Berrima Court House | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Berrima Court House

Item details

Name of item: Berrima Court House
Other name/s: Berrima Court House Museum
Type of item: Built
Location: Lat: 0 Long: 0
Primary address: Corner Wilshire and Argyle Streets, Berrima, NSW 2577
Local govt. area: Wingecarribee
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Corner Wilshire and Argyle StreetsBerrimaWingecarribee  Primary Address
Wilshire StreetBerrimaWingecarribee  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

Berrima Courthouse is a particularly fine example of Australia's early Greek-revival style buildings and more generally of the work of that style's leading exponent, architect Mortimer Lewis. It's architectural/aesthetic and historic significance is also enhanced by the good condition and relatively high degree of intactness of both form and fabric (with recent conservation work generally seeking to follow original detailing). The attractive and relatively open setting of the building also allows it to be seen to advantage. The courthouse is historically significant because of its important early role as a centre for the administration of justice in the region. The building's architectural and historical significance is also enhanced by its historical/functional and architectural relationship with the adjacent Goal. Together the pair represent the most important architectural feature of the town.
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Lewis, Mortimer
Builder/Maker: Rattenbury
Construction years: 1836-1838
Physical description: Designed in 1836 (completed 1838) the building is characteristic of the greek-revival style courthouses Mortimer Lewis was building throughout the state. The central double height clerestory-lit courtroom is flanked by a matching pair of single storey pavilions containing offices for Magistrate and Police with cells and a caretaker's flat continuing as extensions to the rear. The central high courtroom section is also carried forward in the form of a giant portico supported on four large stone columns of the Tuscan order. The building is constructed of dressed ashlar sandstone with little surface ornamentation other than the heavily moulded coping and gutter to the pediment. The severity of the front façade is also relieved somewhat by the blank window recesses in the side pavilions and the shallow pilasters, small round-headed niches and simple moulded architrave (to front door) on the courtroom façade. Small curved bays also project on east and west sides of the flanking pavilions. The whole building is slated with lead ridge dressings (all recently restored/renewed). While situated on high ground, adjacent to the Goal, the building has surprisingly little prominence today due to the siting encroachments and vegetation screening. Nb. Pine trees which are important elements in setting.

Stone for the building was quarried by George Cutter.
Modifications and dates: Restoration and conversion to museum/visitors centre/courthouse shop. (completed 23.12.76)
Further information: Listed in the Local Environmental Plan for Wingecarribee, 1989.
Registered by the Australian Heritage Committee.
Part of Berrima Conservation Study, 1979.
Current use: Social/Recreational
Former use: Social/Recreational, Educational


Historical notes: Designed by one of the foremost architects of his day, Mortimer Lewis who was
the Government Architect. He designed numerous courts in similar style
throughout the state. The first court was held in April 1840 and the first
Circuit Court, 14th April, 1841. The first trial by jury in the colony was
held here in 1843. Among the important trials were those of Lucretia Dunkley
and her lover Martin Beach (who murdered Lucretia's husband with an axe and
buried the body - both died at the scaffold in 1843, Lucretia the only women
ever hung at Berrima Goal), and John Lynch (hung for the murder of at least
nine people). Was used for only 7 years for its intended purpose - the
problems involved in bringing the increasing numbers of prisoners long
distances to court became so great that in 1848 the Court of Assizes were
moved to Goulburn and Berrima was used only intermittently until 1889.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Berrima Court House is historically significant because of its early role as the centre of justice for the district in the early to late 19th century and later through its association with the internment of German prisoners of war from 1915-1919.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Aesthetically significant as an outstanding example of Colonial Greek Revival architecture and the work of Mortimer Lewis, the open setting of the Court House adjacent to the Berrima Gaol reinforces the might and majesty of the law and the purpose for which it was built.
SHR Criteria g)
This item is assessed as aesthetically representative statewide.
Integrity/Intactness: High degree of intactness of both building form and fabric.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Restored in 1970's for use as a visitor centre and museum. Restoration completed 23.12.76 for use as a visitor centre and museum.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanWLEP 2010I10816 Jun 10   
Local Environmental Plan - Lapsed  12 Jan 90 00700290
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Wingecarribee Heritage Study1991WI0108JRC Planning Services  Yes
Data base updating as part of Heritage Adviser duties.2007 Peter Kabaila and the people of Wingecarribee Shire.  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Quick, "Stone Walls"
Written  Cox, P. & Lucas, C., "Australian Colonial Architecture", 1978
Written  Glover, B., "Berrima", 1984
Written  Cox, P. & Lucas, C., "Australian Colonial Architecture", 1978
Written  A number of references in the Mitchell library
WrittenHerman "Early Australian Architects and their Work"

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2680108

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