The Mitchell Library Reading Room will be closed to the public on Monday 29 April. To access collections and services on this day, please visit the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room.
Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1816-1878) arrived in Australia in 1838. He rose to prominence in the colony through his many commercial ventures and pastoral enterprises, and became one of Sydney's leading businessmen. By the end of the 1840s his fortune was made.
Mort was behind initiatives such as weekly wool auctions and the refrigeration of food. He was involved in moves for the first railway in New South Wales, and was also one of the founders of the AMP Society. Mort was also the founder of Mort's Dock at Balmain in 1854, which gave Sydney its first major dry dock for repairing ships.
T.S. Mort was generous and public spirited. He was an active and prominent lay member of the Anglican church and the local community. He donated the land for St Mark's Church, Darling Point and commissioned Edmund Blacket to design it. Blacket also designed the renovations and additions to Mort’s own home, Greenoakes (later Bishopscourt).
Following T.S. Mort's death on 9 May 1878, a bronze statue, sculpted by Pierce Connolly, was erected in Macquarie Place, Sydney, as a mark of the esteem and respect in which he was held.
Thomas Sutcliffe’s younger brother Henry Mort arrived in Australia several years after Thomas and worked in Queensland as a pastoral company director. In 1855 he moved his family to Sydney, joining his older brother in the family business, Mort & Co. He was active in politics, and was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1859-60, representing West Moreton. He was also a member of the Legislative Council from 1881-1900. His Sydney home on Darling Point was called Mount Adelaide and was designed by Edmund Blacket.
‘During the visit of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh a special journey was made along New South Head Road to visit Mr Mort's garden, and there the party tasted a rare "date plum" grown only by Mr Guilfoyle’
Illustrated Sydney News, 31 December 1853
Mort family photographs
Thomas Mort's family home, Greenoakes, was very important to him. The Mort family photographic collections contain many images of the house and its grounds.
Thomas Mort purchased the land on Darling Point from Thomas Woolley, a Sydney ironmonger, in 1846. He employed architect F. J. Hilly to transform the original cottage on the site into a gentleman's residence. After returning from a visit to England in 1859, Mort engaged architect Edmund Blacket to make additions and extensions to the house including a large picture gallery which, along with the gardens, were opened to the public. The gallery was used to display items such as works of art and suits of armour which Mort acquired in England.
In 1849, Mort, a keen horticulturalist, employed landscape designer and nurseryman Michael Guilfoyle to create a celebrated garden that was unsurpassed in Sydney. In 1865, Horticulture Magazine described the grounds of Greenoakes as the ‘leading and model private garden in NSW’. The garden was even visited by royalty.
Also included below are photographs of some of Mort's businesses, including Mort's Dock and Wool Store.
Greenoakes (later Bishopscourt), was the home of Thomas Mort, a flamboyantly wealthy man. His sense of extravagant style is evident in the design of Greenoakes. Renowned for its picturesque Gothic Revival style, landscaped gardens and art gallery, Greenoakes was the showpiece not only of Darling Point but of the whole of Sydney.
After buying the Darling Point land in 1846, Mort employed architect F.J. Hilly to convert the original cottage into a grander residence. Then, in 1859, Edmund Blacket was employed to make additions and extensions to the house. Selections from Blacket's plans are shown here.
Since 1911 Greenoakes has been the residence of the Anglican Archbishop and is now called Bishopscourt. It is still regarded as the finest Gothic Revival residence in New South Wales.