Kurkulla was built in the early 1880s for Mrs Lucy Berthon, a widow with a large family including five unmarried daughters. Lucy Berthon’s husband Edward Berthon (1812-1871) came from a family of East India merchants. The name Kurkulla, which was also given to the Berthon property in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville, derived from this Indian association. After the death of her husband Mrs Berthon established a boarding and day school at Kurkulla, Marrickville, assisted by her daughters. They planned to open a school for young ladies at Kurkulla, Bowral, but instead the family moved to Nowra in 1891 and Kurkulla became a boys’ school.
In 1909 Kurkulla was purchased by a Sydney merchant named William Robert Evans for his sister Ada Emily Evans (1872-1947) who in 1902 had become Australia’s first female law graduate but was then refused admission to the NSW Bar on account of her gender. Instead she and her brother developed Kurkulla into a self-supporting farm for herself and her widowed sister Florence Kyngdon and Florence’s children.
In 1921 Ada Evans did eventually become the first woman to be admitted to the NSW Bar but she did not practice. When she died in 1947 Kurkulla went to her niece Ida Joan Kyngdon (1907-1997) who redecorated the house in the 1950s and took in lodgers to make ends meet. Kurkulla remained Joan’s home until 1996. The Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection acquired a large collection of soft furnishings from Kurkulla at that time.