Pulling Down to Pick Up

Lightening the Load at the Historic Berry Wharf

Two kilometres south of the town of Berry, on Broughton Creek in Dharawal Country, is a peaceful boat ramp. Today, when standing at this serene spot, it is hard to imagine the scene over one hundred years ago when the busy Berry Wharf was operated from here, by the Scottish-born settler David Berry (1795-1889). The single-wheel pulley pictured here was used on the Berry Wharf, at the Wharfinger Shed – also known as the Hardwood Wharf.

Built in 1885, Berry Wharf was the second wharf to be established at Berry. In its hey day it was a bustling hub, accommodating hundreds of boats, both large and small. Amidst the whistles of steam ships, smoke, footsteps, shouting and softer voices, passengers boarded and alighted here, and industrious wharf workers loaded or unloaded tonnes of cargo from moored freight vessels.

This pulley allowed workers to lift and move heavier items than they could otherwise have done without it, as well as in quicker time. A simple yet ingenious tool, a pulley reverses the direction of (a load’s) force, from ‘picking up’ to ‘pulling down’, enabled by the pulley’s internal wheel and its smooth guiding of the rope tied to a load. The use of pulleys significantly sped up the pace of wharf workers and, in turn, the movement of ships.

Ship transport had been a boon to the economic development of the South Coast region by settlers, but it also hastened the dispossession of the Dharawal people by expanding farmlands and townships. Prior to commercial shipping interests in the region, the building of roads had been very patchy. And in the earliest decades of European settlement, agricultural produce was carried by pack-horses along rugged tracks, because the hilly and densely vegetated landscape was unsuitable for carts. 

A solution to these challenges was to use creeks and rivers instead of tracks and roads. After being loaded at the Berry Wharf, vessels travelled along Broughton Creek and then to the Shoalhaven River. Once leaving the river and entering the ocean, boats journeyed along the coast to Sydney.

With the building of a railway line to the district in 1893 the need for water transport was reduced. The last regular transport boat service to and from Berry Wharf ceased around 1930, which also meant that this hard-worked pulley was no longer needed.