Hunter Valley Colonial Medical Practitioners


Francis Rawdon Hastings Campbell

Maitland - Tarban Creek


Francis Rawdon Hastings Campbell was forty one years old when he arrived in Australia in September 1839. He had practiced medicine in London.

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 and their time in the Valley was tinged with sadness. 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.

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 Mr. Yeoman's 'Northumberland Hotel' where toasts were given and responded to with enthusiasm and where 'everything that the season provided was in abundance'.

Soon after this Dr. Campbell and his wife and children moved to Sydney as he was requesting that those indebted to him pay their accounts to Maitland apothecary, William Mutlow.  

Francis Campbell was elected physician at the Benevolent Asylum in Sydney in 1846 (Sydney Morning Herald)

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.

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

In 1849 the following report appeared 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 (Maitland Mercury 24 October 1849)

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.


Links & Notes:

Australian Pioneer Medical Index

Australian Dictionary of Biography

More about Tarban Creek Asylum

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



 British and Foreign Medico-chirurgical Review

Letter to the Editors of the S. M. Herald:

Gentlemen I yesterday interred the bodies of James Hutchinson and Samuel Todd (two lunatics) in the burial ground at Tarban Creek, and there are circumstances connected with their death which imperatively demand investigation.

The Surgery dispenser of the Asylum stated in my presence previous to the interments that Hutchinson, who was labouring under pulmonary disease, had been found dead on Monday morning, lying on the stone flags of the crib room, where he slept with several other patients, by one of whom he had been much annoyed and pulled about during Sunday night. the dispenser moreover stated that Todd, who was suffering from aneurism, had been also found in a similar situation, not then dead - though he died in the course of the day.

I say nothing of the cause of these poor creatures being so situated. It is well known that the present system of management is one of total non restraint, which the Superintendent is bound to carry out, and it is evident that on this very account patients labouring under such diseases as those above named should be placed where they would not be liable to such dreadful exposure as appears to have hastened the death of these two unfortunates. I merely mention the fact, that not having been restrained, they either voluntarily deserted, or were dragged out of their beds by some violent patients and, being enfeebled by disease, were incapable of raising themselves from the cold stones, on which one of them absolutely perished.

With further particulars of the statement made by the dispenser I will not trouble you but I consider it to be an irresistible duty thus publicly to show the necessity of seeking for Tarban Creek that great advantage which every public asylum should possess viz., an unpaid and independent board of visitors.

This would be a satisfaction to the public, as well as  to the superintendent who, under their inspection, would be relived of no inconsiderable portion of responsibility and annoyance.

All that I am impelled to ask and claim, for the Asylum, by the dictates of person knowledge and experience, is the immediate appointment of such a board. I am, gentlemen , your obedient servant. George E. Turner. Ryde Parsonage. June 12. 1850

Dr. Campbell's reply to the above letter:

The Reverend G. E. Turner, with plenty of parade and egotism, in a letter, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of yesterday, has called the public attention to two cases of natural death which occurred in this establishment; the one on Sunday night, and the other on Monday night. James Hutchinson, whose death has been expected daily for the last ten days, and was left by me breathing his last at half past ten o'clock at night, was found lying on the floor at the side of his bed on Monday morning, having fallen over when death had deprived the body of the power of preserving its balance. During the latter part of his illness this patient had lain on the side of his bed, inclining a little forward to facilitate his expectorating clear of the bed clothes, and therefore he fell out by the natural law of gravity.

A patient who had become unusually excited had pulled the bedclothes off him; but happening to make my visit at the very moment, I had him instantly conveyed to a different part of the asylum. Such was the "pulling about" of this reverend advocate of chains, belts etc.

Samuel Todd, who died on the Monday night, but with whose death his choosing to lie on the floor part of the night had as much to do as the reverend dictator himself, was moribund when he was received into the asylum.

But your reverend correspondent has given these cases in such a spirit, with such an object, from such a motive, and with such colouring, that I feel obliged from respect to my mere professional character to declare that beyond the simple facts I have stated, the assertions of this clergyman are Jesuitical, malignant false, and slanderous. I have the honour to be, gentlemen., your obedient servant. F. Campbell, M.D., M.A., Superintendent.








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