Maitland Hospital

1800's

Residents in Maitland petitioned the Governor for a hospital and gaol in 1835 when the population of the town reached 1900, however the Immigrant's Home founded by Caroline Chisholm in East Maitland was the first public building used to care for the sick in Maitland. This site became known as the Maitland Benevolent Asylum.

The facilities were soon found to be inadequate and it was thought that although several invalids had received benefits from the asylum, in the absence of proper hospital apparatus, injury could be done to patients in the future. Funds were an issue and early in 1843 a meeting was called to discuss applying to the Benevolent Asylum in Sydney for assistance for the maintenance of several 'of the convict class'.  By the end of 1843 patients and staff were moved to Hannan House a two story brick building in Hannan Street, West Maitland.

A Committee was formed and succeeded in obtaining a grant of 1000 for a new hospital on 5th December 1844.  New rules were required for the Hospital and Bourn Russell, Andrew Liddell, J. M. Potts, R. Jones, H.I. Pilcher, Dr. David Sloane Rev. W. Stack, Rev. J.T. Lynch, Rev. W. McIntyre and Rev. F. Lewis were appointed to draft them. In April 1845 Sir George Gipps approved a grant of a site at Campbell's Hill, West Maitland opposite Boyne's Inn. The foundation stone was laid by Edward Denny Day on 26th January 1846.

Edward Collison Close was the first President of the Committee and John Kingsmill was Secretary.  Trustees appointed were Edward Denny Day, Edward C. Close, Andrew Lang, Charles Boydell, Robert Green and Alexander Warren.  

In April 1846 the foundation stone that was laid in January was removed from its bed by person or persons unknown, the bottle deposited in it was taken out and broken and the parchment carried away. A reward  or Conditional pardon was offered for information leading to the conviction of the guilty party

The hospital was financed by subscribers, collection boxes,  paying patients' donations and Police fines (in one quarter this source could provide as much as 33) and an amount from the Colonial Treasurer equivalent to the amount collected. In October 1847 the Colonial Treasurer forwarded 64/2/4d. In 1847 The Governor Sir Charles Fitzroy visited the Hospital and handed over to the Treasurer a cheque for the 'handsome amount' of 10. Major Innes also donated 2. Benefactors would also donate sheep, wine and cordials for the patients and each year on public holidays such as Easter, Queen's Birthday, and Christmas Day prominent citizens from Maitland and the surrounds would present a special dinner for the patients.

At the Quarterly meeting of the General Committee held in October 1847, the Secretary, John Kingsmill informed other members that 81 patients had received medical treatment in the previous quarter. Thirty three were discharged cured, 17 forwarded to Sydney, nine had died and eleven remained in the hospital.

In September 1847 the Building Committee announced that plans for the building of the new hospital would be accepted. The line running east and west inclined 5 feet 4 inches in 80 feet and the north and south line 1 foot 2 inches in 80 feet. The cost of the building was not to exceed  2000 and fifteen guineas would be awarded to the party furnishing the approved plan. The Building Committee favoured a projecting roof and verandahs.

By May 1848 the Maitland Mercury was reporting that the walls of the new hospital were visible from the town. The hospital was said to be awkwardly arranged in that the front of the hospital faced the town and the back of the hospital with its kitchens etc faced the road. It was thought that the architectural effect from the town would be very good as it would appear higher and larger but that the drainage from the building must flow past the front which they felt was undesirable. The view of the town itself from the hospital was said to be excellent and the best in West Maitland.

Almost completed by 1849, and considered one of the chief architectural ornaments of Maitland, the workmanship at the new hospital by builder Mr. Ashton was considered excellent with the walls being closely jointed and built of first rate bricks and the mortar used having a very large proportion of lime. A two story building, it was 86 feet broad by 50 ft deep and a verandah and balcony 9 ft wide ran along the whole front. The back wall was almost 30 ft high and the side walls gradually increased in height owing to the declination of the ground, the front wall being 35 ft high. A verandah and balcony was also situated at the back each 46 ft long and enclosed between two wings. There were 21 rooms, a broad central hall and two cross passages leading to the wards. The upper story was nearly a facsimile of the ground floor except the portion over the front part of the hall was converted into a central room. The ward rooms on the upper floor each had a  front door way leading on to the front balcony which commanded a beautiful view of Maitland and the rich agricultural plains around it bounded by hills in every direction.  Altogether there were four wardrooms each 37 ft by 20; 6 rooms of 14 ft by 16ft; 2 rooms of 13 ft by 12ft; 4 rooms of 10ft by 11ft; 4 closets; and one central room of 14 ft by 10 ft. In the whole building there were twelve fire places.

