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Coolangatta Estate

Coolangatta Estate was established in 1822 by Scotish born surgeon, merchant and explorer, Alexander Berry, and his partner Edward Wollstonecraft who were given a land grant of 10,000 acres and 100 convicts by Governor Brisbane. It was to to develop and become town of Broughton Creek later to be renamed Berry.

Coolangatta Estate is located on the northern bank of the Shoalhaven River, in the foothills of a mountain called Coolangatta. The word 'coolangata' is from an aboriginal word which means either splendid view or good lookout. Today the Estate still offers a unique experience in a picturesque setting overlooking the ocean and surrounded by vineyards.

Berry arrived by sea on 23 June, 1822, and while Wollstonecraft looked after affairs in Sydney, proceeded to establish the first white (European) settlement on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia.

The initial grant on the north side of the river soon expanded to the north with the agreement of the partners to take charge and expense of one convict for every 100 acres of land, and by purchases of the grants of Richardson, Hyndes and Burke. The property expanded to more than 40 000 acres by 1863.

Berry, who married Wollstonecraft's sister in 1827, set up his headquarters at the foot of Mount Coolangatta, north of the river with tools, provisions and the people who were to make up the first community.

Wollstonecraft died in 1832, but in the years to come, Berry was to be joined by his three brothers and two of his sisters, none of whom had any direct descendants

A self-supporting village began to develop around the homestead. The partners used a combination of convict (refered to by Berry as 'Government Men') and free labour to drain the swamps, grow tobacco, potatoes, maize, barley and wheat and rear pigs and cattle, the latter kept for their hides and the production of milk and cheese. The estate also bred thoroughbred horses which were exported to India. These items were transported by means of a ship that they purchased and a sloop which they had built.

Later, in 1822, Hamilton Hume brought cattle to the district, and a primary industry was established. Mills and workshops were established with tradesmen engaged in cask-making, building refabrication, experimental leather treatment, the production of condensed milk and gelatine, and ppshipbuilding]]; the first vessel being completed and launched as early as 1824. The town of Coolangatta in Queensland is named after one of Berry's schooners which was wrecked there in August, 1846.

However, it was the cedar in the area, much of it exported to Europe, that was their most profitable resource.

Berry had experienced tenant-farming in his native land of Scotland, and by the 1850's and based on his experience developed the idea of "clearing leases", an arrangement whereby tenants were given five years rent-free to clear and fence their property, after which they became tenants of Berry. It was this which enabled the true development of the area and of the township of Broughton Creek to begin.

By 1868 the population had reached 300 persons and the area was declared a Municipality, much against Alexander Berry's wishes.

In 1873 Alexander Berry died and the estate passes to his younger brother David.

David Berry nurtured the development of Broughton Creek , and the town grew and flourished. David Berry set aside land for an Agricultural showground, and on the four corners of the town which he had surveyed, he gave land to the Church of England, Presbyterian, Wesleyan and Roman Catholic church's.

David died in 1889 at the age of 94, and in 1890 the name of Broughton Creek was changed to Berry to honor the Alexander and David's contribution to the region.

After David's death, the Coolangatta Estate passed to the control of his cousin, Sir John Hay. However because of the lack of cash to meet David's large bequests, the estate was gradually sold and by 1912 the whole of the outlaying land of the Coolangatta Estate had been disposed of. Existing tenants were given first option to purchase their leased farms, with almost all of them doing so, often at prices less than would have been obtained at open auction.

During 1946, the Estate was all but destroyd when fire raged through the 19 room Coolangatta homestead. All that remained after the conflagration was the library, the billiard room, the hall and some outbuildings.

In 1947, Colin James Bishop purchased his first couple of hundred acres of farming land at Coolangatta. He began dairying there in 1950 and while wandering through the dilapidated buildings formed the idea of one day restoring them.

In 1971 major restoration work began to convert the old convict-built village into a resort complex and in 1972, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of settlement, the restored site was opened as the Coolangatta Historic Village Resort.  The resort has, along with some of the buildings from the Berry era, a golf course and an award winning winery. 

The Bishop family have saved what some believe to be one of Australia's historic jewels and preserved it for future generations to enjoy.

Trips can be arranged to the summit of nearby Mt. Coolangatta, and visitors can also walk to the nearby cemetery (dedicated 1899), to see the graves of some members of the Berry and Hay families.

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