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A Brief Lesson in (Almost) Local History – Kenmore Hospital for the Insane – Goulburn

By Danman - 29 April 2009 28

On the weekend of the 26th April, a friend and I had the great privilege of attending a guided tour of Kenmore Hospital (For the insane) and its grounds. This was of particular poignance for me as my Grandmother was admitted there several times as a patient in the middle of last century (Voluntarily or not is unknown).

Kenmore came into existence in 1890 when the government of the day purchased “Rossiville” on Goulburns now outskirts for 15,158 pounds for the purpose of establishing a lunatic asylum. The sale went ahead despite a local MLA protesting on the grounds that it may possibly contaminate the city’s water supply.

In 1895 Kenmore got its first 13 patients, and by 31 december 1899 the hospitals in patient numbers totaled 503, comprising 265 men and 197 women. By contrast on 30 June 1984 the population totaled 415, comprising 253 men and 162 women.

No major epidemics have affected the patients during the past 100 years although there appears to have been minor outbreaks of typhoid in 1913 and 1929. The great pneumonic influenza pandemic of 1919 did not leave Kenmore untouched

Most of the patients and the majority of the staff were affected by it. One or two isolate cases occured during June of 1919 but the full fury was felt during the last week of July and the first three weeks of August. No staff died, but 21 patients did, 2 female and 19 male.

In 1942 the state government offered Kenmore to the Commonwealth Government for use as a military hospital, The patients were transferred to city hospitals with the female nursing staff and some male staff while the remaining attendants were transferred to Bloomfield hospital Orange.

The layout of the grounds was commenced by Dr Chisolm Ross in 1895, but the great variety of trees and shrub found in them is due to the personal efforts of the forth medical supt Dr Moffitt. He obtained specimens all over the world at his own expense. The willows on the banks of the Wollindilly River pre-date the hospital period and have been struck from a cutting of the willow which shaded napoleons grave on St Helena

The only maor event disturbing the”tranquility” at Kenmore between the wars was a murder. In 1922 Richard Galbraith Sindel, a patient of the Sydney Cottage Hospital, Callan Park came to Goulburn armed with a revolver seeking the medical supt Dr Moffitt. Dr Moffitt, becoming aware of Sindells presence left his office and fled through the trees toward his residence. In pursuit, Sindell passed a group of female staff sitting on a low brick wall outside the then staff dining room. He open fired, killing Nurse Elizabeth Naughten, wounding the head Laundress Miss Ruby Follent, fired off three more shots at Nurse Cartright, all missing and one at Nurse Barnes, blowing her cap off. The general commotion and shooting alerted the manager, Mr Ranken who took the hospitals revolver from the office safe and ran to the scene. He fired one shot hitting Sindell in the hand, whereupon Sindell surrendered.

As a government building, Kenmore represented a fine example of late 19th century architecture. The fact that it has survived relatively intact is also remarkable.

Apart from its long and checkered history, Kenmore has significant heritage value for my family.

As I said earlier, my Grandmother was admitted there several times. Some people have asked me why I went to a place that represents such sorrow, and all I can answer is I do not know. Places like this attract me, both as a person and a photographer. I think it is importnt to remember history, good or bad. This is doubly so if it is bad, because those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

I intend to become a member of the “Friends of Kenmore” society, a group of volunteers who are dedicated to the preservation of both buildings, artifacts and memories related to Kenmore. Additionally, I will be requesting copies of all dossiers relating to my Grandmother. If you would like to look at more pictures, you can by accessing this link ,and by all means, if you are interested in Kenmore itself, please feel free to send me an email at chefboy@tpgi.com.au

Most of all thanks for giving me the time to share this important piece of history.

What’s Your opinion?


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28 Responses to
A Brief Lesson in (Almost) Local History – Kenmore Hospital for the Insane – Goulburn
Granny 3:29 pm 29 Apr 09

When are we doing our Riot ghost tour, Thumper? It’s Autumn now.

Granny 3:21 pm 29 Apr 09

That’s terribly sad, Qbn Gal. The mind boggles.

Qbn Gal 3:17 pm 29 Apr 09

I went there on a day trip as part of my nurses training just over 30 years ago. Ironically the day after a group of us went to see ” One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. I remember being told that some of the female inmates ( in the early part of the century) only reason for being there was that their family shut them away for committing the “mad” act of being pregnant out of wedlock. Many ended up staying as they were so institutionalised that they could no longer function on the outside. It was so sad.

Thumper 2:49 pm 29 Apr 09
Thumper 2:11 pm 29 Apr 09

Good question, I wouldn’t mind going on a guided tour either.

Hadley 1:54 pm 29 Apr 09

Really interesting.

How often do the guided tours happen, Danman?

peterh 12:01 pm 29 Apr 09

Steady Eddie said :

The infamous Richmond Report in 1988 resulted in the mental hospitals being closed down. Instead of being cared for and having a warm bed they were cast out onto the streets and homelessless escalated wildly. And they call it progress . . .

no, they called it a reduction on the public purse. considering that there was an average of 60/40 in the population at ainslie village, and i was one of the minority, it wasn’t a pleasant place after dark… There were some really sad souls there at the time, and there would never be a new home and family for them. At least i was a guest for only a short time…

Steady Eddie 11:41 am 29 Apr 09

The infamous Richmond Report in 1988 resulted in the mental hospitals being closed down. Instead of being cared for and having a warm bed they were cast out onto the streets and homelessless escalated wildly. And they call it progress . . .

Thumper 11:24 am 29 Apr 09

Excellent shots DM….

Granny 11:00 am 29 Apr 09

Great story! Highly recommend checking out the photographs in the link above … they’re really powerful.

Granny 10:58 am 29 Apr 09

Thumper said :

Yeah, but is it haunted?

It is if I’m involved in the photographs … hehe!

peterh 10:55 am 29 Apr 09

sepi said :

I had no idea Kenmore was still going in 1984. I wonder what they did with all those patients when they closed it.

Some of them were transferred into other institutions that were able to handle them, particularly the criminally insane, but the canberrans amongst them were released in some part to Ainslie village. At the same time as the down and outs and the dispossessed.

It wasn’t a fun place at all then.

Thumper 10:42 am 29 Apr 09

Yeah, but is it haunted?

sepi 9:41 am 29 Apr 09

I had no idea Kenmore was still going in 1984. I wonder what they did with all those patients when they closed it.

NoAddedMSG 9:12 am 29 Apr 09

During the time periods you are talking about, women suffering from severe post-natal depression could easily end up committed to mental institutions, and as was the case for assorted members of my extended family – early onset dementia could also see you committed.

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