Hawke’s Bay Hospital and Charitable Aid Board



In 1850, Mr (later Sir) Donald McLean, Government Land Purchase Commissioner, bought Scinde island (now Napier Borough) from a Maori Chief named Tareha Te Moana Nui for fifty Pounds.

A Missionary named Father Reignier, when passing through in 1851, camped where Carlyle Street now is, then in “an uninviting state of nature – there were only two houses in the whole of what has since grown into the Borough of Napier”.

In June 1852, the Imperial Parliament passed a Constitution Act for New Zealand.  Hawke’s Bay district was then included in the Province of Wellington, which was governed by a Provincial Council with a Superintendent at its head.  This Council had control of Hospitals and Charitable Aid Institutions, as well as other public affairs.

It was not long after that Mr. Alfred Domett, Commissioner of Crown Lands, tabled a Report to the Provincial Secretary at Wellington, dividing Scinde Island (now called Napier) into sections, which were offered by public auction in 1855.  In submitting his proposed subdivisional scheme, he made provision for a Barrack Reserve on what is now the present Napier Hospital Site; and in his report, he says under the heading of “Reserves Hospital: a small suburban section on the hills (Sealy Road) has been marked for an hospital, as the site is cheerful and healthy.  But as some time may elapse before the settlement is advanced enough to make it convenient to place an hospital there, one of the unappropriated reserves on the flat could be taken for that object.  He goes on further to say there were only five residents at that time on Scinde Island – one of which, he writes, Dr. Hitchings has been allowed to occupy Section 110, where he is now building a house”; and concludes his Report, “These are all that are in any way occupied”.  So that it will be seen that at that time the population was sparse indeed, practically of an itinerant-shipping nature – mainly located at what is now termed the Port.

In the New Zealand Government Gazette, notified under date and place “August 21st 1857, The Treasury Auckland”, we read that “His Excellency the Governor, Col. Thomas Gore Brown, C.B. has been pleased to appoint Thomas Hitchings Esquire to be Native Surgeon at Ahuriri”.  He was very soon appointed Coroner, and then later Public Health Officer, for Napier.  The population for Ahuriri District at this time was about 900 Europeans (including the Napier population of about 300), and the Hawkes Bay District generally about 1500.

It is interesting to read that Dr. Hitchings reported about this time while attending the wounded of both sides

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various tribal fights amongst the Natives, he was “totally ignorant of the Maori language”.  There was a Dr. English located at Waipukurau, although he does not appear on the first Electoral Roll of 1858.  This first Electoral Roll for Ahuriri and Hawke’s Bay District shows one Medical Practitioner, viz, “Thomas Hitchings – Native Surgeon”.

The coming of Dr. Hitchings to Napier is not without interest.  According to an English Newspaper-cutting, he left Tonbridge England about 1852.  His grandfather, Sir Edward Hitchings, had been Mayor of the City of Oxford several times: and it is recorded that Dr. Hitchings was a senior prizeman and gold medallist of St. Bartholomews Hospital.  Leaving a distinguished practice, he journeyed to New Zealand as Surgeon in an immigrant ship; and it is thought that he first landed at Wellington.

Late in 1854, or early in 1855, a small sailing craft tacked its way to an anchorage near the Iron Pot, Port Ahuriri.  A boat was lowered, and two sailors rowed Dr. Hitchings towards the shore.   When within a few feet of actual dry land, one of the sailors (as they held the boat on the wave) called out, “jump Doc” and Doctor Hitchings found himself well up to the waist in the sea.  He waded ashore. and later that day, at the only public house then at the Port, he met three men whose first question was “could he play whist”?  On his admitting some such ability (which he clearly demonstrated to their cost during the play) his companions implored him to settle at Ahuriri, and as there was no Doctor already in the place, he agreed, and put up his shingle nearby.  He very soon  moved to a house he built at the foot of Milton Road, on the site where the present Oddfellows Hall stands to-day (Section 110).  He sold this to a Mr. Lloyd and had a house built in Faraday Street, where he lived for about 38 years, until his death on February 26th 1894, at the age of 78 years.  There were many sick and wounded treated by him at his house in the early days; and it is related how slow and tedious were the journeys he took over the tracks through the surrounding district.  On one occasion he was awakened at 4 a.m. to go to a very sick woman at Taradale.  The husband had come in for him.  About a couple of hours later the man came in again – his wife was so seriously ill – to urge the Doctor to hurry.  Mrs. Hitchings explained that he had left immediately.  They went down to the stable and found the Doctor with his leg broken – his horse having tramped on him; but he insisted on them hoisting him on his horse and away he went and saved the woman’s life.  He was always lame after the accident.  Dr. Hitchings used to tell of a journey he made by sea from Wellington to Napier, that took twenty-two days.  A wealth of interesting stories lies in the life of this, the first Provincial Surgeon of Hawkes Bay.

The next item of interest is that in 1858, owing to the belligerent attitude of the Maoris, Imperial troops were sent to Napier (the called Ahuriri). Detachments of the 65th Regiment arrived in February, and bivouaced in Onopoto [Onepoto] Gully on Scinde Island.  Two Military surgeons

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are mentioned in this reference – Dr. Tydd (of the 58th Regt.) and a Dr. Snell (Dr. William Snell is shown on the Electoral Roll for 1859). In an issue of the first newspaper printed in Napier, Tenders for Military Supplies were called – also Tenders “to rent a house in the vicinity of the Camp at Onepoto, to be used as a Military Hospital”.

