Canterbury Hospital

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Canterbury Hospital, Canterbury Road, ca 1988

Canterbury Hospital is located in Campsie and was officially opened on 26 October 1929 by the Secretary of Public Works, Ernest Buttenshaw. It was built with money raised by local subscription, with a great deal of involvement and support from local doctors. [1]Before this time, Canterbury residents had to travel to Marrickville or Ashfield. The first medical superintendent was Dr Lucy McMahon.[2]

Originally built to accommodate 28 patients in a population of 70,000, the hospital was soon utilising the verandas to increase bed numbers to 63 patients. In the first year 587 patients were admitted and by 1933 the number had risen to 1,083 patients per year. Patients who could afford to pay were charged seven shillings and threepence per day while patients unable to pay were treated for free. There were also 12,001 outpatient attendances. [3]

The Canterbury Hospital when opened had few services. The local doctors staffed casualty on a roster basis. There were no x-ray or pathology services. Dr Marjorie Dalgarno at Campsie did x-rays for the hospital at a nominal 5/- a time, and Dr Mona Nelson, pathologist, came to Canterbury from Burwood. Dr Gordon Bayliss of Campsie was one of the original honararies of the hospital in 1929 and he was the sole original still on the staff 50 years later.[4]

By 1943 the hospital had 98 beds and this rose to 220 beds in 1965 with several additions to the original buildings. A new wing, Thorncraft House, recognised the tireless services of Alderman Herbert Thorncraft who was president of the Board of Directors for 11 years and patron of the hospital until his death in 1975. Kevin Stewart, who subsequently became the Minister for Health, was also active in the hospital's management as president of the board between 1955 and 1976. [5]


Until the Canterbury District Memorial Hospital Maternity Block was opened on 24th July 1954, local babies were usually born in one of a number of small private hospitals, located in suburban houses and often run by a midwife. Serious problems with deliveries may have been referred to the major women’s hospitals at Redfern or Paddington. Possibly some of these midwives continued the practice of earlier generations of delivering babies at home. Midwives and small hospitals were listed in the pink pages of telephone books. Campsie Library Local History Collection holds 1947 and 1952 phone books. It is not known which hospitals dealt only with maternity cases, as some would have provided general medical services. Birth certificates of many former residents who were born before the mid 1950s indicate they were born at one of these small hospitals or list one of these midwives. Unfortunately medical records for these institutions seem not to have survived. The Canterbury hospital annual report of 1955 highlights the need that the maternity unit immediately filled:

"The Maternity Block has filled a long-felt need in the Canterbury-Bankstown area and it is in such demand that already it is inadequate to fill the needs of our growing population. This Maternity Block of 45 beds with its own theatre, delivery wards and nurseries has been equipped with the latest and most modern equipment. …. Over 100 babies are being born each month in Canterbury Hospital." [6] The new unit cost 21,000 pounds, of which 9,000 pounds was provided by the NSW Health Commission. Presumably the bulk of the remainder of the cost would have been raised by donations, fundraisers and subscriptions.

Originally known as Canterbury District Memorial Hospital, the facility became Canterbury Hospital in 1972.

In August 1995 the Hospital became part of the Central Sydney Area Health Service. The Hospital was due to close at the end of 1996 with a new hospital to be built at Croydon Park but in April 1995 the then new Minister for Health Dr Andrew Refshauge announced the redevelopment of Canterbury Hospital at its original site, with building commencing in December 1995. The multi-million redevelopment of the Hospital was officially opened by Premier of NSW the Hon. Bob Carr in November 1998. The new Hospital provides 215 beds, a 24 hour emergency unit, additional operating theatres, a new community health centre and modern diagnostic facilities. Canterbury Hospital is now part of Sydney Local Health District with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Concord Hospital and Balmain Hospital with affiliations with the University of Sydney. [7]

The most significant representation of the original Hospital, the Memorial Tower and its building on Canterbury Road, continues to be a prominent feature of the Hospital.


  1. Gluskie, C.. Synopsis of Medical Practice in Canterbury-Bankstown. Canterbury-Bankstown Medical Association, 1980. p. 5
  2. LARCOMBE, Frederick A. Change and challenge: a history of the municipality of Canterbury. [Canterbury, NSW]: Canterbury Municipal Council, 1979. p. 219
  4. Gluskie, C.. Synopsis of Medical Practice in Canterbury-Bankstown. Canterbury-Bankstown Medical Association, 1980. p. 5
  6. Canterbury District Memorial Hospital 26th annual report and balance sheet for year ended 30th June 1955

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