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

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.

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28 Responses to A Brief Lesson in (Almost) Local History – Kenmore Hospital for the Insane – Goulburn
miss_kmc miss_kmc 7:50 pm 04 Aug 10

My grandmother used to work at Kenmore as a nurse she always said it was a creepy place… Last time we went to Sydney we decided to take a drive past the old mental hospital. I felt very creeped out being in the general area… The hospital its self is a lovely old building but looks like something from a horror movie. I wouldn’t mind going on the tour but I’d be so scared I probably wouldn’t sleep for a week lol

Cazz Cazz 1:51 pm 23 Apr 10

My Grandma was in a neighbouring girls home there at Kenmore, St Joseph’s I believe, ran by the Sister’s Of Mercy. She was there from 1920 (age 4yrs)until 1932 (age 16). She told me of stories growing up in the home, and being neighbour to the Psych Hospital. She lived with myself and my young family until she passed away. There was no way I was letting her die in a home when she had to grow up in one!
I am going to be traveling to Goulburn, Kenmore, to try and trace some history. I can’t wait in one way, and on the other hand I hold trepidation to how I may react. I loved my Nan dearly.

sepi sepi 10:43 am 25 Aug 09

I saw on telly just now there are tours of kenmore on the first two weekends in September.

Danman Danman 2:52 pm 07 May 09

Good stuff. I believe it’s a secure site – so best to make an appointment or don cloak of invisibility or what not.

I have my name on a list for a more expensive tour that concentrates on the interior of the buildings, but it will not be conducted until the latter part of this year.

I am hoping to use my powers of social engineering to enable me to do an outdoor night/dusk/dawn shoot and maybe gain access for interior shots without groups of people in them as it was hard enough to get the pictures that I did without getting people in them.

Let us know how you go Mr Thumper 🙂

Thumper Thumper 2:43 pm 07 May 09


I had a look over your photos from the orphanage which has inspired me to head on down to Goulburn to check it out.

Danman Danman 1:38 pm 07 May 09

Thanks for all the comments, been abroad for a while and had no innernet access 🙂

For people who want more information, you can contact Kenmore Hospital Museum on 02 4821 2587.

I am pretty sure the museum is shut for winter as I was on the last tour group (State heritage listed building – so privately funded by volunteers so the buildings remain in original condition i.e. deteriorating and certainly no heating, so no tours until 5th & 6th or 12th & 13th September 2009.)

I cannot be certain so probably best to address any tour/visit queries via the number supplied above 🙂

vg vg 7:50 am 30 Apr 09

I took people there in 1990. Was still going then, maybe in a lesser form though

Nosey Nosey 8:25 pm 29 Apr 09

Danman, they are great photos with a great story to boot.

Along with JB’s piece on the Anzac’s, it’s up there with what I believe to be a great and interesting post.

It get’s the mind thinking as to how hard things were in the past and makes you want to dig deeper.

Thanks again.

Thumper Thumper 7:55 pm 29 Apr 09

You have a script? I can write the music, in fact, I’m (well, we actually) are already doing some music for a film currently in production.

Did you get my draft?

Ozhair Ozhair 7:52 pm 29 Apr 09

Roadrage, yeah, some local filmmakers shot a 1970’s Australian gangster feature there, called Hobby Farm. Haven’t seen it, but they’ve started getting it into some festivals, apparently.

I have a script I wouldn’t mind shooting out there myself.

Thumper Thumper 7:31 pm 29 Apr 09

It has crossed my mind. I’ll be in touch via FB so as not to clog up RA.

Roadrage77 Roadrage77 7:17 pm 29 Apr 09

Didn’t some local bloke film a flick there recently?

peterh peterh 3:35 pm 29 Apr 09

Granny said :

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

and strangely, eerily cold…

Granny Granny 3:29 pm 29 Apr 09

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

Granny Granny 3:21 pm 29 Apr 09

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

Qbn Gal 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 Thumper 2:11 pm 29 Apr 09

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

Hadley Hadley 1:54 pm 29 Apr 09

Really interesting.

How often do the guided tours happen, Danman?

peterh 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…

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