Botanica and Lidcombe Hospital

2008
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Botanica and Lidcombe Hospital

Botanica is the most recent locality to be carved out of the suburb of Lidcombe, yet it has a long history. Early records note a natural spring, which is the watershed where the water flows north via Haslams Creek to Parramatta River and south via Freshwater Creek to the Cooks River. There is little known archaeological evidence of Aboriginal occupation in the area, but the spring may have been a landmark for people passing between the Parramatta River and Botany Bay. [1]

The new locality of Botanica has been established on a site once occupied by Lidcombe Hospital, a typical, large, nineteenth-century, state-run institution.

The New South Wales government bought the land in 1879 from HG Douglas and Joseph Hyde Potts. Some of it was used to expand Rookwood Cemetery. Then, between 1885 and 1887, the government built four dormitories, a dining hall, kitchen and a two-storey superintendent's residence for a boys' reformatory to teach farming and other useful skills to young offenders. The buildings were designed by James Barnet, but neither they nor the land were used for this original purpose. The hospital was established in 1893, and its closure was announced in the centenary year 1993. [2]

When established in 1893, the asylum occupied 1300 acres (526 hectares) in the suburb now called Lidcombe. In 1907, it occupied 755 acres (306 hectares). Over time, land was transferred or sold to other institutions. Carnarvon Golf Course, on the western side of Joseph Street, was part of the dairy for the hospital until 1948. In other developments, in 1959 the State Institute of Clinical Pathology moved to a new building on the southern border of the land; Minda Child Remand Home opened in 1966; Cumberland College of Health Sciences (later the Lidcombe campus of the University of Sydney) appeared in 1974; Paraquad NSW opened Ferguson Lodge in 1979; the Multiple Sclerosis Society came in 1984; and the Lidcombe College of Technical and Further Education was set up in 1993.

From Rookwood Asylum to Lidcombe Hospital

The name of the hospital changed over time, as the focus of care changed and developed: Lidcombe Hospital (1967–95); Lidcombe State Hospital and Home (1927–66); Rookwood State Hospital and Home for Men (1913–26); and Rookwood Asylum for the Aged and Infirm (1893–13). Locally, it was known affectionately as the Lidcombe old men's home, though during the influenza pandemic of 1919 women had briefly been admitted to the infectious diseases ward (ward 21). Officially, the first female patients were admitted in 1966 to ward 24, a surgical ward with emphasis on orthopaedics. This had been anticipated when Newington Hospital closed in 1964 and its women patients were transferred to Lidcombe. [3]

The economic depression of the 1890s led to widespread poverty and homelessness in New South Wales. Families were no longer able to look after the chronically ill and disabled, and the colonial government was forced to care for them. In March 1893, 80 men were transferred from Parramatta to the then Rookwood Asylum for the Aged and Infirm. [4] The asylum had been set up to care for the aged, the disabled and the addicted, but gradually clinical services were added. Specialties developed slowly. Many inmates were long-term residents in the home section. In 1903, there were 530 hospital patients and 724 home residents. In 1938, there were 985 hospital patients and 910 home residents. [5]

Until about 1950, the inmates assisted staff with farming activities. For example, in 1924, the vegetable gardens, piggery and poultry run sustained 1,444 inmates. At that time, the Friesian dairy herd was winning prizes at the Royal Easter Show. It supplied all the milk for the home and for the Waterfall Sanatorium. From 1938, bread baked on site was sent to Newington Hospital and the Waterfall Sanatorium. [6]

In 1919, Dr Piero Fiaschi demonstrated his developments of the Mettzer method of insufflation anaesthesia for the Sydney medical establishment at the hospital. A rehabilitation department was established under Dr Tinsley in 1961. With the coming of modern administration in 1967, the medical superintendent, George Procopis, expanded the geriatric specialty that was already being practised within the hospital.

Lidcombe Hospital became a teaching hospital for medical students in 1976, although nurses had received training there for many years. By 1990, the Health Commission described Lidcombe as a centre of excellence for gerontology, rehabilitation and treating chronic illnesses. Staff numbers were large – there were 1200 people employed when the hospital closed in 1993. [7]

The end of an era

Decentralisation gathered pace during the 1980s as geriatric health was specifically targeted by both State and Commonwealth governments, and preference was developed for keeping the aged out of institutions. The New South Wales hospital system was restructured in the 1990s, and in 1992 the state government amalgamated Bankstown and Lidcombe Hospitals. Operations were consolidated at Bankstown, and Lidcombe Hospital closed in 1995, after 102 years of caring for the destitute, elderly and sick in New South Wales.

The Olympics and a new suburb

Some of the Lidcombe Hospital buildings were used as accommodation for the media during the 2000 Olympic Games. The remaining land was sold for development as the Botanica estate, and the older buildings grouped along the first entrance driveway and the 'village green' were listed on the State Heritage Register. These include buildings by important architects such as James Barnet, Walter Liberty Vernon, Cobden Parkes and Ken Woolley. [8]

Notes

[1] Mary Dallas Consulting Archaeologists, The Lidcombe State Hospital Aboriginal Archaeological Survey, 1997

[2] Don Keast, Lidcombe Hospital Centenary 1893 to 1993: a pictorial history, Lidcombe Hospital, Lidcombe NSW, 1993

[3] Greg Marcar and John Ballard, A Historical Tour of Lidcombe Hospital, 2nd edition, Torch Publishing, Condell Park NSW, 2005

[4] Greg Marcar and John Ballard, A Historical Tour of Lidcombe Hospital, 2nd edition, Torch Publishing, Condell Park NSW, 2005

[5] Raema Walker, 'Rookwood Boys Reformatory to Lidcombe Hospital', unpublished article, Auburn library local history vertical file, Lidcombe Hospital (NSW) History

[6] Don Keast, Lidcombe Hospital Centenary 1893 to 1993: a pictorial history, Lidcombe Hospital, Lidcombe NSW, 1993, p 14; Raema Walker, 'Rookwood Boys Reformatory to Lidcombe Hospital', unpublished article, Auburn library local history vertical file, Lidcombe Hospital (NSW) History

[7] Mary Dallas Consulting Archaeologists, The Lidcombe State Hospital Aboriginal Archaeological Survey, 1997

[8] Mary Dallas Consulting Archaeologists, The Lidcombe State Hospital Aboriginal Archaeological Survey, 1997

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