This year (1858) marks the separation from the Wellington Province and the formation of the Hawke’s Bay Province.  The sum of £2400 was allocated to build the Barracks for the troops “on a site to be determined after well-sinking”.  This was located on what was then Barrack Hill – now the site of the present Napier Hospital.  At the beginning of 1860 the completed barracks were occupied – in huts surrounded by a bullet proof mud wall – the officers living in little places scattered all over the adjacent hills – “and very hard work we find it going up and down every now and then”.

En passant – whilst this work does not pretend to any military record – it is interesting to note that detachments of various Imperial Regiments were stationed at Ahuriri (Napier) within the years 1858 to 1870.  (The last of the Imperial Forces left in January 1870).  Dr. Grace Surgeon to the 14th Regt. arrived here in 1861, and later became Government Inspector of Hospitals.  The 70th Regt. had its Military Surgeon (1864 or 1865).  The 12th Regt. (about 1866) also; and the 18th Royal Irish Regt. brought Dr Spencer (about 1867), who, on resigning his Commission, became an outstanding figure in the public activities of little Napier for many years.

In the local newspaper of April 1859, a letter written to the Editor complains that “there is no hospital and not even a dispensary in the district”, and urged that the new Provincial Council should act in the matter.  A very old and reliable identity, Mr. Walter Slater, who landed in Napier in February 1859, states that “there was a house on the south side of Emerson Street and just east of Dalton Street, used as a hospital; The approximate location is what we know to-day as Rice’s Building.  This hospital is evidently the one to which Dr. Hitchings refers in his first Hospital Report as being “temporarily rented by the Provincial Government and situated in the middle of the town”; and was, of course, used by civilian patients as well; and from the blanket-grey uniform of some of the men inmates, it evidently housed military patients.  Later, I bought the building from Capt. (later Major) McGregor, of the 65th Regt.  In the early days I lived next door to the hospital”.

Incidentally, Mr. Slater speaks of an “Observatory” (? trig station) on the hospital reserve at Sealy Road that Mr. Park, the Surveyor, used in conjunction with a similar one on Park’s Island”.

At the Provincial Council meeting in May 1859, Dr. Hitchings sat as a Member of that Body; and Estimates were passed for “Hospital, £250; Charitable Aid, £50”.  Tenders were called for building a Hospital on the Hospital Reserve (Sealy Road site); and a local paragraph dated May 26th 1860 reads: “The new hospital has now been occupied for some days.  At present there are five patients in it, which is about the average number;” and on the same date tenders were called for Hospital rations, stores, clothing, utensils […] requisites.  The population at this time was […] Napier, and 3500 for the whole Province.

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In January 1860, pursuing a policy of Immigration, the Provincial Government built Barracks (at a cost of £441) at the foot of Coote Road (the site is now occupied by the present Defence Hall); and from heresay evidence a Mr. and Mrs. Troy were Master and Matron of the premises.  Later in 1863, these barracks were occupied by a Defence Force – raised in Dunedin – of some One hundred men.

In July 1860, there was an epidemic of influenza in the District – but there is no mention of it in Dr. Hitchings’ first hospital report dated January 12th, 1861 – appended herewith:-

“From Thomas Hitchings, M.R.C.S. and L.A.S. Provincial Surgeon; to His Honour the Superintendent Provincial Council Napier.  I have the honour to transmit to you a tabular statement of the cases which have been under treatment at the Napier Provincial Hospital since it was opened for the admission of patients….”  He goes on to describe Scinde Island and the adjacent shallow lagoons and mud-flats etc. as well as the climate of rain-fall.  “The Hospital of Napier is situated on an elevated site in the Town about 200 feet above sea-level.  It has a northerly aspect and commands extensive views both land and seaward. It consists of a plan building of one storey, weatherboarded, size 40 feet by 28 feet.  There are two wards 16 feet by 14 feet and 13 feet high, with a trap door communicating with the roof, to ensure free ventilation.  One ward is for males – the other for females – each containing 5 beds, which gives nearly 600 cubic feet of air for each patient.  The inmates as yet are nearly all males.  There is a good roomy kitchen and a surgery, and a sleeping apartment for the Master and Matron.  Detached is the washhouse and the deadhouse.

“The building formerly used for an hospital was one rented temporarily by the Provincial Government, and situated in the middle of the town.  It served until the present more commodious building was erected.  The accommodation of the present hospital is barely sufficient to supply the increasing wants of the province; and in the case of any infectious disease breaking out, is wholly insufficient.”  He adds the hope that an additional wing will be built shortly, as well as provision made for the safe confinement of lunatics who are now placed under the surveillance of the police.  He describes the water supply as being a brick tank of 3000 gallon capacity, to contain the rainwater from the roof of the building.  There is also a surface spring “closely contiguous”.  “The patients are well clothed and the dietary abundant and exceptional.  Everything is done to conduce to their benefit and alleviation.  The amount of goods already affected by the institution may be gathered from the accompanying tabular return; whilst numbers of our patients are weekly relieved and supplied gratuitously with advice and medicines.  I may here mention that tooth instruments, cupping ditto, etc., should be supplied to the hospital, as those now in use are the private property of the Provincial Surgeon and are required elsewhere.

“On reference to the tabular return of patients treated at the Hospital, it will be especially noted that the mortality is very great, nearly 20 per cent, which is satisfactorily accounted for by the detailed list of each case, and that in no case was there at the time of its admission the most remote probability of any but a fatal result.

“The first fatal case was one of Ascites of two years standing, with disease of the kidneys.  There was partial paralysis, and the back and loins were covered with extensive sloughing bedsores.  The second was a case of Hoemates

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“which died the day of its admission.  The third was one of confirmed Phthisis, in the last stage.  The fourth was a man who had been ill for some months from, it was supposed, eating poisoned fish.  Dropsy supervened, and a series of typhoid symptoms, of an extraordinary character which terminated fatally the day following his admission.  Of the others who had partaken of the fish, one (a healthy man a soldier) died in the Military Hospital.  Another case was recovered only by the greatest difficulty after many months of suffering.  The fifth was one of confirmed Phthisis, in the last stage.  The sixth was disease of the brain with paralysis, relaxed sphincters, partial insensibility. which, after a signal improvement, terminated in a convulsive seizure.  The seventh was a child, eight months old, suffering from Hydrocephalus acutus.

