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Page Sections: Land Grants | Early Residents | Early Industry | Early Transport | Historic Buildings | Environment | Timeline | Bibliography


Traditional Custodians of Illawarra Land

Local communities of Aboriginal people were the original inhabitants and Traditional Custodians of Illawarra Land. Their dialect is a variant of the Dharawal language. Before European settlement, the Aboriginal people of the region lived in small family groups with complicated social structures and close associations with specific areas. Suburb boundaries do not reflect the cultural boundaries of the local Aboriginal community. Traditional Custodians today are descendants of the original inhabitants and have ongoing spiritual and cultural ties to the Land and waterways where their ancestors lived.​

Parish of Wollongong County of Camden

The "Berkeley Estate" was made up of 3,280 acres of land granted to Robert Jenkins and Mrs Jemima Jenkins between 1817 and 1836. Robert Jenkins named the property Berkeley after the historic estate of that name in his native county of Gloucestershire, England. The original grant of 1,000 acres to Robert Jenkins extended from Allan's Creek to Lake Illawarra. Mrs Jenkins later acquired 2,000 acres to the west of and adjoining this grant. In 1835-6 Mrs Jenkins acquired another 280 acres which embraced the village of Charcoal, (now Unanderra).

Land Grants

Berkeley Estate

Robert Jenkins was granted 1000 acres of land in January 1817 and this was one of the first five land grants in the Illawarra area. The grant was called 'Berkeley Estate' and is found on parish of Wollongong maps as portion 52. It fronted the north-east end of Lake Illawarra and adjoined David Allan's land grant 'Illawarra Farm'.(Barwick, 1978)

Early Residents

Robert Jenkins

Jenkins came to NSW in about 1808. He became a prominent business man in Sydney, working as a shipping merchant and auctioneer. Robert married his wife Jemima in 1813 and they had two sons, William and Robert. He died in May 1822, at the age of forty-five, after a fall from his horse.

After Jenkin's death, Jemima made purchases of Crown Land that increased the size of the Berkeley Estate increased to 3,280 acres.

William Warren Jenkins

Was born in July 1816, the son of Robert Jenkins. He was six years old when his father was killed. He married his cousin Matilda Pitt in 1838 and built Berkeley Mansion on the estate. He became a resident of the Estate in 1839.

William Jenkins divided the Estate and let it to tenants under the clearing lease system. The Estate was developed by convicts and settlers.

William was a respected citizen and he donated land for the building of the first school and church in the area. William died in May 1884 at the age of sixty six. After his death the estate was sub-divided into farms and sold.(Barwick, 1978)

Early Industry

The major primary industry among the white settlers was dairy farming, grazing and cattle raising. Wheat, potatoes and small amounts of maize were grown.


Fishing on Lake Illawarra was also an industry in the early settlement days, and supplied fish to the aborigines and white settlers. 'Fishtown' was a fishing village which is now part of Berkeley. It was a small collection of houses on the northern shore of Lake Illawarra previously known as 'Home Shore' (this area was located south of where the Berkeley Primary School now stands).

In the early days of the fishing industry, only rowing and sailing boats were used. The fish had to be sent to the markets in Sydney by steamer. There was no ice so the fish were washed, packed in boxes and covered with ferns and branches to keep them cool.

In 1887 the railway was extended through Unanderra and this made it possible to transport fish to the markets in Sydney much faster. (Barwick, 1978; Illawarra Mercury 18 October 1984. p.21)

Dairy Farming

Dairy cattle were raised on the 'Berkeley Estate' between 1817-1887. In December 1887 a co-operative factory was opened in Factory Street, Unanderra and the farmers took their milk to the factory to be made into butter. Prior to this, in 1856, milk was being sent to Sydney by steamer. The daily milk train began running in 1889 from Unanderra station. (Barwick, 1978)

Early Transport

Pioneers walked or rode on horseback or in horse drawn vehicles because the roads that existed were more like bush tracks. In 1834 Governor Burke sent the Surveyor General to the area to inspect the roads and they were reported to be in very bad condition.

The first road in the Illawarra, the Wollongong-Dapto Road, went through the Berkeley Estate. The road ran near to the coke works at Unanderra, to the right of Charcoal Creek, through the Berkeley Estate and across Charcoal Creek near Unanderra railway station.

