Our current ever-developing Tamworth Base Hospital is one of the largest in NSW that services Regional communities. But it hasn't always been so. Our very first town hospital was initiated by the Australian Agricultural Company in the 1840's under their charter to provide health care for their workforce. It was situated in what is now Ebsworth Street near the site of the current Cadman Motor Inn. It was merely a 10-bed, slab-sided building with a bark roof. Quoting from William Telfer Jnr's 'Wallabadah Manuscript' (the original now held at UNE Armidale) - "The old hands in the Tamworth district died off very quickly, particularly the assigned servants, as the climate was warm and tropical. Only salt tucker and damper were the diet of those people so their blood got out of order and Dr Rogers the Company's Medical officer had no easy task at the Company's hospital having to look after as many as fifteen patients at a time with liver complaints, others with heart disease and a lot with other maladies. Their cases were hopeless from the start." Allowing for some exaggeration in this later description, it was probably no accident that our first town cemetery in the 1840's was located a stone's throw away, behind what is now the Ibis Styles Motel.
Early doctors employed by the AA Company who provided our health care, included Doctors Stacey, Rogers, Jay, McIntosh, Haigh and Jenkins. Sarah Willis, who had arrived in Australia from England as a qualified nurse, later served as the Hospital Matron. After her retirement she served as a midwife.
Another interesting early health-care contributor was Kitty Gallagher, who around 1844 was engaged by the AA Company Doctor McIntosh as a nurse and companion servant for his newly-wed wife. Kitty had been convicted in Ireland back in 1798 for her part in the Wexford Uprising and sentenced to 14 years transportation to New South Wales. By 1839, now free, she and her prior-convict husband had established a small cattle run, which was invaded by 4 bushrangers. Kitty had grabbed a gun, shot the leader dead, wounded another and detained the other two to hand them over to police. Dr McIntosh related that - "Kitty was brave and courageous and always had a loaded gun for any emergency. She entertained with stories and good humour and was a wonderful nurse, very kind and good natured."
- Early Tamworth elections
- Tamworth's early newspapers
- Not so likely now, but Tamworth has had its fair share of big floods
- Tamworth's early, mainly wooden, buildings were prone to going up in smoke
- Take a trip down memory lane - Our beloved peel Street
- When posties were on bikes of the pedal-power kind
- Our ambulance service hasn't always been there
With Tamworth's population growing through a number of people moving down from the nearby goldfields, the original hospital was soon considered inadequate. This was increased by further migration of settlers moving north that passed through Tamworth. Population had also increased on the eastern side of the river, so the Benevolent Society (Australia's earliest charity body) in 1855 laid a foundation stone for a new hospital in Peel Street, opposite the now "old" Skatepark. The first committee meeting had to be abandoned because no member could find the building in the dark bushland. The brick building, opening in 1856, had 3 small wards and a larger room. It served as our Town Hospital until 1884, despite problems relating to its flood-prone location (a bend in the Peel River originally flowed through the "old" Skatepark), and its condition had deteriorated rapidly. The arrival of the railway in 1878 also led to further population increase, and soon the small hospital staff couldn't cope with an increasing number of patients.
Soon the move was afoot to build our third public hospital, the Johnston Street site now integrated into our much larger Tamworth Base. A start was made in 1883 under architect Pender, with the much celebrated opening taking place in 1884. Many stresses occurred in early years with various serious outbreaks - Spanish flu, diphtheria, whooping cough, typhoid, etc, placing great demands on limited hospital staff.
Hopefully our present Tamworth Base Hospital will serve us well into the future.