“I have been thus particular in detailing these fatal cases, as they naturally excite peculiar interest, and show from their terrible nature the hopelessness of almost any mode of treatment.

“A case worthy of record was one of Ophthalmitis, with total blindness.  The man had lost one eye in infancy, and he had been under treatment in the country for a month previous to his being led down to Napier.  At this time there was no hope entertained of him ever regaining his sight.  This man got perfectly well in a month.

“Another very interesting case was one of Abscess at the base of the skull, somewhere about the origin of the Pterygoid muscles, and between these and the mastoid process of the temporal bone.  There was great obscurity in this case.  It first burst into the auditory canal, with partial relief, next into the Eustachian tube, discharging itself at the back of the fauces.  Matter subsequently “pointed” in front of the sterno-cloido-mastoid muscle, which was opened.  Subsequently it pointed in many parts of the cervical region with numerous sinuses, all of which were laid open with a bistoury, and he ultimately recovered.

“A case of attempted suicide is worthy of passing notice.  The man made an extensive incision in the throat with a razor, above the os-hyoides, dividing all the muscles which pass between that bone and the tongue, and wounding many branches of arteries which bled profusely.  Torsion was used for arresting the haemorrhage with the most satisfactory result.  The wound healed in three weeks with water dressing.

“I may here mention that a residence of nearly six years has enabled me to speak confidently as to the general healthiness of the town of Napier and District.  The diseases which may be said to prevail here are Rheumatism; Opthalmia (very obstinate in resisting the usual remedial agents); Neuralgia of the Supra-orbital nerve (very common); Worms, particularly in children; and certain cutaneous diseases, such as Herpes, etc.

“Increase of population is progressing here most satisfactorily, and confinements are recovered from with singular rapidity.”

(Dr. Hitchings concludes by remarking on the general satisfactory state of things at the Hospital.  Attached is his Tabular Statement).

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Recovered   Died   Total

Ascites   –  1   1
Dementia   1   –   1
Hoematemesis   –   1   1
Fractura   3   –   3
Paralysis, part relieved   1   1   2
Phithsis   –   2   2
Febris Typhoides   –   1   1
Opthalmia   1   –   1
Catarrhus   3   –   –
Ulcus   3   –   3
Syphilis   1   –   1
Vulnus   5   –   5
Febris   2   –   2
Abscessus   2   –   2
Febris Intermittens   1   –   1
Synovitis   2   –   2
Necrosis   1   –   1
Hydrocephilus Acutus   –   1   1
Haemoptysis, under treatment   –   –   1
Staphyloma do   –   –   1
Meningitis chronica “   –   –   1
Luxatura Humeri   1   –   1
27   7   38

At a meeting of the Provincial Council in April 1862, the following estimates were approved, under heading


For Jan. 1st 1862 to March 31st 1863:

Hospital Charges etc.   £150.10.5
Provincial Surgeon   £110.0.0
Hospital Attendants   £100.0.0
Rations for Patients   £80.0.0
Furniture & water-bed   £40.0.0
Charitable aid   £50.0.0
Contingencies   £35.0.0


Full records are not available, but as we read on, there follows a history of more or less over-crowding at the Hospital – tents were called into use – and additional accommodation built about the middle of 1866; and in October of that year we get a definite record, when the building held 17 beds, of the housing (with the aid of extra tents) of the wounded (mostly Maori) from the Omarunui Fight.  Dr. Hitchings’ report is appended herewith:-

(“H.B. Herald” 19th Feb. 1867)

In his report on the Hawke’s Bay Provincial Hospital for the year 1866, the Provincial Surgeon (Thomas Hitchings) states that the number admitted during the year was 67, and the number of deaths 11.  “Of this mortality, all except 4 were cases of long standing and of a kind necessarily fatal – cases usually sent to a hospital after other treatment has failed and the funds of the patient have become exhausted.”

He goes on to say – “The Hospital, in its present enlarged form, has ample accommodation for 17 beds, but its capacity and resources were called into sudden and unwonted activity in October last after the engagement at Omarunui by having (in addition to its usual average of inmates) to receive within its walls over 20 wounded Hau Haus and 4 or 5 wounded of the Militia and Volunteers.  The emergency was met on the part of the Government, by providing immediately a supply of competent assistants, and although the Hospital was crowded to excess, everything was done in the way of attention to the dressing of the wounded, whether European or Native, and to their dietary. It was found necessary to draft off some to the Gaol and elsewhere immediately, and others followed as their wounds healed, for the purpose of safe custody.  The gunshot wounds presented the usual variety of such casualties, whether as to the locality or the importance of the parts involved.  More than half were wounded in more places than one, and in about the same proportion were complicated with comminuted fractures of some one or more bones.  The wounds in our own men contrasted favourably with those of the Hau Haus, as the latter presented, at the point of exit of the Enfield bullet, a terribly jagged appearance, whilst in the former, the wound caused by smooth round bullets, presented no such formidable appearance.  The wounds may, for clearness and consiseness [conciseness], be divided into the different regions of the body where they occurred, commencing with the


There were two cases of gunshot wound of the face, one in which the ball entered just below the right ala of the nose, and, passing to the left, broke to pieces the whole of the left upper maxillary bone and the coronoid process of the lower jaw bone, passing out near the latter.  A large portion of the upper maxilla was dissected away, and, during the healing process, several pieces of bone of different sizes were exfoliated.  The wound was dressed with Condy’s fluid and the case was done well.  The other was a wound of the body of the lower jaw bone at its inferior part on both sides, lacerating the whole of the soft structures between the skin and inside of the mouth.  There was in this case great exfoliation of the bone and intensive sloughing of the soft parts, the external wound connecting directly with the interior of the mouth.

