The Corpe family of Fan Court
A historical look at Port Noarlunga estate Fan Court and the people who established it.
The large bungalow with the white masonry perimeter wall overlooking the Esplanade at Port Noarlunga is a familiar sight to many beachgoers. The prominent seaside residence—known as Fan Court—is historically significant to the area because of its representation of the peak period of Port Noarlunga’s development as a holiday destination1.
Fan Court was built circa 1935 for businessman Hugh Corpe and his wife Frieda. In 1917, Frieda purchased a portion of land on Clarke Street. Hugh and his mother Thomasina bought the remaining land on the street two years later.
The house was designed by architect John Glover, who went on to serve as Lord Mayor of Adelaide from 1960 to 1963. It is constructed of brick with rough caster render. The original terracotta-tile roof comprised a mix of raised roof forms and gables with a broken back roof over the verandah, extending to most of three sides. A large garage sits at the rear of the property along with an enclosed courtyard.
The naming of Fan Court
The house has its naming origins with Hugh’s mother Thomasina (nee Hughes Robertson), niece of Sir Walter Watson Hughes. A bronze statue of Hughes was erected in 1906 in front of the Mitchell Building of the University of Adelaide on North Terrace in the city.
Born in Scotland in 1803, Hughes worked as a mariner before becoming a sheep farmer on the Yorke Peninsula in the mid-1840s. After finding traces of copper on his land, Hughes developed relationships with influential people to take advantage of legal loopholes and gain funding from wealthy partners to obtain part-ownership of the Moonta Mines. Hughes amassed a fortune, some of which he endowed to professorships in classics and philosophy at the proposed University of Adelaide. His contribution inspired sizeable donations from other Adelaide dignitaries, earning him recognition as the ‘Father’ of the university.
In the mid-1860s Hughes returned to England. Upon his retirement in 1873, Hughes took up residence at Fan Court, in Surrey. He died in 18872.
About Hugh and Frieda Corpe
Businessman Hugh Robertson Corpe (born in Moonta in 1878) married Minna Nelly Frieda Koops (Frieda) in 1911.
The couple and their three daughters, Jean Louise, Margaret Frieda and Thomasina Christina, maintained their home at 3 Briar Avenue, Medindie. Initially Fan Court was the family’s holiday house but it became the main residence after Hugh’s death in 1938.
Hugh was renowned for his philanthropic work, like his parents James and Thomasina before him. He was a generous benefactor to the Port Noarlunga Surf Life Saving Club, organised Christmas parties for the local children in Fan Court’s grounds and garages, and often donated prizes to sporting competitions. His wider-reaching charitable causes included raising funds for wireless radio for the patients of the Bedford Park Sanatorium which housed tuberculosis patients and World War 1 soldiers.
Frieda was equally well-known for her charitable and community work, giving significant labour and monetary contributions to many causes in the Port Noarlunga area. She continued to support the town after Hugh’s death, including starting Port Noarlunga’s first kindergarten in a shed at Fan Court. Frieda later donated land on Benny Avenue to enable the building of a new kindergarten. The Frieda Corpe Community Kindergarten was officially opened in 1957 and continues to operate.
Frieda was patron of the Port Noarlunga Surf Life Saving Club, the local Girl Guides Group, and the local croquet club. She sold Fan Court in 1966, and died in 1979. The current owner has been in residence since 1971.
1 Noarlunga Local Heritage Register (2003). City of Onkaparinga. pp.193-195.
2 Sumerling, P. (2001). Sir Walter Watson Hughes. SA History Hub. History Trust of South Australia. https://sahistoryhub.history.sa.gov.au/people/sir-walter-watson-hughes. Accessed 21 February 2021.