The Building

The building housing the Museum was designed by architect William Wilkinson Wardell (1823-1899).

After Wardell established his Sydney office, he received commissions from many banks, including the English, Scottish and Australian Bank (ES&A).

1883/85 - Wardell designed a series of five banks in the Scottish Baronial style. These were in Wollongong (1883), Paddington (1884), Berry – formerly Broughton Creek – (1884), Balmain (1884) and Camberwell (1885). Of these, only two buildings survive. The building in Camberwell is now a steakhouse. The Berry Museum retains many of its original features, both inside and out.

The Berry Museum Building

March 1884 - Land was purchased by the Bank from the Berry Estate, Block 134, Queen Street for £500.

1884/85 - The ES&A Bank was built. This branch was a tiny single-storey, single-fronted building. The asymmetrical, stepped gable embraced the whole composition. An extended verandah similar to Wollongong, sheltered the residence to the rear. Total cost approximately £5,000.

1885/86 - The ES&A Banking Company moved into its splendid new premises, with Alexander James Colley as the first manager.

During the 1939/45 war, the bank closed.

1943 - The building was bought by Berry Municipal Council and was used as a residence and council chambers.

1948 - The Berry Municipal Council and surrounding councils were amalgamated into the Shoalhaven Shire Council, and the building became the property of the Shoalhaven Shire Council.

1951 - The premises were leased back to the ES&A Bank.

December 1972 - The bank ceased business in Berry following the merger with the Australian New Zealand Bank (ANZ).

October 1972 - The Berry and District Historical Society sub-rented the banking section of the building from the ANZ Bank.

1978 - Additional rooms were acquired.

1983 - The lease was extended to include the residence and the backyard, giving the Society full use of the building and grounds which are known as the Berry and District Museum.

The building is classified by the National Trust and listed on the State Heritage Register.

The Desk

"We need a desk for our Museum and I've been offered a red cedar panel from the counter at Wilson's old store. Are you interested in helping, Tom?" Tom Darby agreed to have a look. The panel was taken from the roof of someone's garage and deposited on Jenny Clapham's verandah.

The Museum also received an offer of some dirty and damaged panels from the Berry Courthouse that had once been part of the Witness and Jury Box. Jenny agreed to strip them of their many layers of treacle-like varnish and what was revealed became the basis of the new desk in the museum.

These cedar (toona australis) panels had the distinctive trademarks of the men who made them. The fit of joints and mouldings in the panels would have been more suited to a cow bail than a courthouse – hardly good joiner's practice.

Ettinghausen's, the local undertakers, had had the contract to fit out the Court House when it was built. The panelled screen and canopy behind the magistrate's bench are very well made with few visible gaps in joint lines and lush surfaces at the junction of individual members. Mouldings are carefully mitred and the fit of panels to moulding is also gap free. Someone in Ettinghausen's employ certainly had the skills to truthfully call himself a joiner, if not a master. But it would appear that someone else was responsible for making the frame for our panels.

The state of the building trade in the 1890s, and the problems with our panels, suggest they would have been done in the latter stages of the building. Our panels were most likely made at the end of the fitting-out process and as a consequence, our mouldings were the residue in the bundles, differing obviously in width, thickness and profile. Something went terribly wrong with the mitres where the strips of moulding joined. Instead of a small-toothed saw, a large-toothed one was used and the moulding was nailed in place with 3-inch diamond-head nails, leaving a large crater to be filled. None of this was necessary and the master joiner must have surely known this. Our restorer, Fred Niesche, used small nails that you can barely notice to hold the panels in place. Perhaps the Berry Museum is the correct place for them to reside.

The Other Desks

Other desks and display cases in the Museum were made by members of the Berry Men's Shed.