Caring for our aged – the District Home for the Infirm in Windsor, NSW

Home for Infirm

Photograph of The Home for the Infirm (now demolished) which stood in Brabyn Street, Windsor. Courtesy of Carol Roberts from the collection of her mother, Iris Cammack.

From 1811, The Windsor Charitable Institution provided monetary support and/or stores relief to flood victims, as well as caring for the poor and infirm. This institution was gradually absorbed into the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society from the end of 1818, to assist the aged and infirm of ‘Windsor, Richmond, Wilberforce, Pitt Town and Portland Head’. Pioneers present at the inaugural meeting were William Cox, the Reverend Cartwright, Dr Mileham, Lieutenant Bell, Captain Brabyn, Thomas Pitt, John Jones, Henry Baldwin and George Hall.

During the early years of the Society, income was gained from sources such as donations, subscriptions and the sale of property and cattle from the Society’s herd on the Liverpool Plains. Additional funds of several thousand pounds were accumulated over a period of almost one hundred years from an annuity dating from the death of Richard Fitzgerald in 1840.

The Society acquired a one-acre Government grant between George and Macquarie Streets and in 1836 built a brick, two-storey home on the south-western side of Brabyn Street, Windsor, ‘for the reception of the aged and destitute of the district’. Before this building was completed, the aged and infirm poor were housed in a small timber cottage on the Society’s thirteen-acre property near the junction of George and Macquarie Streets in South Windsor. This property was the site of the Windsor Grammar School from 1885 until 1915 when in 1920 it was sold to J. McCann and in later years became known as McCann’s Flats.

After the Society obtained the use of the Government Hospital in Macquarie Street from 1846, the ‘aged inmates’ were transferred to the Asylum wards on the ground floor of the hospital building and the two-storey brick building in Brabyn Street was later let as a hotel. Extensive building works were carried out at the hospital from 1909/1910, so the elderly patients were moved back to the home in Brabyn Street. The increasing cost of repairs to this building caused financial concern and a decision was taken by the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society and Hospital to build a new home on the site.

The Home for the Infirm was erected in 1914 on the site in Brabyn Street now occupied by the Macquarie Tower group of shops. It cost eight hundred and fifty pounds and was opened by Fred Flowers, the first Minister of Public Health. Honorary medical officers were Drs Callaghan, Davies, Helsham, Donovan and Johnstone. Matron Taylor was in charge of the home from 1910 to 1941 and Matron Friend from 1941-1945. In 1946, Matron Prendergast took over and remained until 1954 (she then served in a part-time capacity).

In 1959, the name ‘Home for the Infirm’ was changed to Fitzgerald Memorial Hostel in honour of the pioneer and benefactor Richard Fitzgerald. The hostel was sold after 1989 and the four hundred thousand dollars raised from the sale went towards the building of the present Fitzgerald Memorial Hostel on Hawkesbury Valley Way.

References:

Carol Roberts, ‘Our Home for the Infirm’, Hawkesbury Gazette, Wednesday, 25 May 2016.

Bowd, D.G. History of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society and Hospital 1818-1947, Official Opening of the Nurses’ Quarters, 22 November 1947.

‘Hawkesbury District Hospital and Home for Infirm’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday, 18 February 1916, National Library of Australia Trove Newspapers Article 85881038, http://nla.gov.au, accessed 19 May 2016.

Nairn, B. ‘Flowers, Fred (1864-1928)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/flowers-fred-6198/text10651. published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 May 2016.

Nichols, M. ‘Windsor Hospital’, http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/AUS-NSW-HILLS-HAWKESBURY-HUNTER-VALLEY/2006-10/1160731368, accessed 23 May 2016.

Steele, J. ‘Hospitals and Benevolent Society – Old Asylum, Brabyn Street’, Early Days of Windsor, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks13/1302241h.html#ch-19, accessed 23 May 2016.

Steele, J. ‘Hospitals and Benevolent Society’, Early Days of Windsor, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday, 4 September 1914, National Library of Australia Trove Newspapers Article 85861152, http://trove.nla.gov.au, accessed 23 May 2016.

Sydney Aged Care Facility, Fitzgerald Memorial Aged Care, http://www.fitzgeraldacf.com.au/location,_corp._profile_history.html, accessed 19 May 2016.

‘Windsor – Past and Present’, William Freame, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Saturday, 30 October 1909, National Library of Australia Trove Newspapers Article 85863472, http://nla.gov.au, accessed 19 May 2016.