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The water fountain, the Bunyip Inn and the main street of Berry

 

 

 

Berry (including Coolangatta Village)
Attractive and fashionable town within easy reach of Sydney
In recent times Berry has become very fashionable and overtly trendy as Sydneysiders, particularly those living in the southern and eastern suburbs, have found its pleasant rolling hills an ideal location for weekend retreats. Over the past decade, from the humble beginnings of the alternative lifestyle cafe, the Berry Bazaar, it has grown to a town of 1570 people awash with gift and craft shops, coffee lounges and antique shops - although, it should be pointed out that the town's famous donut shop (a caravan on the main street) has remained unchanged.

Located 142 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway and 10 m above sea level, Berry, for most of the past century, has been a quiet rural service town meeting the needs of the surrounding farming district. 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. Many of these still stand today giving the town a distinctly 'English' feel.

Once occupied by the Wodi Wodi Aborigines the chief industry of the region, since the timber cutters left in the mid-nineteenth century, has been dairying.

Aside from George Bass, who merely crossed the shoals at the entrance to the Crookhaven in 1797, the first European to officially visit the area was George William Evans. He crossed the Shoalhaven in a bark canoe, climbed Cambewarra Mountain then 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.

From 1818 to 1819 explorers Charles Throsby and Hamilton Hume and surveyor James Meehan also explored the Shoalhaven area, usually in each other's company.

Berry was originally called 'Broughton Creek' but the name was changed by an Act of Parliament in 1890 in honour of the entrepreneurial Scotsman Alexander Berry and his brother David Berry. After studying medicine Alexander became a surgeon's mate for the East India Company. He decided to quit the profession out of antipathy for the whippings he was obliged to attend and sympathy for the profits that lay in commerce. In 1807 he sailed to NSW as supercargo of the City of Edinburgh , though his stay was brief. He sailed east but was forced to abandon the vessel off the Azores and make his way to Lisbon. It was in Cadiz that he met Edward Wollstonecraft, the nephew of writer and proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and the cousin of Mary Godwin who wrote 'Frankenstein' and married poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

In 1819 Berry formed a partnership Edward Wollstonecraft, and returned to Sydney. The two men sought a land grant and, after Berry had investigated the Shoalhaven area, they took up a run there in 1822. To allow boats access to the Shoalhaven River, Berry had Hamilton Hume and a party of convict labourers cut a 209-yard canal between it and the Crookhaven River. Completed in twelve days it was the first canal constructed in Australia.

The initial grant on the south side of the river soon expanded to the north with the agreement of the partners to take charge and expense of one convict for every 100 acres of land, extending the property to more than 40 000 acres by 1863. While Wollstonecraft looked after affairs in Sydney, Berry, who married his partner's sister in 1827, set up his headquarters at the foot of Mount Coolangatta, north of the river.

A self-supporting village began to develop around the homestead. The partners 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, destined to supply their Sydney stores, were transported by means of a ship that they purchased and a sloop which they had built . 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 town of Coolangatta in Queensland is named after one of Berry's schooners which was wrecked there in August, 1846. 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 a million feet of cedar south of Broger's Creek. By the 1840s a water-driven sawmill was in operation, supplied by an earthen water race originating in Broughton Mill Creek.

Many of the employees were Aborigines. An 1838 census of the estate indicates 242 black employees from seven tribes. Indicative of the passing of tribal life is the fact that the last known initiation ceremony on the coast occurred at Mt Coolangatta in 1890.

By the 1850s Berry was leasing out his Shoalhaven property to tenant farmers and it was this which enabled the true development of the area and of the township of Broughton Creek to begin.

A traveller, passing through the district in 1850, wrote of his journey from Kiama to the property of Alexander Berry in the following terms:

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.

This description, apart from the road which has improved immeasurably over the past one hundred and thirty years, is still a fair description of the area.

The first church service was held in the settlement in 1858. A post office was opened in 1861, being connected to the electric telegraph in 1877. By 1868 there were 300 people in the village, which, besides the post office, boasted a tannery, store and school and an inn opposite on the site of the present Berry Hotel. The area was declared a municipality at this time, much against Alexander Berry's wishes.

After Alexander Berry died in 1873 the Coolangatta Estate passed to his brother. David Berry nurtured the development of Broughton Creek, donating land for an agricultural showground and for four churches on the four corners of town: Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Catholic and Anglican. In 1882, a survey was carried out on the western side of Broughton Mill Creek and the first town land was sold the following year. The railway arrived in 1893 and the Berry milk factory, described as the 'largest and most complete in the colony' opened two years later. 1899 saw the establishment of the Berry Experimental Farm where the Illawarra Shorthorn breed of cattle evolved. Electricity arrived in 1927 and the last ship visited its wharf the following year.

