The Colonial Hospital
Pipitea Street, Wellington 1847

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It seems to have taken the young settlement of Wellington some time to establish what one would expect to be a social staple - a public hospital. Whilst the new settlers were not without medical treatment (the New Zealand Company had sent out Dr John Dorset as its Chief Surgeon aboard the trailblazing Tory and Dr John Fitzgerald followed 4 months later aboard Oriental) a purpose built building was some years away.

While it was fully the intention of the New Zealand Company to provide medical facilities for the settlers, this aim was not to be realised for some seven years. Plans prepared in London in 1839 and based, in part, on incorrect assumptions of the size of the Hutt River had to be discarded when it was decided to establish the town at Thorndon on the other side of the harbour. In the interim, medical aid continued to be provided by the New Zealand Company, and certainly by June of 1840 a house at Petone was known as the "Company's Infirmary".

It was to be the administrative genius of Sir George Grey that gave impetus to the establishment of hospitals in Auckland, Wellington, Wanganui and New Plymouth. His vision, soon to be established in fact, was that these facilities be made available to European and Maori alike and that both races be treated in the same Wards and with equal privileges. This can be seen by the mix of names in the admissions book of the day.

Sections 593 and 594 on the corner of Hobson and Pipitea Streets were gifted by local Maori in 1846 for the erection of the Colonial Hospital. Work on the building commenced in 1846 and the Colonial & Native Hospital opened on September 15th 1847. Dr John Fitzgerald was appointed Superintendent and Colonial Surgeon and Mr and Mrs Jacobs were the hospital attendants.

The first patient to be admitted to the hospital on the day of its opening was a young woman by the name of Rachael Macintyere Branks. Rachael and John Branks had arrived from Lanarkshire, Scotland on October 30th 1839 aboard the Bengal Merchant, one of the first four ships to arrive at Wellington. Rachael, who lived with John and their children William, Catherine and John on the Old Porirua Road had been injured after the branch of a tree had fallen on her. She was admitted with a "compound fracture of the right leg and simple fracture of the left". The fractures were doing well and Rachael was making good progress when she contracted tetanus and died on September 30th, 15 days after her admission.

The building itself was a small two storeyed affair. The ground floor consisted of "a good Surgery", a Ward for 4 patients (6 in an emergency), two Storerooms and a Water Closet. Halfway up the stairs was the Steam Bath Room where new patients had "the skin well cleansed with soap and water". The upper level housed a large Ward for 8 patients (10 in an emergency), another small Ward for 2 patients, a Storeroom, a Water Cistern and a Water Closet. Before the earthquake of 1848, it had been intended to construct a further wing on each side of this original building and that this section revert to administrative offices and nurse's quarters. Following the earthquake in which the hospital sustained quite severe damage it was repaired, but all thoughts of extensions were discarded. Brick buildings, for obvious reasons, had gone out of favour.

The original Colonial Hospital was to last a further six years before it's place was taken by a new and larger wooden single story building. In the Australian and New Zealand Gazette of June 14th 1851 was printed the following: "A colonial hospital is to be erected on the site of the former one at Thorndon."

Copyright: Denise & Peter 1999

A Return of the number of internal patients treated in the Colonial Hospital
from 15th September 1847, to the 24th January 1848.

