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John Korff (source: Max Solling Collection)

One of Hereford St’s most important and colourful families in the 19th and early 20th century were the Korffs, who gave Coffs Harbour its name.

John Korff, a qualified shipbuilder and naval architect arrived in Sydney in 1835 and first settled on the Hunter where he built a cutter called the Rovers Bride and another the Victoria. When he was sufficiently established his wife and three children came over in 1840 ‒ Mary (neé Gordon) allegedly with a 1,000 guineas strapped around her waist. With this he escaped bankruptcy in the downturn of the early 1840s. He and his sons went on to build a schooner called the Sisters in 1842 and a ketch called the Brothers that traded between Newcastle and Sydney, and several other ships. He soon had a dry dock in Glebe and built Orchard House and another house called Orchard Cottage on Hereford St to live in. His wife, Mary, died there in 1867.

As a marine surveyor and a Lloyds insurance underwriter John Korff made a reasonable living and with his son Frederick, who by December 1869 had moved to Hereford St at no 21 (Lemonville, where a son was born) he established a ferry service to Balmain and had plans for one to Manly.

The Korff property, Orchard Lodge, on Hereford St can be seen in the middle of this 1886 map (source: City of Sydney Historical Atlas)

When he died on 14 December 1870, all the ships on the harbour flew their flags at half-mast. Shortly thereafter Orchard House was described as: ‘hall, 7 rooms, storeroom, wine cellar, study, laundry, dairy, kitchen and about 4 acres, also 3 roomed cottage.’

His grandson, John Conrad Korff, was killed in WWI.

Posted on July 10, 2021 by Sybil Jack

For more information email: heritage@glebesociety.org.au

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