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, Living Histories.
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."

27 thoughts on “Rankin Park Hospital

  1. Hi ,my name is Tracy York
    I was told I was adopted by my aunt because my mother passed away giving birth to me …. Her name was :Gloria Maud Lepisto .
    Apparently she was at Rankin lodge because she had T.B.
    is there anyway to get information on her death and my birth ..
    I think I’m 62 ? The older generation of my family aren’t very helpful .

  2. Just found this site. I was placed at The Lodge after I was kicked out of The Villa Maria home for unmarried mothers in 1970. I was 14 years old, my stepfather had sexually abused me from age 7 until I got pregnant at 13, he was not the father. Of course I was not talking about my stepfathers abuse until I was in my 30’s so I was generally regarded as a slut who would no doubt go on to produce more “ bastard” kids
    Sister Dickie was lovely & caring however Sister Berri was a skinny unmarried bitch of a woman who looked at everyone like we were the scum of the earth. She was not the worst ; a social worker at RNH Miss McCarthy was the devil incarnate.
    I was the youngest there by 3 years so the other girls’ had little to do with me as I had to do compulsory correspondence schooling as I was not old enough to be out of school. I was there from June-October 1970.
    Compared to the Villa Maria I found The Lodge quite ok, although to be honest I was just pleased to be out of my abusive home situation & knew I did not want to go into a girls’ home.
    I was the one regarded as a delinquent & uncontrollable & had ‘welfare’ Miss Fisk checking in on me weekly at home before I went to home for unwed mums. When I mentioned abuse I was told I was a troublemaker so naturally I shut up until I was 30 something. Really fucked up times.
    Compared to home life & The Villa Maria The Lodge was a kind of sanctuary for me & I try hard to remember the good people like Sister Dickie & Fran Campbell who were always supportive & caring .

  3. These insitutions operated right across Australia and NZ for the better part of last century. Many of them are still signed up to a fairytale narration of themselves and have failed to accept responsibility for the thousands of lives they have ruined. Some still operate as benevolent ‘not for profit’ organisations, including The Salvation Army, the Catholic Chuch and in western Australia, Ngala. In time all of these purveyors of forced adoption will need to sign up to redress programs or face class actions from survivors when the statute of limitations if finally lifted.

  4. I am Peter Capomolla Moore, the current President of Adoptee Rights Australia Inc http://www.adopteerightsaustralia.org.au I was forwarded this publication by Lynne Williamson another member of Adoptee Rights Australia – whilst we are not a search service but rather an Advocacy Group focused on legislative change – we are of course empathetic to Mothers & Adoptees – I was aware that this facility existed and has been largely excluded from the conversation – if I can assist via way of directing either Adoptees, relations of Adoptees, or Mothers to services or even creating a hub for you to freely communicate & exchange information – I live near Toronto so this is obviously in my backyard – I am happy for anyone who wishes to contact me directly via admin@adopteerightsaustralia.org.au

  5. My heart goes out to all the young unmarried mothers who suffered here. I am one of the children born there in 1970 & adopted out. I have a younger sister born in 1971 who was adopted to a different family. We met in 1997 & are firm friends. Birth names were Louise & Katrina

  6. I recently learnt my mother stayed ‘the Lodge’ in the first half of 1976 and gave my brother up for adoption. Since my mother has now passed I am reaching out through the appropriate channels to get the paperwork, but I would love to know more about my mother experience / meet anyone who may have known her at that time.
    Is there any group for women that went through Rankin Lodge?

  7. My mother was there in 1969, Christine Pollock and had been forced to adopt me, it is well documented in paperwork i have obtained.

  8. The unmarried mothers home “The Lodge” and Bryne House has not been documented in the history of Forced Adoption archives. Women/girls affected by Forced Adoption practices in this home, have not submitted their stories as yet. I knew of a few girls who were there.