Northcliffe Drive was extended from Lake Heights to the former Fishing Village in 1956. The F6 Freeway was connected to Berkeley in the mid 1970's.(Barwick, 1978)

Historic Buildings

Berkeley House (Mansion) - Five Islands Road

Edmund Blacket designed the mansion which was built in 1839 on the 'Berkeley Estate' by convict labour. It was built from hand-made glazed bricks formed from clay on the site. The mansion was demolished in February 1940 and all that remains today of the house are a couple of boulders and the timber foundations of what was apparently the convict quarters. These relics are located south of the electrical substation in Five Islands Road. (Barwick, 1988)

Berkeley Pioneer Cemetery - Investigator Drive, Unanderra

Established in 1862 as a cemetery for the Jenkins family. William Jenkins donated one acre of land to the Church of England for a site for a church and burial ground. The cemetery is now an Anglican cemetery which has been restored by the Berkeley Pioneer Cemetery Restoration Group with help from Wollongong City Council, local businesses and organisations.

The gates erected at the entry to the cemetery are the historic gates from the entrance of Berkeley mansion (homestead of William Jenkins).


Before European settlement most of the Berkeley area was covered in rainforest, known as the Berkeley Brush (dry sub-tropical rainforest). These forests and woodlands were some of the first to be cleared for farming. Even today horses and cattle graze in this area around the hills.

Budjong Creek catchment area is one of the remaining remnants of rainforest in the hills above Berkeley. In 1992 a group of residents formed 'The Budjong Creek Landscape Group' because they did not want to lose these pockets of rainforest to urban development. They formed a five to ten year management plan to regenerate the area by:

removing the rubbish and weeds
planting native plants (to date 5000 trees and shrubs have been planted)
ongoing maintenance of the area
Funding for these projects comes from many sources including Wollongong City Council, Landcare and the National Heritage Trust.

Native species found in this area are lilly pilly, Illawarra plum and brush cherry trees. (Plan of Management for the Budjong Creek Catchment, 1993).



 Berkeley - Timeline

Land grant of 1000 acres to Robert Jenkins.  Called Berkeley Estate
Robert Jenkins died aged 45 years after falling from his horse
Berkeley Mansion was built and was home to the Jenkins family
First Berkeley Public School opened
Church of England church and burial grounds established on one acre of ground donated by W W Jenkins.  Known today as Pioneer Cemetery
William Jenkins, son of Robert, died aged 66 years
Berkeley dairymen opened a co-operative factory to process their cream into butter
Berkeley coke ovens began operations and employed 40 men
Berkeley Estate subdivided
Salt Industry established on Gooseberry Island
School of Arts opened
Berkeley Public School relocated to the junction of Flagstaff and Berkeley Roads
The Illawarra Coastal Fishing Company was formed with a depot located at Berkeley
Berkeley Mansion was demolished
The Berkeley Migrant Hostel was built by the Commonwealth Government to accommodate 2800 persons
The Migrant Hostel opened with an intake of British migrants
Berkeley High School opened
Berkeley South School opened
The Migrant Hostel was closed and all residents were moved
Neighbourhood centre upgraded.
The Budjong Creek landscape group was formed to protect the remaining pockets of rainforest and native plants that still grow in the area
The Nan Tien Temple opened in October
Winnima Way resurfaced and repairs to kerbs and footpaths carried out.
Integral Energy to remove Hills Fig trees from footpaths along Northcliffe Drive (Illawarra Index)
Notorious Northcliffe Drive pedestrian crossing at Bristol and Sussex Streets to have a $240,000 upgrade (Illawarra Index)
Berkeley Hotel has major refurbishment - proves very popular with locals (Illawarra Index)


Barwick, Kathleen H.,Berkeley and surrounding districts glimpses into the past and present Illawarra. Paddington, N.S.W. Kathleen H. Barwick-Hooke, c1988.

Barwick, Kathleen H,  History of Berkeley, New South Wales, 2nd ed., Wollongong, N.S.W. :  Illawarra Historical Society, 1978

Illawarra Mercury, Wollongong, N.S.W. : Illawarra Newspapers Holdings, 1856-

Mitchell, Winifred and Sherington, Geoffrey,Growing up in the Illawarra : a social history 1834-1984, Wollongong, N.S.W. : University of Wollongong, c1984

Place names of the Wollongong Region, Wollongong : Council, 2008

Quality Environmental Management, Plan of management for the Budjong Creek Catchment Berkeley, [Berkeley] : . Berkeley Development Association Inc., 1993

Smith, Barry, Nan Tien Temple : paradise of the southern hemisphere, Balmain, N.S.W. : Rala International in association with International Buddhist Association of Australia, 1995

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