There were two wounded in the neck, one with a slight grazing of the front of the thyroid cartilage.  In the other, the

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ball entered the upper part of the left bladebone, fracturing this at its upper costa, and, passing inwards and forwards beneath the sterno-cleido-mastoid and other muscles, made its exit by perforating the oesophagus, and was vomited or spat out of his mouth at the time.  From the entire absence of any symptom warranting a belief in this eccentric course of the bullet, either in the throat or the wound, his statement was scarcely credited, but, after a week or two, fluids administered by the mouth found their way out at the dorsal opening.  There was not a single untoward symptom followed, and the wounds were healed in a month.


There were 19 wounded in this region, and, in 3 cases, both scapula and humerus, and in 5, the humerus with the bones forming the elbow joint were shattered.  During the course of the treatment a great deal of bone was either extracted or came away.  In nearly all, tolerably useful joint was obtained, which, at some future time, might in a few cases be still further improved by resection, one of the novelties of modern surgery.

The remainder of the cases presented no feature of special interest.


There were 6 cases of wounds in this region, two only of which were of a dangerous nature, and both terminated fatally after the patient lingering for a week or 10 days.  In one, the ball entered near the spine, taking an oblique direction through the scapula and ribs, and, after passing through the left lung, made its exit in the axilla.  In the other the ball passed directly through the right lung from before backwards about 4 inches from the mealal line and between the 4th and fifth ribs. There was constant oozing of frothy suous, tinged with blood, from the wounds, with escape of air on each set of respiration, but the bandaging and drawing the edges of the wounds together seemed to give temporary relief.  Both subjects were old men and often enfeebled habit of body.


There were 15 cases, several of which were mere flesh wounds and only required time and simple applications.  There were 14 cases of comminuted fracture of the femur, 2 of which (one European and one Native) terminated fatally, and the other 2 are still under treatment.  These cases are amongst the most severe casualties of the battle-field.  The primary shock to the system and the subsequent details connected with the injury and its treatment, call for a large amount of constitutional vigour, whilst the pain and suffering, with the exhaustive nature of the distress from generally so extensive a suppurating surface, in spite of all aid – medical, surgical, or dietitic – is a greater charge on the system than it has usually been, and a large proportion of such cases terminate fatally.  I am of opinion that in these cases no union takes place, for many weeks or months after the occurrence of the injury, and too much importance is, in the early stage, often attached to the position of the limb at the expense of the comfort and mere safety of the patient.

I may add that simple water dressing suffices in the majority of the cases followed afterwards by escharotics and other treatments.

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There were wounded at Omarunui 33 Natives (inclusive of 3 women).  Three have died; 25 have gone to the Chatham Islands and 4 remain under treatment.  The women were permitted, when their wounds had healed, to go whither they pleased.

There is in the Hospital a friendly Native (Honi) who was wounded at the Wairoa more than a twelve month ago, and has been under medical treatment there until 3 months ago, when he was sent here for further advice.  This is a bad case of fracture of the femur.  There is now great shortening and deformity of the limb, and several serious openings connected with masses of necrosed bone.  He has improved vastly whilst here.

The Hospital is visited regularly by two Justices of the Peace and often by the Superintendent, as well as by Ministers of Religion of all Denominations.  A small library owes its existence to the liberality of a few persons, and all are reminded that any addition thereto will be gratefully received.

The Provincial Surgeon concludes his Report with a reference to the number of mental cases committed during the year.  At that time cases of this kind were placed in the Gaol “for their own safety”, according to the newspaper reports of the period.  He says – “There have been 10 certified cases of lunacy under treatment this year.  Five have been discharged and five remain.  The five that remain seem cases of a permanent character.  They often become violent and require coercive measures, disturbing the rest of the prisoners.  Except in this particular, I have not noticed any injurious result from the admixture of the lunatics with the prisoners generally.”

Just prior to this, in April 1866, an advertisement called for “A Master and a Matron for the Napier Hospital.  Pay at the rate of £115 per annum”.  It is not clear, but it would seem that the positions of Master and Matron of the Sealy Road Hospital from 1860 to 1880 were held at various times by Mr and Mrs. Troy, Mr and Mrs. Gray (he was “an adept at setting limbs”) and Mr and Mrs. Raven.

Unfortunately, records are not available for various periods; but we learn from an advertisement dated October 11th 1862 that Mr. T. Venn M.R.C.S.L. and L.S.A., was in practice in Napier; as was Mr. T.F. Baker, M.D., M.R.C.S., in August 1865; and Dr. Murray Gibbs 1868; Dr G.I. Russell in 1870; and Dr. Spencer who was “induced by the people of Napier to resign his Army Commission and take up private practice”.  Other Medical men – probably Military – came and went, in those early days – amongst them, we read in the shipping news (1858-59) of a Dr. Marshall and a Dr. White; and a Dr. Eugene McShane.

A census, taken December 1st 1864, shews the total population of the North and South Islands of New Zealand as 171,931 souls.  Of this, Hawkes Bay population was 3770 (2461 males, 1309 females) – made up as follows; (Napier 1337) Napier District 2055, Clive District 1530, other parts 185.

