Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.


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Berrilee is a small farming locality about five kilometres west of Berowra in the parish of North Colah, in the shire of Hornsby. The name Berrilee goes back to 1840, and is taken from a Dharug word, 'burra', probably meaning 'place of kangaroos'. [1]

The village was once believed to have been named for the local Aboriginal word for pig. Pigs were kept by some of the early European settlers in the area and the Aboriginals were said to have called sows and piglets 'Birra Birra', which later became Berrilee. [2] The Aboriginals traded fish and oysters from Berowra Creek for tea, sugar and flour.

Berrilee was also known as Calabash in the early 1900s, the meaning of which is 'a gourd, or the dried, hollow shell of the calabash (tree), used as a vessel'. [3]

The Lattie family were early pioneers of Berrilee. Their sandstone house, Mount Orient, in Bay Road, is now heritage-listed and assessed as being of state significance.

In 1936, a part-time school was opened in Sandown, a stone house which was used as the first classroom. A timber classroom was built in 1939 and 20 pupils attended the new school. In 2002, Berrilee Public School was the smallest in Sydney.

Berrilee was one of the outlying suburbs to be served by the Boys and Girls Travelling Library. The service was started in 1943 and provided a valuable service to the pupils of the school.

The Arcadia-Berrilee Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade was established in 1941.

The open forest and woodland around Berrilee provide an excellent fauna corridor between Berowra Valley Bushland Park and the bushland in Marramarra National Park. [4]


[1] Ralph Hawkins, 'Nurragingy to the Reverend Clarke, November, 1840', in 'History of the Aborigines of Hornsby Shire', unpublished manuscript

[2] Claire Schofield, The Shaping of Hornsby Shire, Hornsby Shire Council, Hornsby NSW, 1988, p 63

[3] L Geelan, Galston and Arcadia memories of value 1819–1986, Galston Centenary Committee, Sydney, 1986, p 3

[4] Hornsby Shire Council Planning Branch , Rural lands study: final report, Hornsby Shire Council, Hornsby NSW, 1999, p 158