Berrima, NSW. The Beauty of History

If one tries to think about history, it seems to me – it’s like looking at a range of mountains. And the first time you see them, they look one way. But then time changes, the pattern of light shifts. Maybe you’ve moved slightly, your perspective has changed. The mountains are the same, but they look very different.

Robert Harris, Novelist.
1890 oak tree Berrima park
Oak Tree, Market Place Berrima RG2798

History is everywhere. Robert Harris considers history to be ever-changing as it reflects our perspective which is determined by the time & attention we give to details such as people and places. On a recent visit to Berrima, I noticed some beautiful old trees & a pile of sandstone blocks in the park near my favourite cafe, so I decided to explore further.

Berrima’s 1890 Oak Tree

Oak tree branches Berrima
Parkes Oak Tree, Berrima Market Place. RG2804

A plaque beneath the tree tells us it was planted in 1890 by the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes who advocated for federation in Australia. A little investigating reveals there was a Federation Conference and the Australasian Federal Convention of were held 1890-91. Today Berrima is a short detour from the Hume highway but in 1890 it ran right past this same tree, albeit much smaller.

Imagine Berrima & the Old Hume Highway or Great Southern Rd which passed through it in 1890. There’s a great guide, History Begins with a Road on the Old Hume Highway & towns like Berrima, Goulburn, Yass, Gundagai & Holbrook on its 570 km from Ashfield to Albury, if you want to take a leisurely drive south of Sydney. In Trove newspapers, a 1954 article in Bowral’s Southern Mail called “An Old Oak” mentions this information was found for the Berrima Advancement League by the Mitchell Library in Sydney so they could get the plaque made. There is also a National Register of Big Trees where you can nominate significant trees. It did not have Berrima’s Oak but it is does have a nearby Monterey Pine. There is a map showing the tree & other points of interest at Berrima on Waymarkings.

Berrima War Memorial

stone war memorial Berrima Park
Berrima War Memorial, Market Place Berrima RG2846

Beneath the trees is the Berrima War Memorial which does not have any names. Perhaps they are unknown. This 1953 memorial has details on Monument Australia & the NSW War Memorials Register. If your looking for World War One soldiers, you might try the AIF Project or more generally, the Australian War Memorial’s Collection and search for Berrima.

Perspectives on History

Now we have considered a variety of historical perspectives without even entering the nearby Berrima Museum, moving from our picnic table in the park or discussing inns, modes of transport or finding traces of its people. Berrima is a great place for a day trip as it has a lot of character. If you want to explore further, there is the Walking Guide to Historic Berrima available at the Museum, or by download, as well as the intriguing Berrima River Walk which details the lives of Germans Interned here during World War One. Oldbury Cottage has a few other walks as well as details of its restoration. Of course, there is a whole village full of historic stone buildings, inns, the goal, shops & cafes, here at Berrima.

German internees huts & jetties on the Berrima river 1916

Next, we’ll explore those sandstone blocks. Here’s a clue- they are marked 1860 & 1897, but that just gives me another excuse to visit Berrima. In the meantime, if you have other suggestions or know the species of the Berrima Oak, please add them to the comments.

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