Name Place of Abode Probable age Sex Disease or accident Admitted Discharged      cured Died Observations
Rachell Branks Porirua Rd 34 F Compound fracture of the right leg and simple fracture of the left Sept 15   Sept 30 Died of Lockjaw and Tetanus, on the 15day after admission. The fractures were doing well and had this disease not set in she would have recovered
Haingarere Waikanae 40 M Fibro-cartilagenous tumour on back Sept 28 Dec 7   This chief was operated on and tumour removed, having inhaled ether. Tumour about 3lb weight.
Enaha Otaki 19 M Scrofulous ophthalmia Oct 14 Dec 13   This was a bad case, the patient having nearly lost the sight of his left eye, now quite cured
Thomas Fitzgerald Hutt Rd 25 M Fistula in ano Oct 1     This man from being in a dying state when taken in is now in a fair way of recovery.
Mary Anne Peck Hutt Rd 13 F White swelling Oct 1     This little girl was brought in by her friends having disappeared of her life, is now able to walk about. She had also great swelling and enlargement of thigh bone which was three or four times its natural size.
Rihia Waiwetu Pa 25   Consumption with spitting of blood Oct 22     This man was dying when he came in, is now free from cough, good appetite and gaining flesh.
Pokou Pipitea Pa 25 M Scrofulous ulceration Oct 22 Dec 21   This ulcer was the worst I have ever seen extending from elbow to wrist in a half putrid state, now quite well.
Ngakuaha Otaki 20 M Rheumatism (severe) Oct 22     This native was brought from the Hutt Rd, supposed to be dying, having lost the use of all his limbs from rheumatism. Is now cured and will soon leave the hospital.
Riwa Te Eupuku 30 M Scrofulous ophthalmia Oct 28 Jan 7   This native had lost the sight of left eye from disease, quite cured.
Eta Te Aro Pa 25 M Scrofulous ulceration of the entire neck Oct 28 Dec 13   This was a dreadful case of scrofula extending all around his neck
Mihaka Te Aro Pa 20 M Scrofulous disease of the bones of foot Oct 28     This native had abscesses over all parts of his body, one large one at right knee from with 16oz of matter was taken.
Kaioraora Manawatu. 19 M Consumption Oct 28   Nov 29 This man was in the last stages of consumption and was taken in because he had no friends here.
Hoepa Porirua 35 M Injury of right leg Oct 16 Nov 10   This native had a large abscess close to the ankle joint, which was opened. A tree had fallen on him.
Himona Pita Ohariu 51 M Consumption Oct 21 Dec 10   This man was sent by His Excellency the Lieut.-Governor, he was scarcely expected to live till the next day, but so far recovered under treatment and good diet as to astonish his friends and all who knew him.
Emery Hammon Kapiti 25 M Disease of right elbow Nov 5 Jan 4   This was a bad case of long standing, loss of use of arm, now quite cure.
Wirimu Eta Te Aro 25 M Rheumatism Nov 5 Jan 10   This native had inflammation of the ear with profuse discharge, now cured.
Ngahenga Waiwetu 35 M Rheumatic fever Nov 8   Nov 23   This native was very bad, he is a very influential man at his Pa and was at once brought to the hospital.
Raweri Pehiatea Porirua 25 M Consumption Nov 10 Dec 7 relieved , since died   This was one of the young men who went with Lieunt. Servantes to Wanganui where he got ill, he was in the last stage of consumption when he applied and was only relived.
Paura Kaiwarra 30 M Neglected inflammation of the lungs Nov 17   Nov 30 This man was ill at Wairarapa, beyond the reach of medical aid, when brought to Hospital I told his friends he would die in a few days.
David Henderson Wellington 35 M Bad ulcers of leg Nov 18     This man is nearly well and in Hospital, his legs were very bad.
Hoaia Wainui 20 M Leprosy Nov 23     This was the most remarkable and worst case I have seen, he is now nearly well.
William Wells Wellington 41 M Diseased testicle, with stricture Dec 4     This was a very bad case, he is better, one disease being cured but still in Hospital for the other.
Catherine Parks Wellington 21 F General debility with affection of heart Dec 8 Jan 14   This girl was supposed by her friends to be almost past cure, she is now quite well.
Aritaku Te Aro Pa 30 M Inflammation of lungs Dec 9 Dec 13   This case was very severe but arrested at once by treatment, he is now perfectly well and at work.
Robert Suet Wellington 45 M Destruction of mouth and palate from syphilitic disease Dec 12   Dec 23 When I saw this case, I said nothing could be done and nothing could save him. I never saw such a case in all my lifetime, his sufferings where certainly relived and if he had had applyed in time , might have been saved.
Peta Moue Ngatirangatahi 30 M Jaundice Dec 14 Jan 4    
Riwai Waikanae 25 M Dyspepsia Dec 14 Dec 30   This is the native teacher from Waikanae.
Hene Waikanae 30 F Inflammation of both lungs Dec 19   Dec 24 This woman had inflammation of one lung first which was subdued, but inflammation set in the other before she had recovered her strength. She was consumptive.
Petua Ohau 30 M Leprosy Dec 24     This was a bad case, being complicated with dropsy, he is still in hospital.
Ewaho Pipitea 25 M Consumption with fever Jan 8     Still in hospital.
Emaka Pipitea 20 M Inflammation of right arm Jan10 Jan 19   This was a bad case, but now quite cured.

Hospital return for period 31st December 1847 to 30th June 1848