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Berry, NSW

Fashionable hinterland South Coast town which promotes itself as the "town of trees".

In recent times Berry has become a fashionable weekend and "tree change" escape for Sydneysiders, particularly those living in the southern and eastern suburbs, who have found the surrounding green, rolling hills an ideal location for quiet holidays away from the city bustle. From the humble beginnings of the alternative lifestyle cafe, the Berry Bazaar, which was the heartbeat of the town in the early 1980s, it has grown to become a town where the local economy is driven by gift and craft shops, coffee lounges and antique shops and, amusingly, a famous donut shop and a chic sourdough bakery. The local Chamber of Commerce named it "The Town of Trees" in 1975 because, towards the end of the last century, the local settlers planted extensive stands of English oaks, elms and beech trees.


Berry, which is only 10 m above sea level, is located 144 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway. 


Origin of Name

The name of Berry was formally changed by an Act of Parliament in 1890. Originally known as Broughton Creek it was changed to Berry to honour Alexander Berry who had established the nearby Coolangatta Estate in the 1820s.


Things to See and Do

The Town's Namesake - Alexander Berry
The town takes its name from the Scottish entrepreneurial family of Alexander Berry and his brother David Berry. After studying medicine at the Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Alexander became a surgeon's mate for the East India Company. He decided to quit the profession because he disliked the whippings he was obliged to attend. In 1807 he sailed to New South Wales as supercargo on the City of Edinburgh. He sailed east but was forced to abandon the vessel off the Azores and make his way to Lisbon. In Cadiz he met Edward Wollstonecraft, the cousin of Mary Godwin who wrote 'Frankenstein' and married poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. He married Wollstonecraft's sister, Elizabeth and returned to Sydney in 1819.
Berry and Wollstonecraft formed a partnership. The two men visited the Shoalhaven in 1822 area and took up a run there. To allow boats access to the Shoalhaven River, Berry had a party of convict labourers cut a 209 yard canal between an arm of the Crook Haven River and the Shoalhaven. It was completed in twelve days and is now recognised as the first canal constructed in Australia. In February, 1822 Berry and Wollstonecraft applied for a grant of 10,000 acres on the proviso that they employ and feed one convict for every 100 acres. This meant they would have to provide for 100 convicts. By 1840 the estate, known as Coolangatta, had grown to 32,000 acres and by 1863 it was 40,000 acres. The property was a huge success with cedar being the most lucrative product to be shipped to Sydney but also "maize, tobacco, wheat, barley and potatoes were planted and marketed in Sydney; pigs were also reared and cattle were brought to the Shoalhaven from the Illawarra over a road made for the purpose. Besides buying a ship to provide transport between Sydney and Shoalhaven the partners built a sloop (registered in 1824, the first of several vessels built at Shoalhaven) and began to drain the extensive swamps included in their grants." By 1846 Berry had lost interest in Coolangatta and by the 1850s he was letting some of his land to tenant farmers. He retreated to Sydney letting his brother, David, take over the running of the estate.