The estimates for the Province for the year 1865-1866, read, under heading “4 CHARITABLE”

HOSPITAL:   Provincial Surgeon –   £150
Hospital Attendants   £100
Rations etc. for patients   £140
Charitable aid   £50
Hospital furniture   £50|
Contingencies   £50

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In 1867, the population of Napier was 1,827, whilst that of Hawkes Bay Province had risen to 5,175.  The last of the Imperial Forces left Napier in January 1870, and their vacated barracks were taken over for the use of Immigrants.

On the formation of the Borough of Napier at the end of 1874, the population stood at 3,514 (Napier).  At the end of the year some 103 cases had been treated at the Hospital, and there only remained 5 inpatients.  Yet in the following year there were complaints of the lack of accommodation at the Napier Hospital.  “The few hundreds voted by the Provincial Government is insufficient to meet the increasing wants of an increasing population; and there were many cases of sickness and suffering in the town and suburbs, where charitable aid was sadly needed”.  An epidemic of typhoid fever set in, and even urgent cases were being turned away.  “There was no room at the Hospital – even the tents were full”.  The Provincial Surgeon (Dr. Hitchings), and the Master and Matron of the Hospital (Mr and Mrs Raven) were very much overworked and sorely needed assistance.

By this time, 1875, it would seem that a local Committee was in operation – and we read that “the Hospital Trustees went into the matter of providing extra accommodation of a permanent kind”, and obtained the promise that the Provincial Council would consider it at its next session.  All the male convalescents were moved to the Barracks; and the Municipal Authorities were urged to enforce better sanitation in the Borough.  Subscription lists were opened, and a series of amateur entertainments and Hospital Sunday Collections, were arranged.  Collection boxes were placed in all the hotels, and a Sick Relief Fund for immediate urgent cases was opened (Edward Lyndon as Hon. Secretary).  “Any residue to be handed to the Hospital”.  The Rev. Mr. Townsend acted as Almoner, and the three doctors, Messrs. Hitchings, Spencer and Gibbes formed the actual Committee.

It was just at this time there was much discussion as to suitable location and treatment of a dangerous lunatic suffering from typhoid; and it was urged that a Hospital Ward be attached to the Lunatic Asylum, to be under the control of the Provincial Surgeon.  This finds various repercussions in the history of the Napier Hospital

We have referred earlier to the Immigration Barracks at the foot of Coote Road. It now appears they have been pulled down and removed, since the old Military Barracks were available to Immigrants. About the middle of 1875, there appears an advertisement calling for tenders for “Painting the Quarantine Buildings at Park’s Island and the nine Cottages at (the west end of) Thackeray Street”, and in addition to the Hospital (costing £300) brought that accommodation up to 21 beds. The expenditure under “Item, Hospital and Charitable Aid” (June 24th 1875), is shown as “Maintenance of Hospital £750; Charitable Aid, £350; Maintenance allowance for destitute and neglected children, £100”.

There is here a comparison of population of Hawkes Bay in 1870 it was about 6000, now (1875) is about 10,500.

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From the Provincial Surgeon’s Report of June 1875, to His Honour the Superintendent, it is observed that 155 patients were admitted to the Hospital during the year up to May 31st last, and 135 were discharged, the number remaining on May 31st being 16.  The Report says: “The cases admitted from the ship Clarence were mostly those having reference to the dietary in the latter part of the voyage.  Three children died soon after arrival, from diarrhoea, and many others resisted remedial agents for a long time.  Those from the Fritz Reuter were convalescent cases of fever of a low type, all of which recovered.  The latter ship arrived at a time when our town and neighbourhood was stricken with low or typhoid fever.  Deaths were rife amongst us, and every day swelled the number of the attacked.  The cases from the ship in no way added to or increased the malignity or virulence of the disease.  The latter was prevailing everywhere in the Colonies.  Sydney and Melbourne, where there is little or no immigration shares a like if not a worse fate”.  Dr Hitchings then mentions the type of immigrant and refers to “their peculiar habits”, and continues: “but it is not the less true that persons and families, apart from filth, swamp exhalation, or from foreign contamination, have furnished cases of as serious a nature; and I feel confident in stating that immigration has neither originated nor, to any appreciable extent, propagated any of the disastrous visitation with which we have been afflicted; but that these are inseparable from the free and unrestrained commixture which facilities of transit offer, and from the results of which no isolation or preventative seclusion is practicable.  The cases which have been under treatment call for no remark, as they present no features either of novelty or general interest, and the deaths have been from general causes.

“I would call your Honour’s attention to the necessity of providing increased accommodation for patients.  The vast addition to our labouring classes by the influx of immigrants renders this imperative.  The Hospital staff (by which I mean additional attendants, washerwomen, etc.) will have to be enlarged.  It has only been by canvas tents, and by the absorption of an additional building pre-existing, that accommodation has been in any way afforded during the heavy visitation with which we have lately been afflicted.”

At this juncture the result of the subscription-efforts appears very satisfactory.  The total sum received amounted to £371.2.6 (of which £120.11.0 was subscribed by the country people).  The total expenditure was £225.1.6.  The almoner (Rev. John Townsend) suggested:- “Now that the sickness was passing away the residue (£146.1.0) should be used as a nucleus for a future Benevolent Fund, to be administered by a Committee of three of our oldest and most respected townsmen – Messrs. Newton, Kennedy, and Bolyan [Boylan].”

The local Board of health which had been formed under the Public Health Act (1876), found certain sections of that Act inoperative or unweildy.  For instance, they were to “provide hospitals and medicines – all expenses and salaries to be chargeable upon the rates of the town or place.”

