Convalescent hospital · Edwardian · First World War · Historical consciousness · history · Interwar · Local History · Medical history · Red Cross · Second World War

Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord NSW

Out at Concord, located in Sydney’s inner west, is the magnificent building of the former Thomas Walker Memorial Hospital for Convalescents, that is now the school Rivendell. It was recently open for inspection by the City of Canada Bay Heritage Society.

Imposing entrance at the main building of the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord facing the Parramatta River 2017 Open Day(I Willis)

The heritage society organises regular open days to continually raise public awareness of this heritage icon.

The Heritage Council of NSW states:

The Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital is situated in the Municipality of Concord on the Parramatta River bounded by Brays Bay and Yaralla Bay. It is a large complex on a large park-like riverside estate, with extensive and prominent landscape plantings, making it a landmark along the river.

Opened in 1893 patients were taken from Circular Quay to the Watergate at the front of the complex on the Parramatta River. The landing stage was a pontoon that went up and down with the tide. A bridge connected the pontoon to the Watergate.

 

Watergate at the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

 

The convalescent hospital was constructed from a bequest of 100,000 pounds from the will of businessman and politician Thomas Walker who died in 1886. Walker was a philanthropist, member of the legislative council and director of the Bank of New South Wales.

The executors of Walker’s will announced a design competition in 1888 for a convalescent hospital. Architect John Kirkpatrick won the design competition although criticized for being overly expensive.

In 1889 architectural commission was given to Sydney architects Sulman and Power. The building cost 150,000 pounds with additional funds coming from other family members and supporters.

Between 1943 and 1946 the hospital was managed by the Red Cross with control then passing to Perpetual Trustees.

The hospital complex

The main hospital building is Queen Anne Federation style  with a four-storey clock tower at the centre. There is classical ornamentation. On either side of the main building are two wings containing cloisters.

The hospital complex is based on a pavilion basis, with each pavilion to retain its functional integrity with the central block for administration and service blocks either side. There are 8 buildings in the complex.

 

Impressive entry vestibule in the main building at the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

 

The main building is two storey with a three storey tower over the main entrance, an impressive vestibule, and an entertainment hall for 300 people. There is sandstone detail throughout inside and out.

The Sulman buildings have elaborately shaped exposed rafter ends, Marseilles pattern terracotta roof tiles and crafted brickwork.

 

Covered walkway from main building at the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

 

The History of Sydney website states:

The building’s symmetrical design originally divided it into male and female sides. It includes two enclosed courtyards, a concert hall and a recreation hall which is supposed to be highly decorated. It is of the first known buildings to make use of “cavity walls” for insulation and protection against Sydney’s hot climate.

 

Complex roof line showing Marseilles pattern terracotta roof tiles of main building Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

Significance of hospital complex

The NSW heritage inventory states:

The hospital is important because it reflects Florence Nightingale’s influence on 19th century convalescent hospital design principles and their adoption into Australian architecture.

The Estate is a rare surviving late 19th century major institution of a private architect’s design in Australia and is John Sulman’s finest work in this country.

The grounds of the hospital are of national heritage signficance as an intact example of Victorian/Edwardian institutional gardens which have maintained an institution throughout their whole existence.

Some of the crowd in the reception entertainment hall at Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

 

Look out for the next visitor open day in mid 2018 (July) run by the Canada Bay Heritage Society as well as the associated house of Yaralla at Concord in April and October.

Learn more 

Canada Bay Heritage Society

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Camden · First World War · Interwar · Red Cross

Lady Street visited Camden in 1934

1918 Poster Image RC

The Red Cross drew many important people to visit Camden during the Inter-war period. One of those was Lady Belinda Street, a member of the Street family, a dynasty of important Sydney barristers and judges.

Lady Belinda Street was part of the influential network of friends and contacts that formed the circle that swirled around the lives of the Enid and Sibella Macarthur Onslow of Camden Park that moved between London and New South Wales.

1930 Lady Belinda Street (National Library of Australia)
1930 Lady Belinda Street (National Library of Australia)

Edric Street, Lady Belinda’s brother-in-law, was the manager of the Commercial Bank in Camden from 1914 and his wife Margaret was active in the Camden Red Cross.

In 1934 the Camden Red Cross, under the presidency of Sibella Macarthur Onslow, invited Lady Belinda Street and Mrs John Moore OBE (formerly Gladys Owen) to the AGM at the Camden Town Hall (School of Arts), after the event had been cancelled at Gilbulla due to heavy rain.

