by Lyn Collingwood, August 2021, from Bulletin 6/2021

Always known as Kate, Catherine Korff was one of eight daughters of Frederick James Robert Korff and a granddaughter of John Korff whose story was told in the July Bulletin (5/2021). The last unmarried sister to die, Kate’s passing marked the end of her family’s 80-years’ residency on Hereford St. In 1940 two brick semi-detached houses replaced the old home. They remain standing, as numbers 19 and 19A.

The site of the Korffs’ property today (Image: Lyn Collingwood)
The site of the Korffs’ property today (Image: Lyn Collingwood)

John Korff’s Orchard Lodge, a prefabricated iron building, and Orchard Cottage were set in more than three acres of garden with plenty of space for fruit trees and grazing cows. Part of solicitor Henry Burton Bradley’s grant of more than five acres, with subdivision the Korff holding shrank to about an acre.

Location of Korff’s Orchard Lodge on a 1886 map (source: City of Sydney Atlas)
1889 Water Board plan of Hereford St, showing the Korff property stretching as far as Hereford Lane (now Wigram Lane). (Image: Leichhardt Library Archives)

Kate’s parents Frederick and Janet Mary Clark (a sea captain’s daughter born at Orchard House, Blackwall, London) were married in the Garrison Church, Millers Point, on 5 March 1853. Frederick was then in a business partnership with his brother Gordon, as Church Hill ship and commission agents F and G Korff. He lived on Lower Fort St.

Born in Woolloomooloo, Annie Gordon died as a six-year-old at her grandparents’ home Orchard Lodge in 1860. Second daughter Mary Emily was born on 13 February 1856 in Glebe, perhaps at St Germains on Glebe Rd, the address listed in the 1858 Sands Directory for Frederick and his father. The birth of Janet Elizabeth at Glebe in 1858 was followed by that of Yda Alice on 20 November 1859 at Spring St in the city. Catherine Anna was born at Millers Point on 22 January 1862.

Frederick Korff bought a residence in Ashfield where Minnie Gordon was born on 17 March 1864. Some months later the house was let and the family sailed to England. Seventh child Edith Anne was born in London in October 1865 but died the next July, followed by Janet’s mother, Ann Clark, five days later. Accompanied by a servant, the Korffs returned to Sydney on the Lord Raglan in January 1867. Four months later, Elizabeth Cleveland (nicknamed ‘Bessie’) was born at Newtown. The family had moved to Hereford St by the time of the arrival of Frederick and Janet’s only son on 2 December 1869. Frederick John William lived for only 18 days.

A year later the family patriarch died and Frederick and his family moved into Orchard Lodge. Minnie attended Fort St School where she was a prize winner. Bessie died on 8 December 1887 and was buried in Camperdown Cemetery. This was the resting place of her father ten years later and in 1908 of her 80-year-old mother, described by the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘one of our oldest colonists [who] resided almost continuously in one of the old historic houses now left standing at Glebe Point’. Janet Korff was survived by two married and three single daughters.

Mary Emily, who wed George Frederick Jones in 1879, was a widow living at Sandhurst, 53 Toxteth Rd, at the time of her death in July 1934. She was buried in the Church of England section at Rookwood. Following their 1884 marriage, Yda and Hector Allan Mackenzie lived at Stanmore before settling at 25 Hereford St where Yda died in May 1941. She was buried with her husband at South Head Cemetery.

The single women remained at Hereford St with their pet fox terrier. In straitened circumstances postwar, they let out rooms. Kate was closest to her sister Minnie. Socially they were known as ‘the Misses K and M Korff’, and they formed a company ‘K and M Korff’ to continue a side business of their father: making, hiring and repairing flags. (Frederick, who also sold fireworks, first made flags to be flown from ships but diversified. He was commissioned in 1870 to decorate the exterior of the Intercolonial Exhibition Building in Prince Alfred Park.)

Minnie’s death at home on 21 March 1923 was followed by that of Janet on 21 November 1927. Kate survived until 22 June 1938. The three sisters were buried at South Head Cemetery. The Korff link with Glebe was broken, like its link with the North Coast anchorage where John Korff and his sons had taken shelter nearly a century earlier. ‘The least that can be done is to spell the name properly’ Gordon grumbled after a transcription error gazetted Coffs Harbour as the site for a new village.

Plans submitted to Council for the semis (source: City of Sydney Archives)

Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography (John Korff entry); City of Sydney Archives; NSW Archives & State Records; NSW registry of births, deaths, marriages; Sands Directories; Trove website