ESTATE: A Convict History
history of Coolangatta Estate stretches back to the
early 19th Century.
was in 1822, that partners Alexander Berry and Edward
Wollstonecraft settled on the foothills of a mountain
named Coolangatta, after obtaining a grant of 10,000
acres and 100 convicts from the NSW Government. The
date 23 June 1822 has since been recognized as the first
European settlement on the South Coast of NSW. Alexander
my headquarters I fixed on the north side of the river
at the foot of a hill called by the natives ‘Collungatta’.
I located the 10,000 acres grant in this locality”
was the Aboriginal word for fine view, a description
that Berry found difficult to dispute.
1 July 1822, Alexander Berry climbed Mt. Coolangatta
to view his vast estate. He spent the night atop this
ancient mountain, pondering the future of his settlement
and possible uses of its fertile land.
quickly developed into a self-supporting village boasting
mills, workshops, tradesmen and artisans. Within years Coolangatta
was exporting thoroughbred horses to India, Cedar to Europe
and cattle, tobacco, cheese and wheat to Sydney.
to provide boat access, Alexander Berry had Hamilton Hume
and a party of convict labourers cut a 209-yard canal linking
the Shoalhaven River to the Crookhaven River. Completed in
twelve days it was the first canal constructed in Australia.
After its construction, Berry set up shipbuilding facilities,
completing his first vessel as early as 1824. In fact, the
town of Coolangatta in Queensland is named after Berry's vessels
‘the Coolangatta’ which was wrecked off Point
Danger (QLD) in August, 1846.
years after arriving at Coolangatta, Berry married Wollstonecraft’s
sister Elizabeth (cousin of Mary Godwin- author of 'Frankenstein')
and in 1836, Berry’s three brothers John, William and
David and two sisters arrived from Scotland to live at the
died on 17 September 1873 and was buried with wife Elizabeth,
in the vault at St. Thomas’s cemetery at North Sydney.
The estate passed to David Berry and later to the Hay family
(cousins of the Berry’s) where it remained until the
late 1940’s. During this time, Coolangatta Estate had
fallen into a state neglect and disrepair and centuries of
history looked certain to be lost.
Photo: Vice Regal visit to Coolangatta Estate
in 1903. The main group includes Sir John & Lady Hay &
Sir Harry Rawson, Governor of NSW with Lady Rawson, all seated
1947 Colin Bishop purchased his first couple of hundred acres
of farming land at Coolangatta. In 1950 he began to use the
land for dairying and often wandered through the dilapidated
historic buildings. The idea of one day restoring these buildings
was always a wild fantasy but at the time seemed an impossible
in 1971, in the face of advice to the contrary, the intractable
Colin Bishop began major restoration work to restore the old
convict-built buildings to their former glory. His dream of
converting the once thriving convict village into a historic
resort was being realised.
The Cottage & Billiard Room - before and after restoration.
The Great Hall - before and after restoration.
The Plumbers Shop
Estate is now thriving once again. Despite that shipbuilding,
logging and tobacco growing remain in a bygone era, the Bishop
family continue to capitalise on the fertile land, re-establishing
vineyards in the late 1980’s.
photographic history of Coolangatta Estate is available for
public viewing in the Cellar Door, open 10am – 5pm daily,
along with self-guided tours of the estate.
However, these days you are more likely to see tourists rather
than convicts walking the grounds of this historic property.