Berry's Historic Buildings
Berry has a rich historic heritage with a large number of impressive 19th century buildings both in the main street and around the town. There is a very detailed and downloadable brochure - Berry: Town of Trees - A Guide for Walking - available at http://berry.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Berry-Heritage-Walk-May-2012.pdf. The notable buildings in town include:
The Berry Post and Telegraph Office - located at 137 Prince Alfred Street (on the corner with Queen Street). It was designed by the Colonial Architect, James Barnet, and built by a local builder, W.A. Isley. The land was sold by David Berry who attended the official opening in 1886. It ceased to operate as a Post Office in 1991.
E. S. & A. Bank - located at 135 Queen Street this former English Scottish & Australian Chartered Bank (1884) is now a local history museum which is open 11.00 am - 3.00 pm on Sundays and on school and public holidays from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm every day, tel: (02) 4464 3097. Check out http://www.berryhistory.org.au for details. The building has an asymmetrical stepped facade and distinctive casement windows. It was built of Flemish bonded bricks and is probably the only survivor of about six country banks that William Wardell (1823-1899) designed. Wardell also designed St Marys Cathedral in Sydney and the E S & A Bank head office in Melbourne which, at the time, was acclaimed as "the most distinguished building of the whole Australian Gothic-Revival Era". The Berry bank is a fine example of one of Wardell's more modest projects. It was designed at a time when he was expressing "his newly discovered love for Italianate, Palladian and Venetian architecture". The bank merged with the ANZ Bank and ceased operating in Berry in 1972.
Timber Shop - located at 131 Queen Street and built in 1873 this small timber shop is typical of the kinds of commercial buildings of the era. Over the years it has had a variety of uses including bootmaker, barber, furniture store, general story, Red Cross Tea Rooms and hairdresser.
Wilson & Co Store - located on the corner of Queen and Alexandra Streets, this handsome building was originally built as a general store for James Wilson. The building has confusing dates on its facade. The 1857 is the date Wilson arrived in Australia and the 1892 is the date he moved into the building.
Commercial Banking Company of Sydney - located on the corner of Queen and Prince Alfred Street, and now known as the Berry Inn (formerly known as the Bunyip Inn), this  building was designed and built by George Mansfield (he was the architect responsible for Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney) in 1889 for the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited. The two storey construction was built with the manager’s residence occupying the second storey and the banking chambers below. In 1988 the National Australia Bank moved to new premises and the original building, classified by the National Trust, was opened in January, 1989, as a Guest House. Internally, local Australian cedar timbers, along with marble fire places and high ceilings, are still a feature of the building, together with the wrought iron railings on the verandas.
The Drinking Fountain - located on the corner of Queen and Prince Alfred Street over the road from the Berry Inn is an ornate drinking fountain, a memorial to James Wilson, the first Mayor of Berry.
Court House - located on the corner of Albany and Victoria Streets, the Victorian Classical Revival building was designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet who was involved in the design of the General Post Office and Customs House in Sydney and the Macquarie Lighthouse at South Head. It operated as the local courthouse until 1988.
St Luke's Church of England - located in Princess Street this brick church was consecrated in 1885. It is the only one of the four original churches still in use as a church. Above the new enlarged porch is a bell inscribed with the date 1845 which was given to St Lukes by St. James Church in Sydney in 1877.


Other Attractions in the Area

Coolangatta Historic Village
Coolangatta Historic Village is located at 1335 Bolong Road between Gerroa and Bomaderry. Many of the original buildings dating from the 1820s-1840s remain - including the homestead with maid's quarters and laundry, a large mid-Victorian cottage, the stables and coachman's quarters (c.1823), the tinsmith's shop, two coach houses (one c.1832), a billiards room, the blacksmith's shop, a convict cottage (c.1840) and estate office, the community hall (c.1840), the stables, the coachman's quarters, the cemetery and a monument to David Berry.
Alexander Berry set up his headquarters at the foot of Mount Coolangatta in the 1820s and a self-supporting village began to develop around the homestead. He used a combination of convict and free labour to drain the swamps, grow tobacco, potatoes, maize, barley and wheat and rear pigs and cattle, the latter kept for their hides and the production of milk and cheese. These items were transported to Sydney by a ship he purchased and a sloop which had had built on the river. A tannery was erected, the piles of which can be seen on the banks of the creek opposite the David Berry Hospital on Beach Road. Mills and workshops were established with tradesmen engaged in cask-making, building prefabrication, experimental leather treatment, the production of condensed milk and gelatine, and shipbuilding; the first vessel being completed and launched as early as 1824. The estate also bred thoroughbred horses which were exported to India. However, it was the cedar in the area, much of it exported to Europe, that was the most profitable resource. In 1828 Berry's men crossed Kangaroo Mountain to find cedar south of Broger's Creek in Kangaroo Valley. By the 1840s a water-driven sawmill was in operation, supplied by an earthen water race originating in Broughton Mill Creek.
A traveller, passing through the district in 1850, wrote of his journey from Kiama to the property of Alexander Berry:  "Leaving Kiama, we journeyed onwards due south, intending, if possible, to reach Coolangatta, the residence of Mr Berry, distant sixteen miles, before night. The road was very bad, and cut up by the heavy rain, which still fell; on the left is the sea, and on your right the country is hilly. It is pleasing to pass the number of small farms you see on either side of the road; the possessors of them appear independent men, made so by being industrious, and expending their labour upon fertile soil. Many of them had horses and cattle, besides their farm-steadings; and those who had been any length of time on the land possessed all that was useful and comfortable in conducting the operations of a dairy-farm."
Coolangatta Estate now includes an excellent winery which is open daily from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm. It is open for lunch, wine tasting and devonshire teas. Tel: (02) 4448 7131 or check out http://coolangattaestate.com.au.