David Berry died in 1889 and by 1912 nearly all of the property had been sold off. Fire gutted the old homestead in 1946.Eventually the site was restored and in 1972, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of settlement, it was opened as the Coolangatta Historic Village.

Things to see:   

Historic Buildings in Berry
Today the Berry townscape has a number of significant historical buildings. The National Bank (1889) and the Court House (1891) are both of the Victorian Classical Revival. The latter was designed by colonial architect James Barnet who was involved in the construction of a number of notable NSW public buildings including the General Post Office, Customs House and the Macquarie Lighthouse at South Head.

The former English Scottish & Australian Chartered Bank (1886) at 135 Queen Street is now a local history museum, open 11-2 Saturdays, 11-3 on Sundays and, on school and public holidays, from 11 to 2 every day (02) 4464 1551. The building itself is unusual with an asymmetrical stepped facade and interesting casement windows. It was built of Flemish bonded brickwork and is probably the only survivor of about six country banks that William Wardell (1823-1899) designed. Wardell designed the E S & A Bank head office in Melbourne, 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 post office next door is also of historic interest, being built on land sold for this purpose by David Berry, who was present at the opening in 1886.

 

Post and Telegraph Office (now a coffee house) with the Bunyip Inn Guest House in the background

 

 

 

The post office, National Bank and museum are all located on or nearby the intersection of Queen St and Prince Alfred St as you enter the central part of the town from the north. To find the court house continue along Queen St for two blocks turning left into Albany St and take the second right into Victoria. It is on the left before the next intersection.

Berry has many more buildings dating from the nineteenth century, too numerable to mention, but they are listed in great detail in a booklet, Historic Sites of Berry by Mary L. Lidbetter, which is available from the Berry Museum.

 

Other attractions in Berry
There are a number of cafes and the main street offers window shoppers a range of craft and antique shops. Crafts are also among the many things on offer at the sizeable Berry markets, held on the first Sunday of each month at the showground. The Agricultural Show is held each February. Those interested in boating will find a concrete boat ramp into Broughton Creek off Wharf Road.

 

Coolangatta Historic Village
The Estate is located at 1335 Bolong Road which runs between Coolangatta and Bomaderry. Many of the original buildings from the 'Coolangatta' estate remain, including the homestead with maid's quarters and laundry

 

The Convict cottage, Coolangatta Historic Village Resort near Berry
 

(one wing remains after a fire devastated the original building in 1946), 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, 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. A pottery craft centre is located in the original schoolhouse (established in 1861) and the old library was transported to Shoalhaven Heads where it became St Peter's Church.

 

The Great Hall at Coolangatta Historic Village Resort near Berry
 

Big Foot is a four-wheel drive service which ferries passengers from the village to the summit of Mt Coolangatta on weekends and school holidays and other times by appointment. The views of Shoalhaven River and Seven Mile Beach are impressive. There is also a winery on the Estate, open daily from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm. It is open for lunch, wine tasting and devonshire teas. All enquiries about the village and its services should be directed to 02 4448 7131.

 

Branga Park Blueberries
At 100 Back Forest Rd is Branga Park Blueberries, open daily from 8-6 from December to mid-February, weather permitting (02) 4422 1556.

 

In the Berry Area
Black Ash and Devil's Glen Nature Reserves
The visitor intending to move on to Kangaroo Valley should drive south down the town's main street (Queen Street) and turn into Kangaroo Valley Road just as the Princes Highway veers left towards Nowra. The scenic journey over the mountains is pleasant and often affords views back across the coastal plain to Seven Mile Beach.

About 9 km west along the road, on the slopes of the Cambewarra Range are the Black Ash and Devil's Glen Nature Reserves, both areas in good condition. A must is to stop at the Cambewarra Lookout (678 m) and enjoy the view across Nowra and the Shoalhaven Valley. This is one of the most spectacular panoramas along the South Coast escarpment. To access the spot turn south before entering Kangaroo Valley and head towards Beaumont.

 

Vineyards
There are two vineyards in the area. Jasper Valley Winery on Croziers Road - head south out of town along the highway until you see the red, white and black signpost on a barrel at the crest of the first hill. The excellent Silos Winery and Restaurant lies 8 km south of Berry on the Princes Highway.

 

Wild Country Park
Wild Country Park is located at Foxground, 11 km north from Berry. It has an interesting collection of Australian wildlife and it is possible to pat the kangaroos, photograph emus and wombats. In wet weather beware of the leeches.

 

Coomonderry Swam
Coomonderry Swamp, with its rich variety of bird life, is situated off the Coolangatta Road just before Shoalhaven Heads.

 

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Phone: 1300 136 559

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