Rankin Park Hospital

The peaceful lawns that surround Rankin Park hospital now are a stark contrast to the tumultuous time of war in which it was built.

In 1923 the Newcastle Hospital Board purchased “Lambton Lodge”, the former residence of Thomas Croudace, to use as a convalescent home. At the official opening in 1926, Archie Rankin, chair of the board, announced that a further 60 acres of land had been purchased with a view to expansion. The plans remained but a dream until the nightmare of a second war came to the world. The government intended to build a hospital on the site to cater for evacuees in the event of an emergency. On 5 December 1941 during a visit to Newcastle, the Minister for National Emergency Services said that the hospital was “still in the planning stage.”

Two days later Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and entered the war. There was now an urgent need for an inland emergency hospital, out of range of Japanese battleship guns. The government quickly allocated £20,000 to erect a temporary structure. However, with an eye to a post-war future, Rankin pressed for a permanent brick structure, promising that he could have a 100 bed hospital ready in just ten weeks.

“The government agreed. The Newcastle hospital authorities wasted no time. They gave the architects 36 hours to complete plans, and told them a start would be made on the foundations without plans if they were not ready.”

Newcastle Morning Herald, 14 Jun 1943

The brickwork commenced on 6 February 1942 less than two months after the Pearl Harbour attack, and true to the ambitious promise the building was erected in just ten weeks. Patients were being tended at the hospital by May 1942 although conditions were initially very primitive.

In 1943 it was announced that the facility would be used as a chest hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis. Now part of Hunter New England Health, the Rankin Park Centre provides rehabilitation services for patients recovering from injuries and stroke.

Rankin Park Unit of the Royal Newcastle Hospital, c1950. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Rankin Park Centre of Hunter New England Health, 2018.


The article above was first published in the July 2018 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

Some of the details for this article were obtained from “The Anataomy of an Artwork” (2002) by Cath Chegwidden, which is subtitled as “A fascinating history of the Rankin Park Aged Care and Rehabilitation Unit uncovered by the creation of artworks for its refurbishment.”

In particular, the information that patients were being tended in the hospital by May 1942 comes from page 8 of this book where the author states that

“my father Walter Chegwidden (now 85) told me that he had been a patient in Rankin Park when the miniature submarines entered Newcastle Harbour in May 1942.”

The Japanese submarine attack on Newcastle actually occurred on 8 June 1942, so either Walter Chegwidden was in the Rankin Park hospital in the month leading up to the submarine attack, or possibly it was June 1942 he was in the hospital and not May 1942. In any case the newspaper article from 1 May 1942 makes it clear that the hospital “could now, if an emergency arose, take between 100 and 150 cases.”

A picture of the new nurses’s home and a side view of the hospital was published in the Newcastle Morning Herald on 17 November 1945.  Comparing the photo of the hospital in the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections, in particular the car parked out the front, raises the intriguing possibility that the two photos were taken at the same time.

A side view of the Rankin Park hospital, November 1945.

Rankin Park Nurses’ Home, November 1945.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
19 Oct 1922"The [Newcastle Hospital] board decided to complete the purchase of 'The Lodge' at New Lambton Heights for the purposes of a convalescent home from the Scottish-Australian Mining Company.
21 Dec 1922Renovations of the former home of Thomas Croudace are being considered by the Scottish Australian Mining Company, and it is noted that 'The Lodge' will not pass into the possession of the hospital for an other two years."
26 Apr 1926
24 Apr 1926
Official opening of the convalescent home, in the former residence of Thomas Croudace. "In addition to the original 24 acres, the board had secured sixty acres with a view to providing room for further institutions which at present were in dreamland. The convalescent home was the realisation of the first of their dreams."
16 Oct 1941"The Government Architect (Mr. Cobden Parkes) announced to-day that a new hospital would probably be built at New Lambton Heights near the Convalescent Home. This hospital is intended to be an emergency hospital to serve the needs of Newcastle district should the hospitals in the target area have to be evacuated during an emergency."
5 Dec 1941"The proposed Newcastle district emergency hospital at New Lambton Heights is 'still in the planning stage,' said the Minister for N.E.S. (Mr Heffron) today."
7 Jan 1942"Newcastle Hospital Board has laid a definite proposal before the Government for an emergency hospital at New Lambton Heights." The hospital would "deal with casualties which might occur in a raid." "A hospital of brick construction— which would cost only about 10 per cent, more than a wooden structure — is advocated by some. Such a hospital could be turned to good use after the war. Conversion of it to a T.B. clinic has been suggested."
23 Jan 1942"Claims for the establishment of an emergency hospital at Newcastle will be placed before the Minister for Health (Mr. Kelly) in Sydney to-day."
This article contains details of how the various hospitals would be used in the event of an emergency … "In anticipation of a state of emergency being declared, hospitals in the district have been instructed to admit only acute cases."
"It is considered that civil casualties could first be treated at [Newcastle] hospital and then transferred to the emergency hospital. Newcastle Hospital would be essentially a clearing station."
7 Feb 1942£20,000 allocation for start on New Lambton Hospital. "Workmen have already started on the job. They have prepared foundations and yesterday began placing bricks. The hospital will accommodate 200 patients. Mr. Rankin has given an assurance that 100 beds will be available within 10 weeks and 200 beds in another four weeks."
18 Feb 1942"The emergency hospital which is being built at New Lambton Heights has been designed for use as a T.B. hospital after the war."
12 Mar 1942"Bricks for the emergency hospital at New Lambton cannot be supplied before March 16 … available bricks had had to be diverted to protection work at Newcastle."
1 May 1942"The emergency hospital at New Lambton Heights, it was stated, was progressing particularly well and could now, if an emergency arose, take between 100 and 150 cases."
1 Mar 1943The emergency hospital nearing completion will be used as a chest hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis.
14 Jun 1943Chest hospital not expected to be open for several months - delay in the delivery of material and equipment has held up the completion of the hospital. This article contains details about Archie Rankin's involvement in the very tight construction timeframe.
17 Nov 1945Photos of the new nurses' quarters at the New Lambton Chest Hospital, and a side view of the hospital.
24 Mar 1947"Representatives of the Newcastle Hospital Board, the Red Cross Society and the Hospitals Commission met in Sydney today to discuss the opening of the New Lambton Chest Hospital. The Red Cross Society has offered to provide sufficient staff to run the hospital."

5 thoughts on “Rankin Park Hospital

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  2. Hi Lachlan
    I read your article on Rankin Park Hospital but noticed there was no mention of when it was a home for unmarried pregnant young girls. This occurred in the 60/70’s. I’m sure there’s quite a lot of ladies now in their sixties who would have thought this goes unmentioned as did my/their lives at that time..we were supposed to be sent away to give birth to a child we couldn’t even see or hold and then to return to our families and pretend it never happened…. would love to see an update with some facts relating to it.
    Regards Julie

    • On page 46 of Cath Chegwidden’s book, in relation to the original Lambton Lodge building, there is a tantalisingly brief sentence that says “The Lodge was also used as a home for unmarried mothers, from 1967 until 1978 when they moved to Byrne House, and the Byrne House patients were relocated in the Main Block.”

      • Hello Lachlan
        Your mention of “Byrne House” has just joined the dots for remembering the name of the home for unmarried women my older sister was sent in 1978 to hide her pregnancy. I was only 11 years old at the time and Rankin Park rang only a faint bell with me.
        I’m just starting my search for her baby.
        Thank you!
        Regards, Lee

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