There’s much more to Berrima village than meets the eye.
Throughout the village, charming Georgian cottages and sandstone residences dot a landscape that has been spared the ravages of excessive development.
A captivating array of boutiques, cafes and restaurants offer the finest of shopping, and, a wide range of accommodation is available to suit a range of budgets and tastes.
Visit the Explore Berrima website at this link https://exploreberrima.com.au for a comprehensive listing of businesses, accommodation, tourism attractions and historic information.
Getting involved in our community
If you are interested in becoming involved in the Berrima community, you might like to consider the following activities.
Harper’s Mansion on the corner of Wilkinson St and Old Hume Highway, Berrima, was built in 1834 by ex-convict James Harper and was later owned by the Catholic church. The house is one of the rare remaining Georgian-design houses in Australia and was listed on the NSW State Heritage Register in 2002. Harpers Mansion is now managed as a house museum and garden by a group of local volunteer house guides and gardeners on behalf of the National Trust. Volunteer guides or gardeners are always welcome. For further information, go to http://nationaltrust.org.au/places/harpers-mansion.
Rural Fire Service
The Berrima station is located at the top end of Wilkinson Street. For information on the Rural Fire Service NSW, go to rfs.nsw.gov.au/about-us/contact-us. You can contact the Berrima Brigade at email@example.com.
Bushcare is program of restoration of bushland reserves by volunteers, conducted under the auspices of Shire Councils. The activities that volunteers might undertake include: looking after the native bush, plant identification, fauna monitoring, weed control and seed collection for propagation. The Berrima Bushcare volunteers usually meet on the first and third Mondays of the month from 9.30am to 1.00pm, with a tea break at 11.00am. They work in several locations around the village and along the river. Volunteers are informed of the meeting place for working bees via an email just prior to the date. If you would like to know more about Berrima Bushcare, or are interested in volunteering, please contact Clive West at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the western end of the Market Place lawn, there is a boules court on the site of the original Berrima tennis court. The court was constructed by local residents in 2014.
For those interested in playing, a group meets every Wednesday (weather permitting) at 4pm (Winter) or 5pm (Summer). Games are casual and beginners are welcome. The court is also available for individual use at any time. For more information, contact Hugh Farrimond on 0439 647 418.
The Highland Singers
A group of friends formed the Highland Singers in May 1988. Over the years the choir has raised thousands of dollars for charity, namely The Red Cross and Can Assist. In 2013 the choir instigated and organised the first of two Choirfests wherein six local choirs combined to raise over $5,000 for a proposed hospice in the region. As well as holding two concerts a year the choir also sings at Tulip Time in Bowral, Christmas carols at Holy Trinity Church, Berrima and entertains at local nursing homes on a regular basis.
The Highland Singers rehearses every Monday afternoon in the Berrima Village Hall. If you would like more information on the Highland Singers, contact John D’Arcy on 0400 627 339.
Berrima District Historical and Family History Society Museum – The Story Centre
Located 1A Market Place, Bryan Street, the museum is wholly operated by volunteers. The museum contains permanent exhibits on Berrima, including the WW1 German prisoners and the German Walk beside the Wingecarribee River, plus a range of temporary exhibits. Some displays are interactive digital experiences. Further information is available at http://berrimadistricthistoricalsociety.org.au.
Village Hall Concerts
From time to time, ‘Vivace Berrima!’ holds classical concerts in the Berrima Village Hall, usually on a Sunday afternoon. The concerts provide an opportunity to meet fellow music-lovers and refreshments are served afterwards. If you would like to be on the mailing list to be advised of upcoming concerts, contact Lyndall Foldvary-Khouri at email@example.com.
Berrima is located on the traditional lands of the Gundungurra people to the west across the Wingecarribee and Wollondilly River valleys toward the Blue Mountains, and the Dharawal people to the east across to the Escarpment and down to the coast.
The Residents Association acknowledges the traditional custodians of the this land and pays respect to elders past, present and emerging.
