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The historic Berry Courthouse 1892, New South Wales

The former historic Courthouse in Berry was designed by the colonial government architect James Barnet.  (Read about him on the Australian Dictionary of Biography site here.)   It sits on the traditional land of the Wodi Wodi people, a sub-group of the Dharawal nation.

Architectural style

Built in the years 1890-91 the Courthouse in Victoria Street, Berry, location map below, has been classified as being Greek Revival in style and Classical Academic.

Detailed information can be found on the websites of Visit NSW-Berry-Courthouse, the New South Wales Heritage Council  and the Berry Courthouse Conservation Committee Inc. at

The following are some interesting and random snippets.

Berry Courthouse, early Australian Courthouses, Australian historic courthouses, James Barnet
Berry Courthouse (former), 1892, 55 Victoria Street, Berry, New South Wales.


As always with the construction of a new public building there was a long process before work began including design work and tendering for builders.  That a new courthouse was to be erected was reported around the same time as the tender process was under way.1

Tenders for constructing the courthouse were submitted to the Tender Board of the Government.  Ten tenders were received, the lowest  being from A & P Ettingshausen for the amount of £1593 and10 shillings.

In the same month it was reported that the new courthouse would soon be started, the site considered to be ‘..a good one, and near the new agricultural show building.’3

Good progress in 1891

One year later it was reported that ‘good progress’ had been made with the courthouse building;4 but not everyone was happy.

A ‘growl’ from Berry

The extent of facilities, or rather the lack of them, seemed to attract some criticism.

“The fact that there is no constable’s residence attached or near the new courthouse is causing some grumbling.

The distance between the cells and the new courthouse is nearly three quarters of a mile, and prisoners will have to be taken there and back.

It will be another illustration of the fox, the geese and the corn over again. Possibly, the Government are going to supply a prison van, and by this means remedy the difficulty. It will certainly be a novelty.”5

Opening of the Courthouse in 1892

The Courthouse was finally opened on 5 February 1892, with the hearing of several cases.  The Presiding Magistrate (PM) Mr Nesbitt congratulated the ‘..inhabitants (of Berry) on the handsome building.’6

Thirty or so years earlier a stone courthouse at Bungendore to the south was constructed.  Other Australian courthouses from the Colonial era and early 1900s can be viewed in the Courthouse Gallery of old Australian Courthouses here, a work in progress, or with more background here.

A detailed history of the Berry Courthouse can be found in The History of the Berry Courthouse, by Jennifer Clapham, Berry Courthouse Conservation Committee, 2009.


1.  The Illawarra Mercury, 19 April 1890, p.1.
2.  Evening News, 17 April 1890, p.2.
3.  Evening News, 24 April, 1890
4.  Evening News, 29 Jan 1891, p. 7.
5.  ‘A Growl from Berry’, Australian Town and Country Journal, 29 Aug 1891, p 17
6.  Australian Town and Country Journal, 13 Feb 1892, p. 17.

B Stead
BHS Legal
11 September 2014

See more old Australian courthouse buildings  and articles here.

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