Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Hospital, Port Arthur

Port Arthurs first hospital was a wooden building built in the 1830’s just below the site of the existing ruin. The existing hospital was built between 1841 and 1842. The new sandstone & brick hospital had two gabled wings which contained the wards and also housed a provisions store, a kitchen with a baking oven, a morgue and a waste collection room.

This building was the third hospital built at the settlement and the wards were capable of housing about 70 patients, the convicts and Point Puer boys being separated from the soldiers & officers. During busy periods, the convict patients were segregated by religion with Catholics in one ward and Protestants in another. Civilians and their families were generally treated in the comfort of their own homes. The first medical officer at Port Arthur arrived in 1832 and since he was also the catechist, he was responsible for the convicts’ spiritual health too.

After the closure of the settlement in 1877, the building was abandoned. It was eventually purchased by the Catholic Church for 300 pounds for conversion into a boys home but it was gutted by the 1895 bushfires. The outer walls remained strong and in good condition , so the church, claiming on their insurance, once again rebuilt the structure. But unfortunately for the Catholic Church, it was again gutted by the 1897 bushfire and left in much the same condition that it appears today.

The reconstructed brick footings at the rear of the building indicates the original extent of the rear wings. A wooden building at the rear of the hospital was the hospital laundry.
The ruin has now been stabilized and accessible with some interpretive areas having been set up within the ruins.

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Interpretive Sign at the Site
“Port Arthur – Convicts & Commandants” – Walter B. Pridmore

Historic Photos – 

1 comment:

  1. I am glad there was a high quality hospital in Port Arthur, at least from 1841-1842 until 1877. And it made sense that as well as the wards, they would need all the other facilities that would normally have been found in Hobart: provisions store, kitchen etc.

    One would have expected soldiers & officers to be looked after well, and civilians perhaps to be treated by the hospital staff. But treating the convicts appropriately came as a total surprise.

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