1841 Census

Berrima Township

The 1841 Census (NSW) required every householder, employer of servants and proprietor and occupier of land to complete a return on the 2 March 1841 (or on the days immediately after). The individual returns were collated and submitted by the police magistrates and reported by police districts, counties and towns.

The information they contain included the full name and street address of the head of household plus details of all occupants – see image below for an example. 

More information on the Census is available at the NSW State Records website: www.records.nsw.gov.au.

Analysis of Berrima Township in March 1841

The Census data reflects the role of Berrima as an administrative centre with courthouse, gaol and military barracks as well as service centre for travellers with inns and stores.

Total Population

The census records 249 people as living in the township, 169 males and 80 females. At least 75 of these, however, were temporary residents – those recorded as being in the gaol, courthouse, police lock-up and military barracks. It is also likely that a number of those listed against the inns were travellers. A more meaningful estimate of the population is possible around 160 people.


Despite 120 allotments having been sold in the years after the township was founded in 1831, the Census lists only 32 private residences, twelve built of brick or stone, the rest of wood. Most were sited around the Market Place (including Jellore St), five were along the dirt road to the north known as Argyle Street, three along Wingecarribee Street and four south of the river along the road to Bong Bong – the present Oldbury Road.

In addition to these domestic dwellings were the stone barracks, on one side of the Market Place housing some 25 military personnel, the stone gaol and courthouse on Argyle Street and a stone police lock-up (believed to be alongside the Market Place).

Gender, Age and Marital Status

The gender, age and marital status of the population in Berrima in 1841 are what might have been expected in a newly-established inland township in the colony. There was a high proportion of adult single males, several of whom were ex-convicts, but the beginnings of a more diverse and balanced society was also evident.

In terms of gender there are four times as many men as women over the age of twenty-one, 134 and 40 respectively. And while half the women are married only one-third of the men have wives

The gender balance is somewhat restored by the number of younger people, almost all born in the colony. Seventy-one (three out of five inhabitants) are under twenty-one years. Only ten people over sixty.

Civil Condition

Ex-convicts figured significantly in the township. Of the 76 men over twenty-one years of age, 35 were convicts or ex-convicts, the proportion less among the women, only 11 out of 49. But most of these people had gained their freedom (36) or at least their ticket of leave (18). Only eight remain in private assignment or on government service.

The remainder of the heads of household were either free settlers or ex-military with probably only one, James Harper, born in the colony


The population of Berrima was more or less equally divided between Protestant and Catholic, 84 and 80 respectively. It should not be assumed that the Catholics were predominantly from Ireland as at this time the Irish convicts/emigrants included representative of all sectors of Irish community – Anglo-Irish aristocracy, Ulster Presbyterians as well as Catholics.

(In 1841 there were no formal places of worship, the nearest Anglican Church being at Sutton Forest. The building of Berrima’s Anglican Church, Holy Trinity, and the Catholic Church, Saint Francis Xaviers (then Saint Scholastica) began towards the end of the 1840s probably reflecting the greater wealth in the community by this time.)


The occupational groupings in the Census are broad and there is obviously an overlap. For example, the distinction between ‘Merchant’ and ‘Shopkeeper’ seems to be based on land ownership rather than type of business though it could relate to whether they own the business or are employees. Further the majority of people (96) are listed in the ‘Other’ category.

1841 Census Sample

Click the image for a larger view.

Mitchell's County Town

Berrima 1831-1841

Berrima township was founded in May 1831, its site chosen by Major Thomas Mitchell when he laid out a new line of road to link Sydney with Port Phillip (Melbourne). It was to be the main administrative centre south of Sydney, complete with gaol and courthouse and service hub for travellers and local settlers.