Mort was president of the Horticultural Society of NSW, publisher of the magazine, and Guilfoyle was listed in it as one of the 'good and first rate gardeners' formerly employed at Greenoaks. Mort owned land down the hill from Greenoaks, in Double Bay, where he had his vegetable garden, and offices, and Guildfoyle occupied a cottage there (at the corner of South and Ocean Streets). By 1851 he had established a nursery on 3.5 acres (1.4ha) of land belonging to Mort. He developed this site until 1875, still leasing it from Mort. Guilfoyle stocked flowering and evergreen trees and a wide selection of conifers, "probably one of the most complete in the colony" (journal entry by exteemed visiting English nurseryman John Gould Veitch in 1864). His 1862 catalogue listed 2500 different plants. This nursery was described by esteemed English nurseryman John Gould Veitch on a visit in 1864, as "if not the largest, one of the best nurseries in the colony.". Veitch describes in the same 1864 journal entry, Mr Mort's garden of Darling Point as one of "few private gardens in Sydney where gardening is carried on with any spirit. Those of Mr Thomas Mort, of Darling Point, the late Mr William Macleay of Elizabeth Bay and Sir Daniel Cooper of Rose Bay, formerly contained good collections of native and imported plants, but now they are no longer kept up." (Morris, 1994) He overcame the difficulty in propagating jacarandas (J.mimosaefolia) in 1868, enabling the widespread use of this spectacular flowering tree for the first time. He raised new varieties of popular plants such as verbena, camellia, and azalea, and attempted to popularise both in Australia and Britain the plants introduced from the Pacific Islands by Charles Moore of the Sydney Botanic Gardens, and his son William Guilfoyle, on a voyage of 1868. He is known to have sought two cases of Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) from Charles Moore in 1855, (which may have been the source of the specimen depicted in a 1857 engraving of Greenoaks).(Clough, 2002) In 1860 Mort acquired the Bodalla estate on the South Coast of NSW, where his gardener Michael Bell took up farm management, replaced at Greenoaks by George Mortimore. Both gardeners, like Guilfoyle and Mort, were active members of the Horticultural Society of NSW; Mort became its respected president in the 1860s and pursued hybridisation of cacti in Sydney's premier garden. An 1857 engraving of Greenoaks shows the generous expanse of the pleasure garden at one of Sydney's most celebrated villa gardens, and indicates prickly pear bushes (Opuntia spp.) in the foreground, dense shrubberies and trees, and an emergent Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) near the house. (Morris, 2002)

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanWoollahraLEP 199510 Mar 95 281349
Local Environmental PlanWoollahra LEP 201413323 May 15   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenClough, Richard2002Guilfoyle, Michael entry in the Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens
WrittenHerman, Morton1995The Blackets
WrittenMorris, Colleen2002Mort, Thomas Sutcliffe entry in the Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens
WrittenMorris, Colleen1994Through English Eyes, extracts from the journal of John Gould Veitch during a trip to the Australian colonies
WrittenPollen, Frances (ed.)1988The Book of Sydney Suburbs, entry on Darling Point
WrittenTanner, H. & Begg, J.1976The Great Gardens of Australia

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2711164
File number: S90/05335 & HC 32902


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