The Retirees exploring the Southern Highlands of NSW

After our first big day out in Bowral and resting with a cold G&T on the sofa we mapped out our route for the following day. First stop would be Bendooley Vineyard and Berkelouw Bookstore.

We have been to many a cellar door and vineyard over the years but we were surprised at the enormous carpark behind the cellar door at Bendooley Vineyard. An unusual congregation of buildings – a stone cottage and timber bookstore hid this carpark which must have been big enough for over 100 cars. It turns out the vineyard not only produces pleasant wines, but it has cottages for holiday makers, a tasting room in that stone cottage along with a fine restaurant and a bookstore. We tried the wines at the cellar door whilst awaiting a table in the restaurant and once we were comfortably seated we shared a delicious pizza with a glass of their Rose (our preferred choice from the wine tasting). After lunch we explored the bookshop which appeared to be in an old but renovated stable. The shop was littered with tables and chairs not just for the readers’ but it too offered an dining experience. Further the books were not your usual newspaper stand at the airport selection but rather a library of historical, autobiographical, geographical, mineralogical – all kinds of books. A rare bookstore in the bush outside Berrima.

The story of Berkelouw Books begins in Kipstraat, Rotterdam, Holland, in 1812 with Solomon Berkelouw. Solomon’s young son Carel carried on his father’s trade by opening a bookstore at the Niewe Market in Rotterdam where, Berkelouw Books prospered and later moved to a larger premise at Beurs Station, also in Rotterdam. Carel’s son Hartog Berkelouw continued to expand the family business. He opened a new shop at Schoolstraat, Rotterdam. It was Hartog who first began issuing the catalogues that gained Berkelouw an international reputation. However, the Second World War intervened, and during the siege of Rotterdam, Berkelouw Books’ premises were bombed, and its entire stock destroyed. Its owners became casualties of the war and the once thriving business was brought to a standstill – the work of four generations of Rotterdam booksellers virtually wiped out in just a few years.

Immediately after the war, Isidoor Berkelouw began to re-establish the firm but, Isidoor was keen to move the business out of Europe. In 1948 Isidoor made the long journey to Australia. Arriving in Sydney, Isidoor issued a catalogue, generating immediate interest amongst book collectors around the country. He set up shop at 38 King St, then headquarters was relocated to 114 King St and Isidoor began to share the management of the business with his two sons, Henry and Leo. By 1972 the Berkelouw collection move to Rushcutters Bay, then in 1977 took a quantum leap relocating entirely to ‘Bendooley’, an historic property just outside Berrima in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

In 1994, the sixth generation, Paul, Robert and David Berkelouw, opened again in Sydney, at Paddington. Since then, Berkelouw Books has opened further stores in Sydney and Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. Today Berkelouw Books claims it is Australia’s largest rare and antiquarian, second-hand, and new bookseller.

Whilst in Berrima we visited the Berrima Courthouse. Surprisingly grand sandstone building for a bush court house it stands beside Berrima Goal also constructed in local sandstone. It is now a museum. Berrima Courthouse was built between 1836 and 1838. The first quarter-sessions were held at the court house in 1841, and the first trial by jury in the colony of New South Wales was held there. The assize courts were continued for only seven years. In 1850 the district court moved to Goulburn, south of Berrima. Minor courts continued at Berrima until 1873. Notable trials were of John Lynch, who was hanged for the murder of at least nine people, and of Lucretia Dunkley and her lover Martin Beech who were both hanged in 1843 for the murder of Dunkley’s husband. Their trial is simulated in the present-day museum courtroom with realistic manikins and an audio commentary. Dunkley was the only woman to be hanged at Berrima gaol.

Berrima Gaol was built over five years with much work done by convicts in irons. Conditions at the gaol were harsh, prisoners spent most of their days in cells and the only light was through a small grate set in the door. During World War I the army used Berrima Gaol as a German-prisoner internment camp. Most of the 329 internees were enemy aliens from shipping companies. There were German officers from Rabaul, German New Guinea (what is now Papua New Guinea) and also officers from the light cruiser SMS Emden. Captain Müller had taken Emden to raid the Cocos Islands, where he landed a contingent of sailors to destroy British facilities. There, Emden was attacked by the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney on 9 November 1914. Most of the survivors were taken prisoner.

After Berrima we returned home to put our feet up and plan the following day at Red Cow Farm.