Under date May 22nd 1876 we read – “That an Inland Hospital is very much needed… at Waipawa, or other Central spot”.  Then later, “Also the Napier Hospital requires to be re-built and re-modelled…It is very desirable there should be a Resident Surgeon on the spot, with

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a fair salary… the amount of time and attention given almost gratuitously to the patients by the Hospital Surgeon, and wholly without pay by other members of the profession who are sometimes called in, is very considerable… We hear there are endowments which are likely to be utilised so as to give an increased income to the charity, when the present somewhat scanty accommodation and resources of the Napier Hospital will be augmented….An important point would be to have a separate building for the fever patients….

And it is then strongly advocated to build a new Hospital on part of the old Barrack Reserve.

As 1876 progresses, there is much rivalry between Waipawa and Waipukurau Districts as to the location of the proposed Inland Hospital.  It is even mooted to have but one central Hospital only, at Napier, but it is finally settled to have a cottage Hospital in Waipukurau, to which point the railway is now opened.  (It began from Napier in 1872).

The Provincial Council had made but little headway with its Hospital Endowment Act of 1875, which proved “a curious bundle of tangles” and unworkable; nor had the proposed Napier Hospital Bill been made effective.  Hawke’s Bay Province was divided (on July 17th 1876) into four areas – Napier Borough; Wairoa, Hawke’s Bay, and Waipawa, Counties.  The Provincial Council had granted £1000 in aid of Subscriptions proposed to be collected for the erection of a new Hospital to be built on the Barrack Reserve; and interest generally was being awakened on the whole question of Hospital and Charitable Aid matters.

In a paragraph in a local newspaper of December 1878, we read that, “our dentist Mr. H.C. Wilson is about to commence the use of nitrous-oxide (laughing) gas for producing insensibility to pain during dental operations….We believe that Mr. Wilson is the first dentist in the Colonies who has introduced the use of this anaesthetic into his practice; and we must add that we are glad to see Napier taking the initiative in this advance of Science”.

Coincidentally, Napier is the only place in New Zealand to-day where this gas is manufactured – said to be because of the peculiarly suitable climate.

Shortly after the above date, Mrs. Caro commenced dental-practice in Napier, and we are credibly informed that she was the first lady-dentist to practice in the British possessions.

At the end of 1876, the provincial system of government was abolished: and in August 1877, a Bill, brought before the General Assembly and entitled “The Charitable Institution Act” (1877), provided for the “incorporation of Hospitals, Asylums for the Aged and Destitute, Orphan Schools, Industrial and Training Schools, etc.  Voluntary subscriptions will be subsidised £1 for £1, by the Government, out of Consolidated Funds; whilst the Governor may contribute out of such monies as may be voded [voted] by Parliament towards the erection, alteration, or enlargement, of the buildings of any such incorporated institution.  After the institution is incorporated, a meeting of contributors must be held – nine persons to be elected to act as “Managers” of the Institution,

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who will elect their own number, a President, a Vice-President and a Treasurer.  The Managers to make their own bye-laws, which must be confirmed by the contributors”.

The following, taken from a “Circular from G.S. Cooper, Colonial Secretary’s Office, Wellington”, dated Feb. 14th 1878 is worthy of inclusion.  “The Government, on taking office, found that the Hospital &Charitable Aid Institutions throughout the Colony were being managed on no fixed principal or system, and that it was absolutely necessary to place them on a more satisfactory footing.  Up to the end of December (1877), and till the new Financial Arrangements Bill took effect, it was impossible to change the existing state of things, but from that date the principle the Government have endeavoured to bring into operation is one at once comprehensive, uniform and practical.  In the larger towns, the Government have hitherto maintained a most unsatisfactory control, and aid the expenditure – recovering it however from the Borough subsidies.

In outlying localities (and at Hokitika), a grant-in-aid, differing in some instances, but commonly 20/- for 20/- subscription, has been given, the local body taking charge as a hospital committee.

It is proposed for the future whereever possible to place the hospitals of the larger towns under the direct control of the municipalities, and to subsidise them to the extent of 20/- for every 20/- subscription; band as the remaining cost would fall on the borough funds, to make no deductions whatever from the subsidies.

In the outlying hospitals, although it is desirable an elected body should have control and management of the hospital, still where a committee exists, the Government will continue the grant-to-aid equal to the voluntary subscription and make no charge on the subsidies whatever…

Reverting to an earlier date (Jan 6th 1877) an advertisement in the local press reads:-

“Hawkes Bay Hospital”

Committee: – His Worship the Mayor (Mr. Robt. Stuart), J.G. Kinross, Capt. A. Newman, J.W [N?]. Williams, J.D. Canning, Col. C. Lambert, J. Anderson, J. Joshua, T.K. Newton, G.E. Lee, M.R. Miller, H. Cable, and J.A. Smith (as Hon. Secy).

A recent Act of the General Assembly having granted 3½ acres of land adjoining the Immigration Barracks as the site for a new Hospital in Napier, which is much required, there being want of space on the present ground, the Inhabitants of Hawke’s Bay are requested by the Committee to subscribe to so desirable an object.

The Maoris of Hawke’s Bay are particularly invited to join in this movement, which applies to all alike, and it is hoped that it may lead to increased friendly feeling between the two races.  The Maoris are requested to give land instead of money, as it will perpetuate their names in the future, and show posterity how the aboriginal natives in the Country and the European settlers progressed together.

It is proposed that any person giving £100 or more in money or an equivalant [equivalent] in land shall become a Life-Governor,

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Subscription-lists are left with the Members of the Committee, at the Banks, and with numerous settlers”.

Later a proposal that special rates should be levied, was negatived; and a vigorous campaign to collect subscriptions was put into action – emphasizing the Government promise of the subsidy-rate of £1 for £1.  There is not space here to detail the various subscription-lists, but it is abundantly evident that a whole-hearted movement swept the community; and it was ultimately decided to carry on and erect the new Hospital.

