Adelaide Children’s Hospital

  • Date Established:
  • State:
    South Australia
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(Material researched & presented by Barbara Armstrong)


One of the early desires of the Adelaide Homœopathic Dispensary’s Committee of Management was that one day the Dispensary would merge into a large and important hospital. In a way this was achieved, because many of the same people who supported the Homœopathic Dispensary went on to establish the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. As was the case with the Adelaide Homœopathic Dispensary, the leading figure in this story was Dr Allan Campbell.

The aim of the Hospital was to relieve the suffering of the children of the poor; the Hospital, therefore, declined patients whose parents were able to pay the ordinary fees for medical attendance.

                   The Allan Campbell Building at the Adelaide Children's Hospital in North Adelaide
                                            Photo courtesy of Alison Hicks

In one of Dr Campbell’s obituaries, it was said that at the first meeting called by Dr Campbell to consider the subject, he was the only person present. In spite of such discouragement, he persevered, and eventually a strong committee was formed.


PW Verco, in the book “Thomas and Elisabeth Magarey” provides the following account:


On September 5, 1876, a group of interested women met Dr Allan Campbell at Mr james G. Turnbull’s office in Currie Street. Dr Campbell talked of the pressing need for a children’s hospital, and a subcommittee – to obtain information and to get the opinion and assistance of the medical profession as well as to arrange a public meeting – was appointed, consisting of Dr Allan Campbell (Bible Christian), Miss Mary Ashley (Church of Christ), Mrs John Colton (Wesleyan), Mrs Campbell (sister of J.S. and E.W. Way), Mrs David Fowler (her husband was one of the founders of the Baptist Church in South Australia), Mrs James Jefferis (her husband was a Congregational minister), Mrs Knight, Mrs S.J. Stuckey (Presbyterian) and Mrs C. Smedley (Congregational).


Later in September, a small group of eight doctors who were in favour of the establishment met – already there were children’s hospitals in both Sydney and Melbourne. On 6 October a large public meeting was held in White’s Assembly Rooms (later to become the Majestic and then the Warner Theatre); a Ladies’ Committee of 39 and a Gentlemen’s Committee of 16 were elected. The propositions put forward by the doctors, including the proposition that Honorary Medical Officers be chosen from legally qualified medical practitioners, irrespective of their views of any particular systems of medicine, were accepted. These Committees met a week later to elect office-bearers and to appoint subcommittees, one to draft a constitution and one to report on possible sites for the proposed children’s hospital.


The Chief Justice, S.J. Way (brother-in-law of Dr Campbell), who was also a supporter of the Homœopathic Dispensary, was appointed as first President of the Hospital.


Three of the Hospital’s six doctors were homœopaths (Allan Campbell and his brother W.M. Campbell, and S.J. Magarey, son of Thomas). Therefore in the early days of the Hospital, many of the aims of the Dispensary were met by the treatment provided by the homœopaths at the Hospital, although it was not a “homœopathic hospital” per se.


There was some consternation about this fact from the bulk of the medical profession at the time. In his opening remarks at a public meeting held on November 22, 1876, the President refuted suggestions that the hospital was to be for one particular school of medicine. As reported in The Advertiser on 23 November 1876:


The movement was not sectarian in its character, as had been supposed, nor was it intended for medial men of a particular mode of practice. It was only necessary to look at the list of ladies and gentlemen to show that the assertion was absolutely untrue. So far from being sectarian, the movement claimed to be one of extreme broadness and catholicity, and so far from embracing one medical school alone, the fact was it aimed at embracing all. (Applause)


Again, at the annual meeting of the subscribers to the Hospital, Way congratulated the Hospital


... as having accomplished the difficult task of making the allopathic lion lie down with the homœopathic lamb; and the remark was not without point, as a slight misunderstanding did at first prevail as to the nature of the treatment to be adopted in the institution. I merely wish to impress upon the  public mind that the circular issued by the Hospital authorities and published with the last report distinctly states that it is not the purpose of the committee to conduct the Hospital exclusively according to the system of any particular school of medicine, but simply with one object, and that the welfare and happiness of the inmates.


Way denied suggestions that the Hospital was to be dominated by one particular school of medicine (i.e. homœopathy), but that it aimed to embrace all forms of medicine.


The Hospital’s Site Committee recommended that the Children’s Hospital should be established in a separate building in the grounds of the Adelaide Hospital, and that different wards be set aside for the different schools of medicine. Both these proposals were rejected.


Messrs J.N. and W.H. Birks offered to act as homœopathic dispensers to the Hospital free-of-charge for six months.


The foundation stone of the new hospital was laid at North Adelaide on June 20, 1878. The hospital was opened officially on August 6, 1879.


The first portion of the hospital was named as Way Buildings. In 1895 isolation wards were built to cope with diphtheria and typhoid patients. Dr Campbell was involved with the creation of a department for bacteriological examination and research, which was also built at that time. This portion of the Hospital was called the Campbell Buildings. The twenty-second annual report of the Board of Management of the Hospital for the year ended September 30, 1898, reported:


The new isolation wards, which were opened by the Lady Victoria Buxton about the time of the last annual meeting, were furnished and ready for patients at the beginning of December. From the day of opening up to the commencement of the present month the enteric fever ward was fully occupied, and only on three days has the diphtheria ward been empty since the opening. The treatment of these infectious diseases in the new wards has given the most gratifying results. Eight-eight cases of enteric fever were admitted up to the end of September, two only proving fatal; and fifty-seven cases of diphtheria, with only two deaths. The erection of the Allan Campbell (isolation) wards has involved a very large expenditure, but the work done in these wards must be reckoned amongst the most successful undertaken by the Hospital, and had it not been for the enlarged accommodation they have afforded for the reception of diseases of this class a large proportion of the cases must have been refused admission.


A convalescent home for children, part of the parent institution, was also built near the Mount Lofty Railway Station – the Queen Victoria Home for Convalescent Children. Much of the credit for this development also goes to Dr Allan Campbell. Part of the contributions were provided by the charity fund of The Children’s “Sunbeam” Society of South Australia – its child members being known as “Sunbeams”.


The foundation stone of the convalescent home was laid on 10 July, 1897, and the opening ceremony was conducted on October 30, 1898. With the contributions from the Sunbeams and other donations, the Home was able to be opened free of debt. Very sadly, Dr Campbell died the day after the ceremony


A stained glass window to Dr Campbell’s memory was installed in the main ward. Its inscription was:


The beloved Physician. 1836 – Allan Campbell – 1898. the children’s friend.


©   Barbara Armstrong     


  • Created:
    Tuesday, 01 January 2008
  • Last modified:
    Wednesday, 03 December 2014