Lady Belinda Street was a charity worker and philanthropist. She was the wife Phillip Street who was the Chief Justice of New South Wales (1925) and knighted (KCMG) in 1928. One her sons Kenneth, a Sydney barrister, who later became New South Wales chief justice (1949) and knighted KCMG, 1956), married Jessie Lillingston in 1916.

04J_1915passportNLA_tcm14-29973
Jessie Street 1915 National Library of Australia, NLA 2683/11/6

Jessie Street was famous as a radical activist and humanitarian. She was later known as ‘Red Jessie’ for her sympathies with Russia during the Cold War. She was a contemporary of Sibella Macarthur Onslow  and in 1920 secretary of the National Council of Women of New South Wales.  Jessie campaigned for equal pay for women, was a supporter of the League of Nations and later the United Nations. She was a human rights advocate and campaigner for Indigenous rights in the 1930s and unsuccessfully stood for parliament for the Labor Party after the Second World War.

Lady Belinda Street, Jessie’s mother-in-law, was a member of many community organisations. She was a member of house committee of Royal Alexandria Hospital for Children, vice president of the District Nursing Association, the committee of the Church of England Grammar School and Homes and Hospitals for Children.

Lady Belinda was an active member of the Red Cross from the First World War along with Enid and Sibella Macarthur Onslow. Lady Belinda was a  member of the Executive Committee of the New South Wales Division of the Red Cross and by the Second World War served as vice-president of the New South Wales Division.  She was a supporter of the Red Cross Rose Hall Convalescent Home for soldiers at Darlinghurst Sydney during the First World War.  Rose Hall was lent to the Red Cross by the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Coy, opened in 1915 and fitted out by the Red Cross at the cost of £984 with 32 beds. It was one of a number of convalescent homes opened by the Red Cross during the war across New South Wales.

Lady Belinda’s sister-in-law Mrs Edric (Margaret) Street was a  foundation member of the Camden Red Cross and served as treasurer until the death of her husband, Edric Street, in Camden in 1923. Margaret served as a member of Executive Committee of the New South Wales Division of the Red Cross during the First World War. Margaret Browne married Edric Street at St Matthais’ Church Albury in 1892 and had four children. She was the second daughter of TA Browne, pastoralist and police magistrate and the author known as ‘Rolf Boldrewood’ who wrote Robbery Under Arms which was published as a serial in the Sydney Mail between 1882 and 1883. His wife Maria was the granddaughter of Alexander Riley of Raby.

Cover Robbery Under Arms
Cover Robbery Under Arms

Edric H Street was manager of Camden’s Commercial Bank from 1914 until his death (1923) and was very a community minded citizen. He was treasurer of the Camden AH&I Society, vice president of the executive committee of the Camden District Hospital and a warden of St John’s Church.

A 1915 view of Commercial Banking Co building at corner of Argyle and John Street Camden
A 1915 view of Commercial Banking Co building at corner of Argyle and John Street Camden

The Camden News reported that at the 1934 Camden Red Cross AGM  Lady Belinda Street moved  ‘the adoption of the report and balance sheet, and congratulated the Camden Red Cross on the excellent financial results of its past year’. She spoke of the long association of Mrs Edric [Margaret] Street, her sister-in-law, with the work of the Red Cross in Camden.  Dr RM Crookston, Camden Mayor in 1933, proposed ‘a vote of thanks to Lady Street for sparing some of her well-filled time to come and preside at Camden’s annual Red Cross meeting’.

Dr Crookston paid a tribute to the ‘unfailing energy and devotion that Mrs Edric Street had shown in her work for the Red Cross from the very day that England entered the war. Referring to the peace-time work of the Red Cross Society, Dr. Crookston said that amid all the political wrangling and the struggle for a ‘place in the sun’ that went on all over the world, it was encouraging to know that this kindly influence was at work caring for those unable to care for themselves’.

‘Mr Davies seconded this vote which was carried unanimously. Mr PC Furner proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Onslow for entertaining the members and urged them to pledge themselves to greater efforts for the Red Cross. This was carried by acclamation, and after Miss Onslow had responded Lady Street declared the meeting closed’.

The Camden News reported that ‘afternoon tea was then served and much appreciated’.

Read more 

Jessie Street National Women’s Library, Sydney Click here

‘Red Jessie’ the story of Jessie Street. Uncommon Lives, National Archives Click here

TA Browne, pseudonym Rolf Boldrewood. Click here