The Sydney Mint

The Mint Sydney Front

The image above is a beautiful snapshot of a building which has long been a vital part of Sydney’s history – The Sydney Mint. In fact, this is one of the few images in the Past Present collection to have hardly changed as the past century has gone by! Yet it is also a building many Sydneysiders know little about.

Although today, the building in the image above is known simply as ‘The Mint’, the building was constructed for a very different reason. In 1810, when Governor Macquarie was appointed, he very quickly realised a new hospital was needed as the original portable canvas building was vastly inadequate for the task. Yet the British Government were staunchly refusing to fund any public building works. Macquarie was determined to have a new hospital built for the colony, and came to an arrangement with Alexander Riley, Garnham Blaxcell and D’Arcy Wentworth. He granted them a three year monopoly on the import of rum, and in exchange they were to build the hospital.

When the hospital was completed in 1816 it was made up of three buildings. What is now The Mint was the southern wing, which housed the two assistant surgeons. The northern wing is now Parliament House while the central wing, which actually housed the patients, has long been demolished. The new hospital was not all that Macquarie had hoped for though. Within just a few years the buildings needed massive repairs, and the entire hospital had become known as the Sidney Slaughter House due to rampant dysentery, poor ventilation and overcrowding.

Despite the problems inherent in the building, its excellent location meant that by the 1820s it was actually in demand for other uses. In 1823 the wing now known as The Mint was transformed into a military hospital and in 1842 it became the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary, which provided help to Sydney’s poor. Then, in 1851, gold was discovered in NSW and massive amounts of raw gold began to circulate, putting the colony’s economy out of the hands of the government. In order to regain control, in 1853the colony was granted permission to create a Sydney branch of The Royal Mint. The southern wing of the hospital was chosen as the site for the new Sydney Mint and opened in 1855, the first overseas branch of the London Royal Mint.

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Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital

Walker Hospital Parramatta River Sydney Front

The image above is a beautiful glimpse into a day out and about on the water. Sydney has many beautiful river and creek systems which feed into the spectacular Sydney Harbour, and these have long been a popular destination for a lazy day out and about, used by residents and visitors alike. Yet this postcard also captures a beautiful 19th century building – The Walker Convalescent Hospital. This building, one which many Sydney residents may not realise exists, has a fascinating history.

The Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital, which is today known as Rivendell, is a stunning building, surrounded by beautiful grounds, on the banks of the Parramatta River. The story of the hospital begins in 1886 with the death of a well known Sydney philanthropist, Thomas Walker. Walker had left a bequest of 100,000 pounds for the purposes of building a convalescent hospital, and also set aside a portion of his estate at Concord as the hospital site. The executors of Walkers will held a competition in April 1888 to select a design for the convalescent hospital, a competition won by John Kirkpatrick. Yet Kirkpatricks design was criticised as too expensive, and in mid 1889 it was announced that although his design would be built, the architects engaged in the building of the hospital would be another firm, Sulman and Power.

Building of the hospital commenced in 1890 and the hospital opened in late September 1893. It was built in the Queen Anne style, and positively reflected the influences of Florence Nightingale on hospital design and organisation. The final cost of the hospital exceeded the bequest by Thomas Walker by 50,000 pounds, and the extra funds were donated by Walkers daughters Eadith and Joanna, and Eadith’s childhood friend, Anne Sulman. The Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital was used for convalescents right up until World War Two, when the military took possession of the building. Patients at the hospital were not charged for their care, with Thomas Walker’s bequest providing for four weeks of care per patient, with the option of a two month stay if needed. After the war, the trustees of the hospital regained control and it continued to act as a convalescent hospital until 1976, when control was given to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Today, the site is known as Rivendell, and acts as a rehabilitation centre and school for adolescents, under the direction of the Rivendell Child, Adolescent and Family Unit.

The Carrington Hospital in Camden

Carrington Dispensary

Today, when we think of hospital, we tend to think of modern organisations, which have been established in the not too distant past. If asked to think of an historic hospital, most might think of the Sydney Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital, yet there are others with similarly amazing and indeed important history. The Carrington Hospital at Camden, whose dispensary is pictured in the circa 1920 postcard above, is just one example.

Carrington Hospital was a very important part of Australia’s medical history. The hospital was known as The Carrington Centenary Hospital For Convalescents and was the first major medical facility built for convalescents in the entirety of the NSW colony. The hospital, provided care for patients rehabilitating from illness or injury, and although only officially opened in 1890, was built in commemoration of the centenary of the colony, which fell in 1888.

The hospital was named after the Governor who was serving the colony during these celebrations, Lord Carrington, yet its very existence was owed to a different man entirely. To celebrate the centenary, a Mr William Henry Palings, who owned a successful music store (Palings Music Store) gifted his farm, known as Grasmere, along with 10,000 pounds to the people of NSW. The land was used to build the hospital and funding came not just from Palings himself, but from the Public and New South Wales Government, who equalled the 10,000 pounds which had already been donated. Carrington Hospital was designed by H. C. Kent and built by P. Graham and at the time was a state of the art hospital, and indeed contributed greatly to improved techniques of hospital ventilation. Today the hospital remains in use as a nursing home.

The Coast Hospital At Little Bay

Little Bay HospitalHospitals have long been a feature of Sydney’s history, with the first ‘hospital’, constructed of tents, operational in 1788. Yet when we think of Sydney’s hospital history, we tend to think of a few, main hospitals, Sydney Hospital being the one which most often jumps to mind. Sydney has many medical facilities though, some of which still exist in their original locations, and some of which have been lost to history. The Little Bay Hospital pictured above is one such facility.

In the 1880s, there became an increased demand for hospital care, and also an increasing need to specialise medicine. Little Bay Hospital (usually known as The Coast Hospital or Prince Henry) was one just one specialised hospital built in this decade. Little Bay, located in Southeast Sydney and well away from the established communities and suburbs was the perfect location for this new hospital which catered specifically for infectious diseases. The hospital first opened in 1881 as a tent hospital and was a direct response to the smallpox epidemic which was then sweeping Sydney. A horse ambulance was established to carry patients to the isolated hospital, and disbanded in early 1882, after the epidemic was over. The Coast Hospital was not disbanded though, being converted to a briefly to a convalescent hospital before being again transformed in 1888 into a ‘fever hospital’. From this time the Coast Hospital treated infectious ‘fever’ diseases such as diphtheria, tuberculosis and scarlet fever. In 1900 and again in 1921 patients with Bubonic Plague were treated at Little Bay and in 1919, when the famous influenza pandemic sweeping the world reached Sydney, patients suffering from the deadly disease were also sent to the isolated hospital. In 1934, in honour of the Duke of Gloucester, the name of the hospital was officially changed and from this point the hospital was known as Prince Henry. The hospital at Little Bay was finally closed in 2001, with services being transferred to the Randwick Campus.