Darling Point was a small close-knit community, with a small number of families living in the area during the 1850s – 1880s. Many families intermarried and close friendships developed amongst residents. Most were also members of St. Mark's Church, which became a focal point for the community. Church on Sunday was also the day for meeting and gossip about the week's events. Conversations moved from gardens to business and families to politics.
Both Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and Thomas Ware Smart, whose properties bordered St. Mark's, allowed the public to walk through their gardens to church on Sunday, chatting to friends before the service. This public-mindedness also extended to their private art collections which they opened to the public on regular occasions.
"These art treasures were collected not so much for the adornment of a noble mansion, or indeed in any respect for selfish ostentations display, as for the purpose of entertaining and improving the tastes of (their) fellow colonists..." it was reported at the time.
St. Mark's Church, which opened for worship in 1852, was built on land originally given by Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and local parishioners continued to contribute to the church's development. The close-knit congregation comprised various members of Darling Point society including the Nortons of Ecclesbourne, the Mitchells of Carthona, the Bradleys of Lindesay, the Tooths of Brooksby, the Horderns of Retford Hall. St. Mark's has always been a popular and fashionable venue for society weddings, for both Darling Point residents and Sydney's aspiring social set.
St Mark's Church
Church services at Darling Point were first held in a coach house in Mona Road known as the "Chapel of St Marks" within the grounds of Thomas Ware Smart's Mona property. The present St. Mark's church was built on land given by Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. The foundation stone was laid on 4 September 1848 by Bishop Broughton at a grand ceremony in Mort's garden, to which all parties were invited including workmen and families. "The design which has been planned by Mr [Edmund] Blacket is very neat and will have a pleasing effect from the surrounding country and harbour" reported the Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 1848.
After work was completed, St Mark's opened for divine service on 7 November 1852. It was a proud day for Mort and all those Darling Point families who had contributed to its completion. Thomas Mort, Thomas Ware Smart and Thomas Whistler Smith were the first church wardens (known as the "Three Toms"). St. Mark's became a focal point and meeting place for the whole community.
The Darling Point parishioners continued to tirelessly support the church. The bells, donated by Thomas Ware Smart in 1862, were first heard at the grand wedding of his step-daughter Mary Anne Lydia Oliver who, it was said, was attended by twenty bridesmaids. The tower and the steeple, completed in 1875, were a gift of William Bradley, whose Lindesay property was one of the earliest in Darling Point.
St. Mark's has always been a popular and fashionable church for society weddings, for both Darling Point residents and Sydney's aspiring social set. Social photographer Sam Hood captured many socialite weddings during the 1930s. In more recent times, St Mark's has hosted such famous weddings as Elton John's first marriage and the fictional wedding in the film Muriel's Wedding.