On 11 December, 2009, Mr Richard Baker, the Collage Manager at Liverpool TAFE, went through the long and tiring ordeal of getting the beautiful grounds at Liverpool TAFE registered on the Historic Register. Here are the words from his presentation - and reading this vast and fascinating history, you can understand why he was successful!
The original Liverpool Hospital was built in 1813. Governor Lachlan Macquarie had officially founded the town of Liverpool in 1810 and ordered the building of a brick hospital to house 30 patients and a residence for the assistant surgeon. By 1821 Macquarie had plans to build a new hospital drawn up by his ex-convict architect Francis Greenway and work commenced in 1822. The building was completed in early 1830 and is now known as Block B, the centre wing of the U-shaped building that contains the bell tower. The original hospital was later demolished.
From 1830 – 1836 Block B was used as a hospital principally to care for sick convicts. The existence of the hospital stimulated the growth and the spread of the settlement. By 1832 patients of the hospital included convicts from as far away as the Goulburn Plains. There were no kitchen facilities and the northern end of the basement, now known as the dungeon, was the only bathing room.
After 1836 the hospital was transferred to the control of the military and apparently used as a military hospital and barracks. In 1841 Patrick Hill became the first Assistant Surgeon and was granted land to the east of the site and built his house in 1827. (The Railway Commission purchased the house and land in 1856 to extend the railway to Liverpool).
The military vacated the site around the mid 1840s and the winding down of the convict system meant that the district could no longer support such a large hospital. The hospital became vacant in the late 1840s
In 1852 the government granted use of the building, together with £525, to the Benevolent Society of New South Wales for an asylum for the sick and aged. An 1850s plan shows, as well as Block B, a building to the south of Block B that ran east-west, (since demolished), and two gatehouses inside the main entrance, which may have been erected when the northern and southern wings were constructed in the 1860s or early 1870s, and exist today as Block S and Block T.
In 1862 the government took control of the premises and its 403 residents. The increasing rate of admissions led, in 1866, to tenders for an additional wing. The northern wing, now Block A, was completed in 1867 at a cost of £4,505 ($9,010). The southern wing, now Block C, appears to have been commenced in 1873 and completed in 1874 at a cost of £5,567/7/4 ($11,135). The balconies facing the courtyard on Blocks A and C were built in the late 1890s.
To compensate for the resumption of the south-east corner of the site the Railway Commission built Block E in or before 1873 for use as a dining room. Block G was erected by 1882 and served as a washhouse. Between 1878 and 1909 its size doubled and the verandah covering 3 sides and the roof lanterns were added. Block Y was built as a morgue about 1901 but may predate this first reference of its existence. A similar building to the right side of the driveway was the Chief Attendant Building, now Block Z, and is also first referred to in 1901 but may predate this.
Block F was built between 1907 (when the old kitchen was removed) and 1911. It was described as the “new laundry buildings” and the “new kitchen”. A painted sign, though faded, survives on the western verandah which states “Admissions 8:30am”. Block D was first noted in 1915 as a “swab store” whilst Block X, a small cottage between the morgue (Block Y) and Block C was recorded as a “ladies waiting room”.
In 1918 the Government Asylum became a State Hospital and Asylum and remained so until the Health Department vacated the site in 1958. The buildings were then renovated for use as a TAFE college and classes were first held in early 1960. The Minister for Education, E. Wetherell officially opened the site on July 10th, 1961.
Block J was not in existence in 1941 but appeared in a 1961 survey. In 1960 the building became the teaching and staff area for secretarial studies. The canteen and dining room later occupied the area until a new canteen was built in Block H adjoining Block J on its western side in 1993. Block J now houses the Adult Basic Education section. Block K was built in 1975 for TAFE purposes and is predominantly used by the Administration Studies, Maths and Science sections and has a number of computer rooms.
Block B was used in the 1960s for College Administration - the Principal’s office and classrooms on the ground floor whilst the first floor contained classrooms. It has the same basic functions today. Block A housed the Carpentry and Joinery school on the first floor and Fitting and Machining classes on the ground floor and classrooms on the first floor. Today the Library occupies the whole of the ground floor, and classrooms and the offices of the General Studies staff and an Individual Learning Centre occupy the first floor.
Block C was used for Accountancy classes on the ground floor and dressmaking occupied the first – Accountancy and Business Studies staff rooms and classrooms now occupy the first floor whilst the Counsellors’ office, English Language and Humanities staff rooms occupy the ground floor.
Block E was modernised and extended in 1997 for its current use in Hairdressing classrooms and staff offices. In 1960 TAFE converted Block G to a welding workshop though it is still referred to as the “stores building”. The Beauty Therapy section now occupies Block F.
Block D is currently the first aid room and general store. Block W and Block Y are now the gardener’s storage rooms, Block N houses the Maintenance Officer and Block Z is now used as an office by the Aboriginal Coordinator.
The former Liverpool Hospital complex is of State significance as one of the oldest, substantially intact early colonial hospital complexes in Australia. Built by convict labour, the main 1820’s Colonial Georgian building is considered one of the finest colonial buildings remaining in Australia and the surviving complex of buildings, from the hospital period, are a fine representation of the high standard of workmanship carried out by these convict labour gangs. Convict labour was also used to construct the Gate Keeper’s Cottages and the brick wall that continue to encircle much of the complex.
The former hospital is State significant for its long standing continuous history of servicing the health needs of, first convicts and then the wider Liverpool community from 1810 to 1958. As well as convict association, Liverpool Hospital also has associations with Governors Lachlan Macquarie, Sir Thomas Brisbane and Sir Ralph Darling and the civil Architects, Francis Greenway (Block B), Edmund Blacket (Blocks A & C) and W.L. Vernon (Block F).
The presence of significant in situ convict era archaeology could reveal evidence of how Liverpool and the hospital developed in the early colonial period, as well as the techniques and materials used by the convict labour gangs. The presence of this pre 1850 archaeology is rare in NSW.
Having State heritage significance for its historic, associative, aesthetic, social, research, rarity and representative values, there are few sites around Australia that could be comparable to the former Liverpool Hospital complex.
The heritage listing on the Office of Environment and Heritage Website can be found HERE.