Circa 1913. The Courthouse with the 19th century picket fence
A BRIEF HISTORY
In the non-aboriginal population of New South Wales during the 1830's, there remained a large number of convicts and a community which often viewed the police and legal system with some suspicion.
As the colony began to emerge from its convict origins, proper court houses were needed as places where the administration of justice could be put into effect. They were the symbols, even in the Australian bush, of the central place that law and justice has in our social system.
Australia's second Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis, designed Berrima Courthouse in the Greek Revival style giving the building its formal and imposing presence. Although the foundation stone was laid in 1835, problems with a succession of builders delayed completion until 1839. Ultimately the courthouse was only a Court of Assizes presided over by a Supreme Court judge from 1839 to 1846 although it was used intermittently for court sittings until 1884.
An important part of the town, the courthouse was also the centre of public administration where licenses were issued to publicans and hawkers and where convicts were assigned as farm workers. It was a venue for meetings, dances, concerts and church services.
Around the turn of the century the library for the School of Arts was kept in the courthouse and during the First World War, German officers who had been made prisoners of war were housed in the building.
In 1927 a public fund helped pay for restoration work and the committee of the School of Arts re-opened the building in 1936.
Other local organisations made use of the building in later years until 1972 when it was again closed.
Careful restoration of the building to something resembling its original state was undertaken by the Department of Public Works and completed in 1976.