Thursday, 18 July 2013

Townsville 'Lying-in' Hospitals

In Queensland, in the early years of the twentieth century, women expecting a baby had a range of options open to them as to how to spend their confinement. Many women gave birth at home, often with the assistance of a midwife and sometimes a doctor would attend the birth, particularly if complications arose. Some midwives, or, maternity nurses, would live-in for a short period after the birth, and some even assisted with domestic chores, such as laundering clothes for mother and baby and cooking meals. Sometimes the midwife would stay with the woman for the duration of the labour and then make daily visits for about the next fortnight.

Many women chose to attend a private hospital for their confinement. The term ‘private hospital’ at this time can also be taken to mean maternity hospitals, and something called ‘lying-in’ hospitals. Some private hospitals were run by a doctor, who employed a nurse to manage the establishment. These catered for both surgical and medical patients as well as maternity cases.

Most lying-in hospitals at this time were run by a nurse with midwifery skills in her own private home. Before the passing of Queensland’s Health Act Amendment Act in 1911 many of these nurses lacked formal training, although many had been providing midwifery services for years. The new legislation required nurses in Queensland to be registered with the newly formed Queensland Nurses Registration Board before they could apply for proprietorship of a lying-in hospital. However, if nurses could prove that they had been practising nursing for three years prior to 1911, they were exempt from requiring formal qualifications.

Lying-in Hospitals in Townsville

Townsville had a number of private lying-in hospitals that were well patronised during the early 1900s. In 1920 alone, Townsville had seventeen registered lying-in hospitals. They were located all through the main suburbs of Townsville at the time, which included the city area, West End, South Townsville, North Ward and Hermit Park. Some of the names of the private lying-in hospitals included: Leyburn Maternity Home, Malvern House Maternity Home, Kenilworth Private Hospital, Garvald House Maternity Home, Helston Maternity Home, Southesk Private Hospital and the Ailsa Craig Maternity Hospital.
Registration form for the 'Ailsa Craig' hospital, run by Susan Mary Wells.
Additionally, at varying times between about 1907 and 1930 there were at least eight other private hospitals in Townsville that also catered for maternity cases, including ‘The Rocks’, St Monica’s, Lammermoor, Verwood, Bayview, St Anthony’s, Dr Ahearne’s and Dr Radcliffe’s.
From 1916 the state began policing its health legislation and all private hospitals, including lying-in hospitals, had to be registered on an annual basis with the local council.


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  2. My gt grandmother had a lying in home in Bayswater Tce Pimlico.Her name was Jessie Bullimore.I would really like to know more.My mother is almost 98 and has told me many stories.Am I able to research if Granny had registration.

    1. Hi Colleen,
      Thanks for your query. I do have some information about Jessie Bullimore. I have a photocopy of her application for registration of a private hospital, as you say, in Bayswater Terrace. It is dated 30 December 1920. Please email me at with your contact details so I can forward the info to you.

      I'd also be really keen to hear more about Jessie, so please drop me an email.


  3. Hi Trish, My grandmother was born at the St Monica's private hospital in 1915 (she turns 100 this year). I was just wondering if you knew where it might have been located? I hear it may have been near St Patrick's on the Strand possibly near the corner of Oxley Street/The Strand or Matron Street (not exactly sure where this was). Any info you have would be greatly appreciated as I am putting some history together for my grandma's birthday celebrations in July. Thanks so much Melanie.

    1. Please disregard my message I received some information from the TCC Local history officers yesterday - it appears it was located around Oxley & The Strand (I misread the Matron at St Monicas for Matron Street).