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Hunter Valley Medical Practitioner

Francis Rawdon Hastings Campbell

Francis Rawdon Hastings Campbell was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1798, the second son of Archibald Campbell and Elizabeth Young. He was forty one years old when he and his wife Selina (nee Porter) arrived in Australia on the Christina in September 1839. He had studied at Glasgow University (M.A., M.D., 1829) and at Edinburgh (L.R.C.S., 1829) and practised medicine in London before coming to Australia.


Dr. Campbell lived in the Upper Paterson district before announcing in February 1842 that he intended to establish a practise in East Maitland commencing on the 1st March in the premises formerly used by the late Dr. John Inches

Francis Campbell and his wife Selina remained in the district for only a few years. When they left in the mid 1840's they left behind two tiny graves belonging to their children who had died in infancy.

Accidents were often the cause of death in children in the district and there was little Dr. Campbell could do to save the life of Walter, the son of nearby settler John Eales when he was injured in a fall from his horse. In February 1844 a considerable rainfall must have occurred leaving sheets of water near the Four Mile Creek. As John Eales' young son Walter was riding with his brother to school, his pony shied at the water and he was thrown from his seat and dragged for a quarter of a mile among the stumps and trees, kicked severely all the while. Dr. Campbell being the family doctor rushed to the spot in his gig and conveyed the lad to his home where he remained unconscious for several days under Dr. Campbell's care, before finally passing away.

Agricultural Pursuits

Francis Campbell was involved in agriculture during his time in the Maitland district. In 1845 he entered a sample of hemp in the Hunter River Agricultural Society show. No prize was awarded in this category as Dr. Campbell's 'handful of hemp' was the only entry. No doubt he was among the 50 gentlemen to attend the dinner provided at George Yeoman's Northumberland Hotel where toasts were given and responded to with enthusiasm and where 'everything that the season provided was in abundance'.

Benevolent Asylum Sydney

Soon after this Dr. Campbell and his wife and children moved to Sydney and he was requesting that those indebted to him pay their accounts to Maitland apothecary, William Mutlow. He was elected physician at the Benevolent Asylum in Sydney in 1846. [1]

Tarban Creek

He was appointed medical superintendent of the 'Lunatic Asylum' (Tarban Creek Asylum) in Sydney. The salary for this position was £400 per annum with quarters in the asylum and rations.

In 1849 the following was reported in the Maitland Mercury:

'On Monday last we visited the Tarban Creek Asylum, when by the kindness of Dr. Campbell we were allowed to inspect the whole of the premises. Dr. Digby, the superintendent, whose vigilance and efficiency is worthy of all praise, conducted us through the establishment; and politely explained to us the various modes of treatment adopted towards the patients. The building was intended originally for only sixty patients, but so lamentably has insanity increased of late years in this colony, that is was recently enlarged so as to accommodate about one hundred; still it has been found too small, as there is at the present time about one hundred and eighty six patients on the books. Notwithstanding this large number, so judiciously are the arrangements carried out, that there does not appear to be that great practical inconvenience one might naturally expect. The building is a very substantial one of wrought stone, occupying a prominent and healthful position; and the small rooms, or as they are termed cells, allotted for the sleeping apartments of the patients, are neat and clean to a nicety, while the lighting and ventilation of each is most admirable, so much so in fact that there is no appearance of cells. The patients themselves also presented a very clean and healthy appearance. There are several large recreation yards both for males and females, which are every way calculated for the use for which they are designed; and from having verandahs all round can be used either in fine or rainy weather. A library has lately been established for the use of the patients, and we saw several of them apparently deeply engaged in the perusal of books and newspapers. Some of the male patients are engaged in various occupations, such as cutting wood, cooking, fetching water and the like; but we believe none of them are found to be capable of working at their trades. One thing we think is wanting to make the establishment complete, namely a large garden, as we are of opinion that with a little looking after many of the more quiet patients might be found to cultivate it; and thus while it would afford employment to these unfortunate individuals, which would occupy their time and attention, it might be made a source of profit by the production of vegetables for the consumption of the house. We were altogether well pleased with our visit, and from the inspection which we made we are of opinion that this establishment is conducted in a most gratifying manner, and reflects the highest credit upon all concerned in its management - People's Advocate [2]

A visitor to the Asylum in 1850 recorded the following:

We visited this establishment a few days since, and were taken into every part of the building by Dr. Campbell, and were shown the whole of the unfortunate inmates without the slightest reserve. The lunatics' perfectly clean and generally healthy appearance warrants our stating that nothing is wanting as regards the strictest attention of the parties in charge - the nurses and keepers appear to have been most judiciously selected for their important trust. The floors and walls were perfectly clean, the kitchens and cooking apparatus would not disgrace a nobleman's establishment. The provisions, both meat and vegetables, were of the best quality. the unfortunate inmates were much more quiet and orderly than might have been expected, seeing the day was wet and cold, and the inmates (comprising males 68 and females 50, in the whole 118) in doors around their large fires, well guarded. Having said thus much in favour of this well conducted establishment, it is but honest of us to state what appears to be prominent defects; - and to speak first of the sleeping apartments, we were much surprised to observe two large apartments appropriated for some of the male adults, the walls of the place were composed of long slight slabs, not apparently tied together with boards or battens, but such as might easily be removed or pulled down by persons only half frantic. The next fault is that of the windows of the sleeping rooms in the wards, where there would be little difficulty in getting out at. the next fault we have to point out is the state of the floors in the airing grounds; the day we saw this was wet, and they were full of puddles. for this we would point out a remedy, namely at the Pennant Hills quarry there are tons upon tons of what is called screenings of the road metal, which might be got for fetching, and not far distant from the asylum, and we are sure nothing would make a better floor. In conclusion we would beg to remark that we think the scientific world would suffer a loss in not having the annual medical report of the learned and talented superintendent published.


Francis Rawdon Hastings Campbell died in 1877. Read his obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald

Notes and Links

Australian Dictionary of Biography

Find a Grave

State of Her Majesty's Colonial Possessions - Return of the number of patients at Tarban Creek 1850

British and Foreign Medico-chirurgical Review - Dr. Campbell mentioned re melancholia.


[1] Sydney Morning Herald 6 August 1846

[2] Maitland Mercury 24 October 1849

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