Heritage Items from the Melbourne’s First Hospital Established by the Sisters of Mercy
St. Benedict’s private hospital in Malvern was the first hospital established by the Sisters of Mercy in Melbourne in January 1920.
The flu epidemic, which began in 1918, had confirmed the Sisters’ desire to start a hospital and so Mother Evangelist Doogan began the search for premises and permits. In November 1919, Mother Evangelist and Mother Augustine inspected the brick mansion of Mr. Frederick William Hagelthorn in Malvern. The grounds covered more than two acres and the house was said to have 16 grand rooms, some extensive in size. A few days later, the Archbishop approved their decision to purchase the property at a cost of 25,000 pounds.
Mother Francis Hanigan was appointed Superior of the new hospital community. The first patient was taken in February 1920. The ground floor of the hospital contained the chapel and the operating theatre. As there was no lift for people, patients had to use the stairs or be carried on stretchers between the floors.
All food at St. Benedict’s was prepared in the hospital kitchen and served on individual trays. The food was sent to the first floor in a service lift, which operated initially by a pulley system and then by an electric one.
In 1946, the Sisters decided to close the hospital due to staffing difficulties and strained finances. The Sisters, however, kept it running until 1948 when the Cabrini Sisters arrived in Melbourne to take over administration. By that stage, the Mercy Private Hospital in East Melbourne was well established, and so the remaining Mercy Sisters moved from St. Benedict’s to the Mercy Hospital.
These silver service items were used by patients at St. Benedict’s, c.1920-1948. The service comprises a teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl, toast rack with two egg cups and spoons, a hot water pot and two forks, some of which are engraved.
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