Would you like to support local journalism?

(with some quirky flair)

Regular News FEEDINGS via social + online. by locals for locals

HomeNewsAmen to that: hoardings finally down at Corso church site, revealing a...

Amen to that: hoardings finally down at Corso church site, revealing a 180 seat theatre open for hire

The hoardings are finally down outside St Matts church and complex on Manly Corso after almost three years of stop-start construction, revealing a near $16 million redevelopment. 

St Matthews Anglican Church hosted an official opening in early March, showcasing the remarkable new Darley Smith Building to guests.

St Matthew’s Business Manager Christina Franze with Music Minister David Nduwimana in the new 180 seat auditorium which will be available for public hire.

While the shop fronts are being gradually filled (Chemist Warehouse in one [to mixed reviews], and Anita Gelato in another), behind the faćades sits the unassumingly large new complex.  And, while its primary function serves the connected church, its caretakers were keen to reiterate that this was a space for the community to use, albeit generally at a cost.

The redeveloped shop fronts, which have been owned by the church since the 1920s, are gradually tenanted.

In addition to very large streamlined meeting and conference rooms, the Darley Smith Building contains a 180 seat auditorium, complete with stage, moveable stands and all the lights and screens you’d need for a show, a public talk, or dance. With few other indoor options, this could be a good venue for public forums.  In fact Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham was the first to make a booking; she will hold a public talk on the future of Cabbage Tree Bay this Thursday.

St Matthews Rector, Senior Minister Bruce Clarke said it was an immense relief to have the construction work finally behind them.

“I’m sure I have a lot more grey hair than I used to, and some people have even lost theirs!”  “We have not been able to have families with kids on site for 12 months…

“So why did we go on this long and difficult journey which sadly saw one builder go broke?”

“This will be a place where people can meet, gather and learn, and a place where the community can come and enjoy the facilities and blessings we have here.”

“I’ve had quite a few emails from people in the community expressing their desire to have the front hoarding come down, well yesterday it came down. Thank you for your patience.”

Rector Bruce Clarke

The Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, said he hadn’t much to do with the project aside from expertly knocking down a brick when it started almost three years ago, but he was impressed with the result. “Despite the travails over the last two and a half years what we have completed today is a marvellous multipurpose facility for the community, including this auditorium, I don’t think there is anything like it in Manly,” he said.

St Matthew’s Business Manager Christina Franze said pricing was still being worked out for venue hire, but some early bookings were being worked out.

The former childcare centre on the site (further around the corner) is no longer fit foruse due to an Ausgrid substation, so it’s understood a dentist will be leasing the space.

Further inside the courtyard there is a new playground which is accessible to the public.

It is hoped local favourites like Minikin and Babykin will resume soon.

Builders put the finishing touches on the last aspect of the Darley Smith Building project, laying soft fall around a new children’s playground. (Unfortunately some half-wit newspaper editor (yes, me), stepped in it and it needed to be redone!)

The project was plagued with problems, with the original builders going broke during the build and delaying the works significantly. Church Warden and project Manager Tim Evans said he was thankful a new builder picked up the project, which was budgeted at $12 million but came in at $15.6 million.

The Darley Smith building was named after those who gifted the original church land,  so-called Father of Manly Henry Gilbert Smith, as well as Katherine Darley (nee Wentworth)and family.

At the conclusion of the Darley Smith opening, St Matt’s music minister David Nduwimana, who fled the politically unstable African country of Burundi and sought refuge in Australia about eight years ago, performed beautifully for the audience.


This is a friendly reminder that Manly Observer has been created on the rather terrifyingly risky “Karmic model”, that is, we have built something to intelligently inform (and at times entertain) the community as priority number one, with the intention of working out a sustainable financial model second. We feel hyperlocal news shouldn’t be behind a paywall nor require broader subscription to a state masthead. We think we might be able to do better than this, but it’s an experiment.  While we work to secure sponsors and advertisers, we welcome any community support via the “Buy Me A Coffee” widget on our home page or visit here.   Thank you for supporting free, independent, hyperlocal news! If you would like to become a sponsor or advertiser, email editor@manlyobserver.com.au


Support quality local news

Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

Kim Smee, Editor

Become a supporter