    The National Archives Forced Adoption record collection can be submitted without your name attached. The project is soon to stop taking submissions.
    Please speak about your experience – Villa Maria at East Maitland has been mentioned. Link as follows: https://forcedadoptions.naa.gov.au/

  9. I was sent there at the tender age of 15 in 1970. I try not to remember the time I spent there, as it was a very unhappy and traumatic time of my life. I am in my late sixties now and it still brings tears, I can never forget those days. Only the girls that experienced time at this institution would understand how it left a hole in your heart that will never mend. Some of the nurses were kind and some not so kind. They have to bear that cross. I did find some armistice when Julia Gillard made a public apology for Forced Adoptions in 2013. Thank god this can never happen again. I hope with all my heart that all the children that were taken away will some day find their biological mother. These mothers were not bad girls just misguided and naive.

  10. I was at The Lodge in 1971, when I found out I was pregnant the father of the child wasn’t interested in getting married and as I lived in a country town I felt it would be very hard for a child to be bought up under those circumstances as people were very judgemental and cruel.I felt I couldn’t confide in my family so after discussing the situation with my doctor I was referred to the program set up by the RNH where you lived in with a family to look after their children and then you could go to the lodge which was behind Croudace House in the old Nurses home 3months before your delivery date.You were judged as being” bad” and the general feeling by staff (at the lodge and the hospital) was that you could have more babies later on so it shouldn’t upset you by giving the baby up.Unfortunately you can’t just forget.The staff at RNH treated the unmarried mothers terribly, when I delivered the staff took the baby away and left me haemorrhaging on the delivery table and sent me back to the lodge a couple of days later.I was allowed to see the baby once.Fortunately for me I was contacted 20 odd years after by my baby and luckily she had beautiful parents who always told her that I had not given her up because I didn’t want her it was because I loved her and wanted a better life for her one that I couldn’t provide. I was sent home with a few medical and psychological problems but I think we have to be grateful that times have changed when it comes to unmarried mothers.

  11. I was there 1974. It was barbaric was sat in a room and sign the adoption papers. I refused and was made an example. I sat in my room knitted booties I was not allowed to see the father of my son. I was assulted when they sent me to hospital. The internal was so painful my waters broke. They stuck a needle in 5 times to try and withdraw fluid for a maturity test. Each time pushing the baby up across down while 4 people held me down. Dr ***** hope you rot in hell. The sister at the lodge was a cranky old battleaxe not married never had children. Her relief sister was so different and human. One en sat there and told the same story over and over how she was in labour and had twins and thought she was only having one. I got so si k of her I ended saying these girls are adopring and you shouldnt be telli g them about your babies. I had my baby taken from me at birth. 3 days of morning my loss the nasty pack of bit hy nurses ignored me treated me like a piece of garbage. I refused to sign papers and after a pbonecall from my grandmother she marched in demanded my baby be handed back and I left that shithole never went back. My baby is 44yrs I love him to pieces along with his brother and sister. As for ***** rot in hell with Dr *****. The most disgusting barbaric inhumane treatment. The girls had no support and no choices. I was stubbon no one takes my flesh and blood!

    • I must admit that when I wrote this article about the origins of Rankin Park Hospital I had no idea of the dark past it would uncover. On receiving this confronting comment I thought hard about how to deal with it. I have elected to publish it in full as submitted by the author, but with information identifying people blanked out. My reason being that these people may not even be alive any more to present their side of the story.

      • The truth must be told Lachlan, so thank you for letting us share our stories here, the survivors of forced adoption are tired of being hushed up and silenced! Did you know more than 250,000 Australian newborns were illegally taken from their young mothers ? We are fighting for recognition, redress and apologies from former forced adoption institutions. Much of our loss, grief and trauma has been brushed aside by society, thanks to this malignant myth that adoption was a way to form a fairytale family!

  12. I also am curious about ‘the lodge’ rankin park nsw. Very close family history that I need further information on. Best wishes to those also searching.

  13. 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

    • Hi. I’m currently searching for my sister who was born here mid to late 71. I know she was given up for adoption immediately after birth yet scant details remain due to my family members passing. If anyone knows of an avenue to take it would be much appreciated. Ive just found out 5 minutes ago that I was born here and not RNC as stated on my Certificate and remaining family. Your help is greatly appreciated. Micheal

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