In the 1840's, surgical procedures were dreaded and used only as a last resort.  Anaesthetic was not in use until 1847.  James Nimmo from the Cooley Camp was  unwilling to submit to an operation although in the end he bore the operation with great fortitude. He had met with an accident while driving a cart when  the wheel passed over his loins, head and leg. It was found impracticable to set his leg and so  McCartney, Sloan and Beardmore  decided to operate. Nimmo was transferred to Maitland Hospital  to await his fate. Also unwilling to submit to amputation was an aborigine in 1847 who after being admitted to Maitland Hospital for an amputation of his arm after it was badly set by an 'unprofessional man' decided to absent himself from the hospital.  Dr. Liddell, Dr Sloan and Dr. McCartney  arrived at the hospital with a formidable array of instruments in readiness for the amputation to find their intended victim missing, the dreadful prospect having proved too much for his nerves, and induced him to make a bolt of it.

At the quarterly meeting in October 1849 Dr. McCartney asked that the committee consider preparing the new hospital immediately for  the reception of patients. The crowded state of the present small and inadequate building (Hannan House) had made it impossible to be kept in a proper state of cleanliness. He urged that patients be moved to the new hospital as a measure of humanity. The building committee agreed to meet Mr. Mortimer Lewis, the Clerk of Works to finalise surveys, payments and  finishing details of the hospital and it was resolved to wait for government assistance for the fitting of the hospital with iron bedsteads and other necessary appliances. Meanwhile new rugs and blankets could be procured so that patients could be made as comfortable as possible in the new hospital. It was proposed that patients would be moved there on Wednesday 7th November.

The removal did not take place until the following day when ten patients were moved from the old hospital to the new building. Seven men were placed in the large upper northern ward and three females in the small lower wards. The visiting surgeon and other medical men and the Acting Committee were present at the opening. Unfortunately there were no funds available to provide the patients with the full number of iron bedsteads, however new bedding had been provided for each patient and they were 'placed in great comfort' compared with their quarters in the old building where there were up to twenty seven patients housed in overcrowded unfavourable sometimes vermin infested conditions. Dr. McCartney had used 'Burnett's disinfecting Fluid' and had made free use of it to sweeten and improve the state of the old hospital but the conditions created by overcrowding remained. In the new hospital the wards were well ventilated and convenient and the views from the balconies were said to be very beautiful.

 

Treated at the Benevolent Asylum in 1844:

Thomas Boyd - dysentery, cured.

Mr. Miller - Jaundice, discharged to Newcastle.    

Mr. Brannigan - Rheumatism, discharged.

Mr. Smith - Old age. In hospital at time of report

D. Flynn - Lockjaw, died.

Mr. Dogerrty - Inflammation of pericardium, discharged.

Walter Atkins - Diseased heart , In hospital at time of report

Joseph Darick - Stricture - sent to Sydney.

Mary Caddel - Abscess , cured.

John Greenalth - Diseased liver and dropsy, ran away

Mr. Crabtree - Sent to Sydney

Crodgey - Aborigine, old age, died.    

John Anson - Ulcerated throat, outpatient

W. Fairley - Abscess , In hospital at time of report

David Harley - Old age, Sent to Sydney

T. McLennon - Blindness and old age. Sent to Sydney

James Dogerty - Inflammation of knee joint. In hospital at time of report

Mr. Duffield - Disease of skin, In hospital at time of report

Mr. Golocar - Indigestion, In hospital.

 

Notes & Links:

The Old Hospital and the New - Maitland Weekly Mercury 25 March 1905 - Description of the new hospital built in 1903.

 

Children's ward at Maitland Hospital in 1910

Maitland Hospital, NSW, Australia [n.d.] Maitland Hospital University of Newcastle Cultural Collections - Click to enlarge

 

Sources

A Town to be laid out, Maitland 1829 - 1979

Maitland Mercury

Sydney Gazette

 

 

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