Friday, 4 June 2021

Nurse Brockhurst's private hospital in Cranbourne

In May 1918, Mrs Isabella Brockhurst applied to the Cranbourne Shire Council to register a private hospital. Dr Langley, the Shire Health Officer reported to the Council meeting that whereas the building is not large and the rooms small, the place is very clean, and the rooms are quite suitable for the purposes of a maternity hospital. In the hands of Mrs. Brockhurst it will be well conducted, and a great benefit to the district (1).  The Hospital was called Kilora. It would be interesting to know who the first baby was born at her Hospital, the earliest birth notice I can find is this one of Mervyn Forster, born September 22, 1918.  

The birth of Mervyn Forster at Nurse Brockhurst's Hospital, 
September 22 1918.

Sadly not all births had a happy ending and this is the notice for baby Leslie Westaway, who only lived 40 hours.

In February 1919, Nurse Brockhurst applied to register the building as a nursing home (2), I presume so she could broaden the scope of her services. The Hospital was advertised regularly in 1920 in the South Bourke & Mornington Journal. The advertisement was always on the bottom left corner of the front page. 

Mrs Brockhurst's regular advertisement in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal in 1920
South Bourke & Mornington Journal June 10, 1920

In the last months of 1926 and throughout 1927, Mr Branston, the Dentist, ran this advertisement. He consulted at Nurse Brockhurst's Hospital on Monday between 1.00 pm and 5.00pm.
South Bourke & Mornington Journal September 23, 1926

On June 8, 1927, Isabella was appointed the Registrar of Births and Deaths at Cranbourne (3). She held the postion until her resignation on November 24, 1931 (4). This means that she may have both delivered the baby and then registered the birth.

Isabella's appointment as Registrar of Births and Deaths at Cranbourne
Victoria Government Gazette June 15, 1927 

There was an article in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of June 1927 saying that Sister Gould had taken over the Hospital vacated by Nurse Brockhurst (5), however there are still references in the newspapers of Nurse Brockhurst's Private Hospital after this so either Sister Gould did not stay long or perhaps it was still referred by it's original name. 

What do we know about Mrs Brockhurst? She was born Isabella Suriez around 1884 in the Falkland Islands, that remote part of the British Empire in the South Atlantic Ocean. She is the first person I have ever come across born in the Falklands. Isabella was married to Frank Brockhurst on March 6, 1906 at St Stephen's Church of England, West Ealing, which is part of Greater London.   He was a 23 year old Dairyman, born in Alton in Hampshire and she was a 22 year old Spinster. Her father's occupation on the marriage certificate was listed as Shepherd in the Falkland Isles (6).

I believe Isabella's father was actually called Carlo not Claro. This is an excerpt from Isabella and Frank's Marriage Certificate showing his occupation.
London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; 
Reference Number: DRO/148/01/009 - From Ancestry.cpm

Their daughter Isabella Mary was born November 2, 1906 at Godalaming, Surrey and their son Francis George (known as George) was born June 5, 1908, also in Godalaming (7).  The family were listed in the 1911 Census at Godalaming - Frank's occupation was a Dairyman; Isabella's occupation was 'assisting in the business'. The household also had two boarders and a servant living with them (8)

I do not have a date for when the family came to Australia, but in 1914 they were listed in the Electoral Rolls at Tallangatta, then in 1917 at Spring Meadows in Cranbourne. They are listed at this address in 1927 as well (9).  Frank's occupation was a farm hand and they did not own the property. There was a clearing sale of cattle and some equipment held at Spring Meadows in February 1920 and the owner was listed as George Lehman (10)  and another sale in March 1928 when the property was auctioned. It was described as 327 acres, stocked 750 sheep and 80 cows were milked  - a large concern in those days. Sel. Kennon Esq., was the owner in 1928 (11). This was Selbourne Kennon, of  J. Kennon and Sons - the operators of a large tannery, leather manufactury and wool exporters in Richmond on the Yarra River (12). With Frank's experience as a dairyman in England, he would have been a valuable employee. After the farm was sold,  Frank and Isabella moved to Perivale,  a house in Childers Street,  Cranbourne (13).  Perivale is less than two miles from West Ealing where the couple were married - perhaps that was the location of their first home together.

