Thomas Sutcliffe Mort – largest 19th century benefactor to help found the College

Thomas Sutcliffe Mort – largest 19th century benefactor to help found the College

2 years ago

A photographic portrait of the 19thcentury benefactor and one of the early Fellows of the College, Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, now hangs proudly in the Senior Common Room – thanks to the recent generous donation of the picture by David and Clarissa Mort.

In the mid-1850s subscription to fund the creation of St Paul’s College, the largest single donation was one of 500 guineas, from Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1816-78) and his first wife, Theresa Shepheard Mort (nee Laidley) (1820-69). Thomas Sutcliffe Mort later served as a Fellow of the College from 1862 to 1866.

Thomas Sutcliffe Mort has been described by College historian Alan Atkinson as an “ingenious entrepreneur” who, as one of the most prominent Anglican lay people in Sydney in his time, also believed in “the sublime social purposes of the Church”. 

As well as supporting the creation of St Paul’s, his philanthropy included funding Church work among the poor, and missionary activity in Melanesia (his daughter Annie Mort was married to the third Bishop of Melanesia). 

As well as many other business enterprises – including wool broking, pastoralism and pastoral finance, engineering, early refrigerated shipping and much more – Mort was a co-founder of the Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP), “to nourish collective prudence among the poor”.

Mort gave the land for St Mark’s Church, Darling Point, and commissioned Edmund Thomas Blacket – the architect also of the College’s first buildings, whose name is memorialised at St Paul’s – to design St Mark’s, and helped to fund its construction. He also helped to fund the building of an Anglican cathedral for Sydney, St Andrew’s Cathedral.

The College is very grateful to David and Clarissa Mort for their kind gift of the photographic portrait of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. It is fitting that a portrait of the largest single early donor to support the founding of the College, and one of its early Fellows, should hang prominently at St Paul’s.

The Mort connection with St Paul’s happily continues today. Luke Mort is a second year student of the College, and his parents Richard and Kathy are active in support of the College. 

The Australian Dictionary of Biography entry on Thomas Sutcliffe Mort is here.

Pictured above: Portrait of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort hanging in the Senior Common Room
Pictured below: Photograph of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and Theresa Shepheard Mort