Some sixteen designs for the Hospital were received from all parts of the Colony.  Of these, that of Mr. Dugleby, Architect, of Napier (under the non-de-plume of “Hope”) was accepted, for which he received £50 premium.

After very much delay for which the General Government were blamed for failing to send the promised grant of £1000, together with the uncertainty as to the authority or power of the Hospital Committee – and their consequent inaction – the much needed Hospital was erected on Barrack Hill – and duly opened on June 30th 1880.

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The Opening of the New Hospital

An extract from a local Newspaper dated July 1st 1880 under the heading of The opening of the new hospital, reads:-

“The formal opening of the new Hospital building yesterday afternoon was in every way a grand success.  The weather seemed to have cleared specially for the occasion, the rain, which had fallen without intermission for a week previously, giving way to bright sunshine.  The roads were not in the best possible state, the approaches to the building being especially muddy, as they have not been metalled, but this did not deter one of the largest gatherings ever seen in Napier from being present.  Some time before 2 o’clock, the time fixed for the opening – the public began to assemble, and after the arrival of the procession, the building was crowded to a degree which, under any other circumstances, would have been anything but pleasant.  The comments made by the visitors as they walked through the building were in the direction of unanimous approval and certainly it would have been difficult to design a Hospital more complete in every respect.  The quadrangle in the centre was a great source of attraction.  The fountain was playing, gay flags were stretched across in every direction and it was here that the ladies of Napier held high court, presiding at tables loaded with refreshments provided by themselves.  Nobody really required any refreshments, but nevertheless fair stall-holders were kept busily at work for a long time, and their efforts resulted in a substantial addition to the monetary proceeds of the day.  Other young ladies became for the nouce sellers of flowers, and if they were somewhat forgetful on the subject of change the Hospital benefitted in a corresponding degree, and so nobody grumbled.  The fleeced bachelor discovered that there were two kinds of “buttonholes” for if he invested in a neat little flower pinned losely [loosely] into his coat he subsequently found out that he had not purchased “the real original hospital bunch” whose genuineness was attested by being bound with silk ribbon, but that he had been beguiled by a pretty face into buying a “worthless imitation”.  Of course he straight away rectified the error.  In short there was no lack of devices for emptying purses, and he who came away with enough left for a cab fare must have been of adamantine mould.  The ladies who thus assisted in swelling the funds were Mrs. J.N. Williams, Mrs. Tanner, Mrs. Birch, Mrs. FitzRoy, Mrs. St Hill, Mrs. A. Williams, Mrs. Begg, Mrs. Carlile, Mrs. Miller, Mrs. Parker, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Nairn, Miss Williams, Miss Stuart, Miss Herbert, Miss Hitchings, Miss Miller, Miss Cowper, Miss Lascelles, the Misses Sutton, Miss Ellison and Miss Hindmarsh.  Mrs. Littlejohn and Mrs. Coleman also sent liberal supplies of pastry.

The Licensed Victuallers of both Town and Country came to the front, and in a booth located outside the building they had a supply of excellent liquors and the pecuniary result of their labours showed that they were freely patronised.

The Committee desires through us to express their obligations to all who assisted either in person or by contributions in kind.  Among the latter were Messrs. Kinross & Co., Messrs Wardop & Co., Messrs Neal & Close, Messrs. Fortune & Black, Mr. Prebble, Mr. Levi, Mr. J.T. Johnson, Mr. McVay and others.  Messrs. J.N. Williams W. Birch, G. Potts, W. Harding and Babcock, kindly acted as Stewards.

It was somewhat to be regretted that the time which has elapsed since the completion of the contract for the building,

Page 15

prepared and the grounds otherwise finished, for outside the building, it was not very inviting.  Inside however everything was finished in first class stile [style].  The arrangement of the wards etc. and the manned [manner] in which the Contractor had completed his work, fully justified the complimentary terms in which the Mayor referred to Mr. Dugleby and Mr. McKay, but there was one omission in the absence of any mention of Mr. H. Stevens.  Mr. Stevens did the whole of the plastering work and in addition to his contract gave the labour for the plastering necessary for the fountain and other work, Mr. J.A. Smith providing the materials.

About half past one o’clock a procession was formed in Browning Street under the direction of Mr. W. Miller, and with banners flying and the music of the Artillery Band marched to the Hospital.  The procession was headed by the band, the Mayor and Borough Councillors following in cabs, the Napier and Spit Fire Brigades in full uniform and the Oddfellows, Forresters, Hibernians and Loyal Friends coming in the order named, all in full regalia, the rear being brought up by the members of the Working Men’s Club.  The procession was not so lengthy as it might have been, owing no doubt to the muddy state of the roads.  On arrival at the Hospital the different Societies were arranged in a semicircle.