Cambewarra Mountain
The road from Berry to Kangaroo Valley can pass via Cambewarra Mountain which has one of the best lookouts over the Shoalhaven and South Coast. The view includes Coolangatta Mountain to the north and, on a clear day, can include Pigeon House Mountain near Ulladulla to the south. The lookout is open daily from 10 until dusk. There is a coffee shop and the Cambewarra Range Nature Reserve offers excellent bushwalking. For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/cambewarra-range-nature-reserve. The area is ideal for birdwatching.



* Prior to the arrival of European settlers the area had been occupied by members of the Wodi Wodi Aboriginal community for tens of thousands of years.

* The first European to visit the area was the explorer, George William Evans, who crossed the Shoalhaven River in a bark canoe, climbed Cambewarra Mountain and descended to Broughton Creek on a trek from Jervis Bay to Appin in 1812. In his journal he recorded his impression of the area: "These valleys lead into a small river [Broughton Creek] which takes a north course from the main river of Shoals Haven and runs through .. a most beautiful meadow and loses itself in different branches which are the runs from the mountains and contain such fine cedar: it is my opinion that if the small river is navigable this part of the country would make a beautiful settlement."

* In 1818-19 explorers Charles Throsby and Hamilton Hume and surveyor James Meehan reached the Shoalhaven district. They were looking for suitable grazing land.

* By 1822 Alexander Berry and Edward Wollstonecraft had established Coolangatta and the town at Berry, known as Broughton Creek, was developing as a settlement for timber workers. It was located at a point where the creek could be easily crossed.

* To gain access from the ocean to the Shoalhaven River Berry employed Hamilton Hume and a party of convict labourers to cut a 209 yard canal between the Shoalhaven and the Crookhaven River. It was completed in twelve days and was the first canal constructed in Australia.

* By 1863 Alexander Berry's Coolangatta property covered more than 40,000 acres with the headquarters at the foot of Mount Coolangatta.

* Berry started shipbuilding on the Crookhaven River and the first vessel was completed and launched by 1824.

* In 1828 Berry's men crossed Kangaroo Mountain and began to exploit the cedar south of Broger's Creek in Kangaroo Valley.

* By the 1840s a water-driven sawmill was in operation, supplied by an earthen water race which originating in Broughton Mill Creek.

* By the 1850s Alexander Berry was leasing out his Shoalhaven property to tenant farmers. This enabled the development Broughton Creek as a service centre.

* The first church service was held in the settlement in 1858.

* A post office was opened in 1861.

* By 1868 there were 300 people in the village, which, besides the post office, boasted a tannery, store and school and an inn on the site of the present Berry Hotel. The area was declared a municipality at this time.

* After Alexander Berry died in 1873 the Coolangatta Estate passed to his brother, David Berry, who bequeathed most of the estate to Broughton Creek including 16 acres for parks and two acres each for four churches on the four corners of town: Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Catholic and Anglican.

* The town was connected to the electric telegraph in 1877.

* In 1882 the land on the western side of Broughton Mill Creek was surveyed and the first town blocks were sold in 1883.

* David Berry died in 1889 and by 1912 nearly all of the Coolangatta property had been sold off.

* The last known Wodi Wodi initiation ceremony occurred at Mount Coolangatta in 1890.

* The railway reached the town in 1893.

*  In 1895, the Berry milk factory, described as the "largest and most complete in the colony" opened.

* In 1899 the Berry Experimental Farm was created. It was here that the Illawarra Shorthorn breed of cattle was developed.

* In 1912 a new subdivision was drawn up and most of the town was sold off by the trustees to the Berry estate.

* Electricity reached the town in 1927.

* In 1928 the last ship visited the wharf at Coolangatta.

* Fire gutted the old homestead at Coolangatta  in 1946.

* In 1972, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of settlement, the original township of Coolangatta was opened as the Coolangatta Historic Village.

* In 2017 the town was bypassed making the main street and shopping area more popular and quieter.


Visitor Information

Berry does not have its own Visitor Centre. The closest is the Shoalhaven Visitor Information Centre, Princes Highway, Nowra, tel: 1300 662 808.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website with information about the attractions in the district as well as accommodation and eating. Check out http://berry.org.au.

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  • David Berry left 100,000 pounds to build and run the hospital, which ended up being taken over by the NSW Health Services. My dad was born there in 1907.

    Maureen Curran nee Robertson