It's 101 years since the Manly community decided to build, and pay for!, a new hospital at North Head. It was to be built on former quarantine land as 'a permanent tribute to the men who went forward and fought in the Great War', and called the Manly Peace Memorial Hospital.
Now the hospital is closed but the land - almost a sacred site for our community - remains in public hands and will become a health and wellbeing precinct.
Image: Construction taking place in late 1928. Source: Manly, Warringah & Pittwater Historical Society
It is perhaps not widely known that the original name for Manly Hospital - the one on Eastern Hill, not the earlier Cottage Hospital in Raglan Street - was the Manly Peace Memorial Hospital.
At a public meeting in the Manly Town Hall in July 1919 it was resolved that a ‘Peace Memorial Hospital’ be built on the former quarantine land as ‘a permanent tribute to the men who went forward and fought in the Great War’.
A committee was formed and fundraising commenced.
In 1924 the NSW Parliament passed an Act (No. 55) to ‘sanction the construction of a public hospital at Manly’. This Act describes the hospital as the Manly Peace Memorial Hospital (Paragraph 4). What the Act did not reveal is that the residents of Manly were required to pay two-thirds of the cost of the hospital, including fit out and furnishing.
Construction began in 1927 with the foundation stone laid on Saturday 28 January, 1928. The residents’ main fundraising came from the annual 'Venetian Carnival', but hey struggled to raise their part of the funds. The first stage of the two-stage build cost £69,000 and the residents contributed £18,666. In today’s money the two figures are $144 million for Stage 1 with the residents providing $39 million. The new French’s Forest Hospital cost $600 million all up.
The residents still had their asset of the Cottage Hospital to liquidate but they wished to keep these funds for the fitout. Their situation was relieved a little in January 1929 when the then Minister for Health, Richard Arthur, who also happened to be a Patron of the Manly Cottage Hospital and a consulting medical officer there, agreed that the residents’ contribution could be reduced to 50%, as was the case with other local hospitals in the State, but the assets of the Cottage Hospital also had to be handed over.
There was ultimate relief in November 1929 when Arthur successfully introduced the Public Hospi tals Act. This meant that a Hospitals Commission would administer all public hospitals via local boards. The government would finance hospital construction, with local financial involvement limited to furnishings. Stage 2 commenced in June 1930 at the expense of the government (although with the passing of the Act they took over owner- ship and operation of the Cottage Hospital which was sold after the new one opened in October 1931).
While the residents got their new hospital they lost its original name. It was now simply the Manly District Hospital.
Words: Manly, Warringah & Pittwater Historical Society. Newsletter Sept 2020
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor & Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.