Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Beechworth - the old hospital

I did not feel engaged by the historic end of the town, but was more engaged up this end of town.

Originally called the Ovens District Hospital, it was completed in 1857 and demolished in 1940. Let's put its construction into context. The Victorian gold rush is considered to have been from 1851 until the late 1860s. Ned Kelly was born in 1855 and hung in 1880. My great-great-grand-father, Stephen Cole, settled in nearby Jamieson in 1862.

The first stage of the hospital cost 2,347 pounds. Even though another hospital was built in Wangaratta in 1871, further additions were made to this hospital in both 1858 and 1890. The hospital was demolished in 1940 when a new, smaller one, was built. Due to the shortage of building materials during World War II all salvageable materials were used for public works within Beechworth. All that remains of the 1857 hospital today is the granite facade, and remnants of the extensive gardens.

Even here, an opportunity has been lost. Down in Port Arthur the impact of the historic site has been magnified by snippets of the lives of the convicts and others who existed there. This hospital, too, would have a greater impact if we could stand and read about some of the miners and pioneers who benefited from its existence.


Joan Elizabeth said...

It seems to be impressive but soulless. Not sure if it missing stories or just a bit if natural grunge.

Dianne said...

I'm thinking of some of my fore-bears who immigrated from Ireland in 1859 - some of them going to the goldfields in northern Victoria to make their fortune and maybe even spending time in this very hospital.
The structure of the facade looks unchanged and I can imagine in it's day would have been a solid building.