Berrima was established in the 1830s during a time of great exploration and expansion in New South Wales. In 1829 Surveyor General Major Thomas Mitchell camped near the site of the present bridge over the Wingecarribee River while surveying the route for the Great South Road. He advised Governor Bourke that here was an ideal town site, and surveyor Robert Hoddle submitted a plan for the village which was approved in 1831.
By 1840 Berrima had a Court House and a Gaol, and it became the administrative centre for the southern districts. A stone arch bridge spanned the Wingecarribee River and traffic on the Great South Road increased as carts, drays and coaches passed through on their way to and from Sydney. The village prospered as it became a convenient stopping point for the passing traffic. Through the 1840s and into the 60s, there were thirteen inns in and around Berrima and the population rose to around 400.
Berrima in 1912 – view shows Post Office, Surveyor General’s Inn, Superintendent’s House and the Gaol.
Settlement and development further south led to the circuit court being transferred to Goulburn in 1848. From that time, only local cases were heard at the Berrima court. During the 1860s, however, hopes for Berrima’s prosperous future were raised by the planned construction of the southern railway. Locals believed that when the line reached Berrima it would become one of the important centres of the colony.
The railway reached Mittagong in 1867, but it then bypassed Berrima. All new settlement occurred along the planned route of the line through Bowral and Moss Vale, then down through the southern villages in the district. One by one, Berrima’s inns closed until only the Surveyor General remained. Over the years the population shrank and by 1914 there were fewer than 80 people living in the village. The gaol had closed in 1909, but it was re-opened in 1914 during World War I. For several years it was used to house mariners and internees, plus a number of prisoners of war from the German raider SMS Emden. After the war it was abandoned until 1948 when it became the Berrima Training Centre, a minimum security correctional centre.
The mid-1900s was a time of massive re-building and development in Sydney and many of the surrounding regions. Fortunately, the ‘improvements’ made to other towns and villages weren’t inflicted on Berrima so that, in the later 1900s, sensitive restoration was able to return many of the buildings and attractions to their former glory.
For the first-time visitor, historic Berrima is best experienced by taking a walk through the village streets followed by a walk along one of the river tracks.
Award Winning Berrima District Museum Est. 1976. Changing displays on local and family history. Open Weekends, Public School Holidays and most Public Holidays
Built 1835, this two-storey house is said to be the first stone house built in Berrima. Bushranger Ben Hall is reputed to have stayed the night on a wooden settee on the verandah in 1864.
At Berrima bridge nursery – this small weatherboard cottage was for a time a private girls school.
Built from sandstock bricks in 1834 for Byran McMahon, an ex-convict overseer for the convict gangs on the great south road, this was the first licensed Inn in Berrima.
Originally trading as the Royal Mail Coach Inn, it was built by Michael Doyle during the 1830s.
Robert Hoddle’s original plan for Berrima revolved around the market place, once a thriving centre of activity. On the eastern side of the highway on the high ground once stood the military barracks.
Built in 1834, this impressive Georgian style inn was the original stopping place for Cobb and Co Coaches
This well proportioned sandstone building was the first commercial bank in the district.
This tree was planted in 1890 by Sir Henry Parkes, the Father of Federation
The present post office built in 1886 stands on the site of the old tollhouse, where tolls were collected to cross the bridge.
Built by William Harper in 1834 and first licensed to his son James in 1835, this is the oldest continuously licensed inn in Australia
Built in 1898 as the residence for the Governor of Berrima Gaol, it was used as a police station in the 1930s
The colonial architect Mortimer Lewis supervised construction of the Gaol over a four-year period from 1835 to 1839. Bushranger Paddy Curran was the first man hung there in 1842 and in 1834 Lucretia Dunkley became the first and only woman hung at Berrima for the axe murder of her husband. Between 1863 and 1868 the prison was enlarged and in 1866 the “silent” system was introduced; speaking to anyone was forbidden during the first nine months of a prisoner’s sentence. During WW1 the prison housed German internees and in WW2 it was used to store munitions. After extensive alterations, it reopened in 1949 as the Berrima Training Centre.
Brick cottage used as Admin office for the present Governor of Berrima Gaol
Set into the northern side of the gaol wall, the overflow of water from the prison tanks gushed out of the bulls mouth into the trough below.
Reportedly the first water supply in the village – named after assistance Surveyor John Lamb, who had charge of convict road gangs in 1830.
Designed by Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis and constructed between 1835 and 1838. Quarter sessions were held from 1838 and in 1841, the first Supreme Court Assizes. Berrima Court House played a significant role in Australia’s judicial history, the very first trial by jury in the colony was held here in April 1841. The fine interior joinery is especially noteworthy, with curved cedar hewn by hand with an adze.
Adjacent to the Court House is a nearly identical pair of Georgian cottages fronting Argyle Street.
Built by James Powell in 1876 as a Masonic Temple and school of arts, the building has had many uses, before being given to the church in 1930. Now privately owned and no longer open to the public.
Dating from the early 1850s the house was named for its fine views over the valley
Also known as Hopkins Cottage, this simple Georgian cottage was built c1850.
Built in the 1840s, it was formerly the home of a market gardener
This fine Georgian House was built in 1834 by James Harper, first licensee of the Surveyor General. The church bought the house in 1853 using it as a presbytery until 1898. It is now owned by the National Trust, and is on display to the public on weekends and public holidays.
The well in the school grounds is reputedly convict-built. Further up the hill the original school building dates from 1869.
Built in 1855, this weatherboard cottage housed the post office for some years until the present one was built in 1886.
Built by Francis Breen as the Commercial Inn in the 1840s, it was the last of the hotels to close.
Built by William Taylor in the 1840s as The Crown Inn, it was later owned by William Mc Court MLA proprietor of the first newspaper in Moss Vale.
The bakehouse at the rear of the building now operates as a tearoom and museum. The Commercial bank operated from the house at the front during the 1880s.
Designed by Edmund Blacket in a simple Gothic Revival Style, the church is built from stone quarried directly behind it. The stained glass windows came from a church in Cornwall in England and are thought to date to the 15th Century.
Built in the 1840s by James Jerome Higgins, a storekeeper and one time postmaster, the house was used by the police magistrate FR Wilshire during the 1880s.
This two storey sandstone building is the largest building built in Berrima for private use, and was the home of Ben and Lucy Osborne. The house has extensive cellars and inside, the original bushranger bolts can be seen on the doors.
Built on the site of the convict stockade. Originally known as St Scholastica’s, the foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Polding in 1849. It is one of only two churches in Australia designed by the architect Augustus Pugin, who worked on the design of the Houses of Parliament in London
The original Cobb and Co Station at Berrima is located behind the General Store, and can be seen from the carpark behind Mrs Oldbucks.
One of the early stone and slab cottages remaining in the Berrima district. Eucalyptus tress provided the early settler with abundant large straight slabs to use vertically or horizontally in the wall construction of his slab hut. The roof was either great sheets of bark or split shingles. The first dwellings used by the shepherds and stockmen were usually made entirely of bark.
The former Church of England Rectory sited away from the town, overlooking the Wingecarribee River and Berrima Common. The dressed sandstone house was built for Rev J Hassall in the 1850s and passed into private ownership in the 1900s. The superb grounds with retaining walls, established trees and exotic plants extend down to the river. The property, bequeathed to the National Trust, is not open to the public.
Inset: An early photograph of the grounds of the Parsonage with the ruins of the coach house and stables which Rev J Hassall had renovated for a denominational school for Young Ladies.
Main image: All that remains today.