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The Coolangatta Estate was established in 1822 by Alexander Berry on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Born on St Andrew's Day 1783, the eldest child of a tenant farming family in Fife, he studied at the University of St Andrews and Edinburgh and qualified as a surgeon. This led him to join the East India Company and started his travels to the Far East in 1802.
Coolangatta Estate is located on the northern bank of the Shoalhaven River, in the foothills of a mountain called Coolangatta. The word 'Coolangatta' is from an aboriginal word which means either splendid view or good lookout. The estate today is in a picturesque setting overlooking the ocean and surrounded by vineyards.
Berry arrived by sea on 23 June 1822, and while Edward Wollstonecraft looked after affairs in Sydney, proceeded to establish the first 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 (40 ha) of land, and by purchases of the grants of Richardson, Hyndes and Burke. The property expanded to more than 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) 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 children.
A self-supporting village began to develop around the settlement. The partners used a combination of convict (referred 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 shipbuilding; 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 redcedar 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 1850s 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 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 churches.
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 outlying 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.
The nearby cemetery (dedicated 1899), hosts a large granite monument and contains the graves of many members of the Berry and Hay families.
During 1946, the Coolangatta buildings were all-but destroyed when fire raged through the 19-room Coolangatta estate. All that remained after the conflagration was the library, the billiard room, the hall and some outbuildings.
During the 1970s and 1980s the site of the home was redeveloped as a historic resort. A vineyard was started in the area surrounding it in 1988.