Cumberland Hospital - The Early Years

Doctor Patrick Hill R.N.

Superintendent of Invalid Convicts 1847-1852

Surgeon Superintendent Parramatta Lunatic Asylum 1852.

Edwin Statham, the last Storekeeper of the Factory, was appointed to superintend the invalid side of the asylum and Dr Patrick Hill was appointed to oversee the medical needs of the inmates of both the invalid and lunatic divisions. Dr Hill, like so many of the colonial gentlemen of the time held several appointments such as; Government Medical Advisor, Honorary Medical Officer at the Parramatta General Hospital and Visiting Medical Officer at the Gaol and the Protestant and Catholic Orphan Schools, Visiting Magistrate to the Tarban Creek Asylum and President of the New South Wales Medical Board! He also held substantial pastoral interests near Goulburn. In addition he had made his home on a farm at Camden, some distance from Parramatta. He made it clear that due to his many absences from the asylum it would be difficult to treat acutely ill lunatics – he wanted only the “Imbecile, Idiotic and Fatuous” who could be easily accommodated and fed, “which is almost all that can be done for them.” [1]

[1] Hill to Colonial Secretary. Colonial Secretary’s papers – Letters Received Lunatic Asylums 1848 – 73. State Records New South Wales, 4/7183.

Increasingly the old Factory was used as a receptacle for lunatics, possibly because as a former prison, it had the means to provide secure accommodation for the mentally ill. If it can be assumed that the public were relieved at the prospect of the closure of the Female Factory and the removal of its’ troublesome women, then that relief was probably shaken by the murder of a lunatic patient by another with an axe in May 1849. With two blows, James Delaney cleaved the skull of Robert Dixon before the keeper could move to prevent it. At the coroner’s inquest the keeper was exonerated from blame however it was recommended that new arrangements be made for the cutting of wood which was “hoped, would render future accidents impossible.”[2]

[2] Sydney Morning Herald. 9 May 1849, p.2. Bostock, J., The Dawn of Australian Psychiatry. Glebe: Australian Medical Association, 1968, pp.37 – 40.

CopyrightDr. Terrence Smith

Historian and Author.