Whilst the family was at Cranbourne their daughter, Isabella Mary, known as Molly was married on March 30, 1929 at St John's Church of England to Fred Whiteway of Northcote. The Church was filled, the bride being very popular said the report in the Dandenong Journal. Iris Stick was one of Molly's bridesmaids and later in 1929 she married Molly's brother George (14).

Frank and Isabella left Cranbourne in October 1931 - Much regret is expressed that Mr. and Mrs. F. Brockhurst, after a residence of 15 years in Cranbourne, are shortly leaving the district. Mrs. Brockhurst has conducted a private hospital for a number of years, and has won the affection of many residents. She and Mr. Brockhurst have taken an active part in local movements' for the welfare of the town and district. They have been especially interested in St. John’s Church of England, having been actively associated with the organisation of that church (15). 

The next I can find of the Brockhursts was that in 1937 they were listed in the Electoral Roll at Maffra.  Isabella died on October 6, 1954 at Maffra and Frank in September 1963. They were both cremated at the Necropolis at Springvale (16). 

Small private hospitals, like the one operated by Isabella Brockhurst were the mainstay of medical care in the suburbs and country towns at this time - almost always run by women, and they dealt with births, deaths and everything in between - including illness, accidents and caring for people after operations

Other examples of small hospitals in this region are -

Shepton Private Hospital in Berwick
Dandenong Advertiser January 29, 1914

Mrs Fink's Private Hospital in Dandenong
Koo Wee Rup Sun August 20, 1919.

Mrs Osborn was at Koo Wee Rup - I am unsure whether she operated a hospital in her house or if she attended to patients in their own homes.
Koo Wee Rup Sun August 13, 1919.

From 1911, Bush Nursing Hospitals were established in country towns. The Bush Nursing movement provided a country town with a qualified, experienced Nurse and the local community had to raise the money to fund the cost of the nurse’s salary, board, uniform and transport. The earliest Bush Nursing Hospital in this area was at Koo Wee Rup which opened in July 1918. It later became a Soldiers Memorial Hospital and later still the Westernport Memorial Hospital. Pakenham was established in 1926 and Berwick in 1940. I have written about these Hospitals, here. The first large public hopsital in the area was opened at Warragul in August 1908 and Dandenong was opened in April 1942.

Isabella Brockhurst and other nurses like her who operated their own hospitals in country towns provided a valuable service to the local area, where they were involved in community life and and even more importantly, won the affection of many residents (17).

Trove List
I have created a list of articles on Trove on Isabella and Frank Brockhurst and the Hospital, access it here.

(1) Lang Lang Guardian, May 11 1918 see here.
(2) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, February 6 1919, see here.
(3) Victoria Government Gazette June 15, 1927, p. 1910
(4) Victoria Government Gazette December 3, 1931, p. 3348
(5) South Bourke and Mornington Journal, June 16 1927, see here.
(6) I found out Isabella's maiden name and birth place from the Indexes to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages. This led to their Marriage Certificate, which is available on and their entry in the 1911 Census, also available on and these documents contained the details in this paragraph. 
(7) Isabella Mary's Baptism record in on and that gave her date of birth. Francis' birth date comes from his Second Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1939-1947 at the National Archives. He enlisted in the Army on August 1943 and was discharged January 14, 1947.
(8) 1911 U.K Census is on
(9) Electoral Rolls available on
(10) The Argus, February 21, 1920 see here.
(11) The Argus, March 14, 1928, see here.
(12) Articles about J. Kennon & Sons in the Australasian, August 25, 1923, see here and the Weekly Times of September 3, 1932, here
(13) Dandenong Journal, April 11, 1929, see here.
(14) The wedding was reported in the Dandenong Journal, April 11, 1929, see here. George's wedding date is from the Indexes to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages. Molly and Fred had two sons - Raymond and Robert. Raymond sadly died in July 1942, aged 12 years old. George and Iris had one daughter, Valma. 

Death notice for Raymond Whiteway, Frank and Isabella's grandson.

(15) Dandenong Journal October 29, 1931, see here.
(16) Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust
(17) As the Dandenong Journal of October 29, 1931 wrote about the Brockhursts  (see here.)

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