His Worship the Mayor called for silence and standing on the steps of the Port entrance said – Ladies and Gentlemen as you all know we are met to-day for the purpose of opening this new Hospital, and I thank you in the name of the Committee for attending in such numbers.  The site of the building is one of the most pleasant that could have been chosen, and the building itself reflects the greatest credit on its Architect Mr. Dugleby.  It covers the ground area of 160 ft. by 140 ft., the rooms are lofty and well ventilated and in fact everything has been done which could be thought of to fit in for a hospital, all the latest improvements being adopted.  Mr. McKay the Contractor also deserves the highest praise for the way in which he has carried out everything.  For some months Mr. W. Miller has also given valuable assistance in superintending the excavation of the site by prison labour and he has gone to much personal trouble in arranging for trenching and the construction of water-tanks, and other works which have saved much expense.  The Committee feel that they are greatly indebted to him for these services.  The building has cost something like £4000  subscribed by public of Hawkes Bay and I am proud to say it is entirely free from debt. (applause).  Although the building is free, however, you must all be aware that in entering into a building like this there must be a considerable expense in furnishing, outbuildings and extra work.  In constructing the water tanks alone from 150 to 200 barrels of cement were used.  All these things will cost about £1300 and the Committee are very anxious to get this sum, and they therefore appeal to you all to-day to assist them as far as possible by liberal subscriptions.  You will find a Box in the Hall, and I hope that none of you will forget it.  (applause).  There is now only this amount outstanding, & it is to the exertion of the Hon. Secretary Mr. J.A. Smith (loud applause). For the last 4 years he has been working most assiduously to gather funds for this institution and he has worked harder than ever during the last 12 months, his time having been fully occupied by the affairs of the Hospital. (applause).  I may say, without fear of contradiction, that it is to him that we owe the present building. (applause).  But for him we would not have been able for ten years yet to come, and the old building, unfitted as it is for a hospital, would still have to serve our purpose.  I therefore felt very honoured to-day when I was asked to present Mr. Smith with an illustrated address on behalf of the Hospital Committee.

Page 16

This is as follows – To John Alexander Smith Esquire Honorary Secretary to Napier Hospital Committee.

Sir – The ceremony of opening the new Napier Hospital would be incomplete were it allowed to conclude without some public recognition of the valuable services you have at all times gratuitously rendered both in providing means to maintain the old Institution and to erect the new.

We, therefore, the Committee of the Napier Hospital, take on our own behalf and that of our own fellow settlers generally throughout Hawkes Bay to offer you our sincere congratulations on the completion of the building which has this day been thrown open for public use.

We desire to record the fact that it was through your unaided exertion that the large part of the cost of the building was subscribed, and your generous assistance and untiring efforts in this behalf have been mainly instrumental in bringing the work to a successful issue.  You have thus placed the public under obligations which can never be repaid but which will ever be gratefully acknowledged.  With every expression of regard and with sincere wishes for your health and prosperity, we remain,

Yours faithfully,
J.H. Vautier, A.J. Cotterill, J.N. Williams, J.B. Littlejohn, M.R. Miller, W.I. Spencer, C.B. Winter, H. Williams and G.H. Swan.

The address was illuminated in exceptionally good taste by Mr. Wundram and was glazed and framed.

The presentation of the address was accompanied by three hearty cheers.

Mr. Smith replying; Mr. Mayor, Members of the Hospital Committee and ladies and gentlemen.

I beg to thank you most sincerely for presenting me with this address which shall value highly.  I trust that the Hospital which I have had some pleasure in assisting will be a great success and a credit as it is an ornament to Hawkes Bay (applause).  You must not, however, that I have done with you yet.  I want to see the other charitable Institutions of the District placed on a far better footing, and I mean to “wire in” to you for subscriptions until this is done (laughter and applause).

Three cheers more were given for Mr. Smith, three for the Mayor and three for Mr. Miller.

This concluded the mere formal part of the proceedings and the company then dispersed to the various parts of the building.

Towards dusk the tables provided by the ladies had been so well patronised that there was little left to sell by auction as originally proposed.  The publicans booth still contained a large supply of drinkables and part of the balance was sold under the hammer, the remainder, chiefly consisting of wines, being left at the Hospital as medicinal comforts.  Nothing was carried away.

The ladies stall realised £42.7.6; the Licensed Victuallers stall £50/10/-; the Subscription boxes £30/12/5; and the donations received by the Secretary amounted to £6; total, £129.9.11

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At a meeting of the Committee on Management of the Napier Hospital held November 5th 1880 the Surgeon Superintendent’s report read as follows:-

“At the close of the first official quarterly period since the opening of the new H.B. Hospital it seems opportune to furnish your Committee with a brief report.  The formal inauguration by the Mayor of Napier occurred on the 1st July by various circumstances – particularly bad weather – prevented the transfer of patients from the old Hospital until the 12th July when 5 men and three women were brought over and our daily routine of work commenced.  Since that date 32 males and 8 females have been admitted, making a total of 37 males and 11 females treated;  17 males and 4 females were discharged and two males and one female died, leaving in the Hospital 18 males and 6 females.”

Dr. Menzies goes on to describe the various operations that have been performed and refers to the steadily increasing importance of the out-patients Dispensary, which he characterises as “an expensive item.”

He suggests a method by which the accommodation of the Hospital can be better arranged and emphasises the need of increasing the staff professional and domestic.  He points out that the present trained Nurse and Acting-Matron, Miss Stenson, although active and willing find it physically impossible to perform to her own and to my satisfaction the multifarious duties of both Nurse and Matron and strongly urges the necessity of dividing the duties as far as possible.

Rules and regulations were brought forward by Dr. Spencer and adopted by the Committee.

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Surnames in this narrative –
Anderson, Babcock, Begg, Birch, Black, Boylan, Brown, Cable, Canning, Carlile, Caro, Close, Coleman, Cotterill, Cowper, Domett, Dugleby, Ellison, English, FitzRoy, Fortune, Gibbes, Grace, Gray, Harding, Herbert, Hindmarsh, Hitchings, Johnson, Joshua, Kennedy, Kinross, Lambert, Lascelles, Lee, Levi, Littlejohn, Lloyd, Marshall, McKay, McLean, McShane, McVay, Menzies, Miller, Moore, Nairn, Neal, Newman, Newton, Parker, Potts, Prebble, Raven, Reignier, Russell, Slater, Smith, Snell, Spencer, St Hill, Stenson, Stevens, Stuart, Sutton, Swan, Tanner, Te Moana Nui, Townsend, Troy, Tydd, Vautier, Venn, White, Williams, Wilson, Winter, Wundram

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