Goulburn committee rallies for hospital heritage

Memories of old nursing days came flooding back on Friday night as some 60 people gathered to farewell Lady Grose House.

The building, along with Springfield House, will be demolished as part of the $120 million Goulburn Base Hospital redevelopment. Both were former nurses’ accommodation, with Lady Grose House used for this purpose up until recently.

The Arts and Heritage in the New Hospital Build committee organised the event as a reminiscence but also a fundraiser. Member Carol James said the expected $2500 to $3000 raised through donations and an auction would go towards retaining heritage items from the buildings in the new complex. Displays and a ‘history ribbon’ stretching from the old to the new complex, telling the stories of the old hospital are just some of the ideas.

“We want to keep those things because it’s an important story to tell,” she said.

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Others thought so too. Former nurse and trainer Marlene Eggleston was among the 60-strong crowd. She was a student nurse at Goulburn Base from 1961 to 1965, left briefly for Adelaide in 1966 and returned to the Base until her retirement in 2000.

She recalled that first-year nurses stayed upstairs at Springfield House.

“I shared a double room with Marcia Cluney,” Miss Eggleston said.

“We had to move rooms every two months and we had to be in bed with lights out by 10pm. We were up at 5.30am to have tea and Sao biscuits before starting work in the wards at 6.15am.”

As more first-year students arrived, nurses moved into Lady Grose House. Miss Eggleston said there were 60 to 80 people accommodated there and in Springfield House.

Former nurse Jan Lawton lamented the impending loss.

”It’s very sad. There are a lot of memories here,” she said.

She recalled they needed a pass from Matron Jeffrey-Brown to go in and out of an evening and a 10.30pm curfew applied. It didn’t stop nurses sneaking back in later, her friend Helen Hayhoe remembered.

Another former tenant, Claire Thompson, completed her training from 1959 to 1963.

“It’s hotter here tonight than it was then,” she said.

“We had a lot of fun on the tennis courts (occupying the current car park) and if you wanted to go out to a dance, you had to be back by 11.30pm and get the night sister to unlock the door. We had some good old times.”

Another former nurse, Margaret Thompson, donned an early 1900s uniform for the function, complete with a 1915 cap once worn by Linda Walkom and Mrs Percy Marks. It had been donated to the hospital by the late Jean Tazewell.

Rich history

Lady Grose House was completed in 1939 to boost nurses’ accommodation. A study by consultants Perumal Murphy Alessi stated that it cost 11,500 pounds and that ER Greenfield was awarded the contract. It was opened in May, 1939 by Mrs DK Otton, wife of the Hospital Commission’s president. It was described as an “imposing addition” with 32 bedrooms and conveniences built in reinforced concrete and brick. It had a terrazzo verandah, large glass doors and a linking walkway to Springfield House.

Project manager for the current hospital rebuild, Kerry Hort, said Lady Grose House accommodated visiting nurses and other staff up until recently. 

“Since last July we’ve been working on their relocation into the community...The last staff moved out in April...It’s been a massive job with a good outcome, ” she said.

The Health District has rented homes in Goulburn for the purpose.

Ms Hort also thanked the heritage committee for its work.

A feature of the night was an auction of donated works by Sydney artist, Gary Jenkins, who has strong Goulburn connections. His paintings, depicting Lansdowne Bridge, the Old Goulburn Brewery and other scenes, sold for up to $500 each. People also bought balloons with gift voucher prizes inside, sponsored by local businesses.

Cr James said the funds were necessary as the heritage retention wasn’t factored into the $120m redevelopment budget. Aside from displays and the history ribbon, the committee wants to disperse artwork throughout the new hospital.

“We believe it’s really important to patient, staff and visitors’ wellbeing,” she said.

“We want it to be more than a sterile environment.”

The committee is looking at what other hospitals do in this respect.

Cr James said she was pleased with the night’s success.

Lady Grose and Springfield Houses will be demolished in the second half of this year. The Southern NSW Local Health District confirmed it was not dependent on approval of the development application, currently before the State Government, but was part of  the Review of Environment Factors planning process which had been approved by Health Infrastructure.