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.
When the Berrima town plan was laid out in 1831 the Colonial Government was attempting to strictly limit the extent of the colony, and settlement was limited to the 19 Counties, mapped out under an Order of 1829.
On the 14th of February, 1831, it was notified by a Government order that no Crown lands were in the future to be disposed of except by public auction, the minimum price for county lands being fixed at five shillings an acre.
Until then land had been released by grants, which favoured those with influence in government. The Berrima “Hoddle Plan” of 1831 was the first release of Crown land under this new scheme, and the Berrima road pattern under that town plan remains intact to this day.
The Wingecarribee River and the area was first visited during the late 1790s, including a 1798 expedition led by an ex-convict, John Wilson. However, John and Hamilton Hume rediscovered the area in 1814. The area was explored by Charles Throsby in 1818. Runs were taken up soon after, including by one by Charles Throsby.
On his 1820 visit to the area, Governor Maquarie selected a site on the banks of the Wingecarribee River, known as Bong Bong, as the site for an outpost to provide the incoming settlers with government services.
Bong Bong had been planned as a major town for the county but, as it was flood prone, the New South Wales Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell chose Berrima townsite on the road running south from Sydney with the intention that the town be the capital of the County of Camden.
A survey was conducted in 1830 and the town plan was approved in 1831. As well as its being an administrative centre, there were ambitions that the town might become a commercial and manufacturing centre, “where the wool of Argyle and Camden might be made into cloth and the hide into leather”.
The Surveyor General Inn was built in 1834 by James Harper. It has been continuously licensed since 1839 and its claim to being the earliest hotel rests on its continual license and being in the original building.
Berrima Gaol dominates the village of Berrima. Constructed over several years by tradesmen and convicts, it was opened in 1839 and soon became notorious in the colony for the severe punishment of inmates and for hangings. After 182 years since it opened, the Goal was permanently decommissioned in 2021.
Berrima prospered as a rest stop on the Old Hume Highway, and there were fourteen hotels in or near the town in the 1840s. However, because the construction of the railway bypassed the town, the population decreased — no new houses were built for a hundred years.
There are many historic buildings in the town and the village as a whole is listed on the Register of the National Estate.
Other notable buildings include the Holy Trinity Anglican Church designed by Edmund Blacket and built in 1849; and the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church built 1849-51 designed by Augustus Pugin, a notable British architect of Gothic-revival buildings.
Blackett was heavily influenced by the “Gothic Revival” style of architecture, which originated with Augustus Pugin in England. Although Pugin never visited Australia, he sent out highly detailed plans for a number of churches, which included designs for the furnishings and vestments of the clergy.
One of these Pugin churches is Berrima’s St Francis Xavier Catholic Church, built in 1849-51. Architectural historians have assessed this church to be the best preserved of all of the Pugin churches in Australia, most of which are in Tasmania. Berrima is unique in having both a Blackett church and a Pugin church, each in excellent state of preservation.
After opening the Surveyor-General Inn to the public, James Harper built a substantial two story brick residence, now known at Harper’s Mansion, on a prominent site overlooking the village from the north. The property is owned by the National Trust (NSW) and open to the public. Information on opening hours is available at this link: https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/harpers-mansion/
Local historian Ann Beaumont has published a wonderful history of Harper’s Mansion. Copies are available at the Gift Shop at the house during open days.
The aspiration of the local community to preserve Berrima and its buildings as national treasures has long been established. The Berrima Village Trust was established in 1963 to that end and, whilst it no longer exists, the task has been taken up by the Berrima Residents Association – established shortly after the National Trust commissioned a highly detailed heritage survey of the village and its rural surrounds in 1979.
Local historian and Berrima resident Christine Thompson has undertaken extensive primary research on the early years of Berrima’s history. Her detailed research is available to the public at the following website https://berrimahistory.com/book/.
Chris Thompson’s book “Mitchell’s County Town. Berrima 1981-1841” accompanies the website information and is available for purchase from the website.