Te Rangi Recollections


This document of Nelson's Te Rangi maternity hospital recollections was gathered at a meeting at Elma Turner Library in December 2014.

The mothers and children

Margaret Goodman
Margaret was one of four children born at Te Rangi, when it was a private hospital:

  • Margaret Goodman (nee Inwood) born 23/7/1940
  • Rosalie Parkins (nee Inwood) deceased born 15/12/1941
  • Athalie Burke (nee Inwood)   born 25/1/1944
  • Dorothy Lester (nee Inwood) deceased born 13/10/1951

Subsequently Margaret had her own four children born at Te Rangi. Shane was born 26/5/1961, Antoni was born 14/6/1962,  Helen was born  27/6/1963 and Julieanne was born 23/9/1964. Margaret was on bed rest before Shane was born, as she was not well. When Shane was born, he was a tiny baby and he was having difficulty breathing.  Sister Daniell whipped out a little suction tube, inserted it into Shanes’s mouth and nose, on which she sucked on to clear airways and spat the muck out.  Margaret was surprised, but is sure this saved the child’s life. 

Te Rangi list of requirementsMargaret provided a copy of the Te Rangi list of requirements to bring into hospital.
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Margaret provided a copy of the Te Rangi list of requirements to bring into hospital.  Margaret had also kept Helen’s cot card.  She said that, after having two boys, she was surprised when Sister Marjorie Daniells announced it was a girl. Margaret exclaimed “Oh Hell”....and Sister Daniells  thought she said “Helen” meaning that was to be the child’s name and duly wrote it on the card. The baby was called Helen thereafter!

When the babies were brought out from the nursery to the mothers to feed they did not use a trolley.  Margaret recalls Sister Rena Hall with a baby under each arm, coming along the corridor, singing or humming to the babies. Margaret’s father had a butcher’s business and delivered meat to Te Rangi in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Ruth Frost 
Ruth had her daughters at Te Rangi maternity hospital. In 1958 Jill (now Roach) was born and 1963 Linda (now Green) was born. Jill’s Doctor was Humphrey Belton. Ruth had a fortnight stay for both children which she found was a nice rest. Ruth rode into hospital on her bicycle, as they had no other transport. As a result her baby came very quickly while being prepped on a board over the bath.  Sister Hall delivered this baby. Jill remembers the hospital being very busy.

Shirley Gunn and daughter Mary
Shirley had Mary in 1955. She came into Te Rangi maternity hospital to have another baby in 1961. Her Doctor, Michael Oliver, hadn’t picked up she was having twins. She was due and hadn’t come in to labour, and was offered castor oil to ‘help labour come on’. Shirley declined to take this at that time and instead she walked to top of the Centre of New Zealand, then came home and had a warm bath and a little castor oil. Shirley went into labour and delivered a boy and she recalls feeling very uncomfortable and having more pains. The doctor chided her, saying that it didn’t hurt to deliver the placenta, when Shirley said it was painful. Shirley felt he was in a hurry, wanting to get back to the golf course. All of a sudden a second head appeared and there was great pandemonium inside the operating theatre to deal with the second unexpected baby!

In 1961 she recalls all the mothers and staff being taken outside to view the first Friendship aircraft fly overhead into Nelson.

Beryl Willis
Beryl had her baby at Te Rangi maternity hospital in 1955. She recalls mothers being required to bring in their own supplies. These included named nappies (often embroidered) and breast and tummy binders.  Beryl recalls vividly an afternoon nappy folding session and the name Ramsbottom Isherwood on the nappy she folded. Beryl said she never saw a doctor until she was eight months pregnant as she felt so well. 

Dorothy Rose Pallesen
Dorothy's daughter Felicity Yates was born at Te Rangi in 1964.  Her other three children had been born at Palmerston North Hospital, where her husband at the time was Chief Pharmacist.  In 1961 they came to Nelson and opened Annesbrook Pharmacy.  Dr Brian Neill was Dorothy's Doctor in Nelson and she laughs when she think back to it all.   He asked her how long her labour lasted with the other children. She told him 26 hours and he was just getting in his car to come to Te Rangi when the Hospital rang him.   By the time he was delayed by going back to answer the call  she was well under way, with a maternity nurse helping her and her husband holding the gas mask over her face as she had asked him to. Felicity was born just before Doctor Neill arrived.  He was very good and mopped her up after it all. 

She had roomed in with her babies up north, but Te Rangi was obviously not used to mothers whose milk came in as fast as hers did, so the baby was just brought to her to feed and taken away again.   The second day she walked down the corridor after expressing a full little bowl of milk and asked the Head nurse where to put it - "She took the milk bowl from me herself and I went into another room to talk to a friend who was also there.   When I got back to my room Felicity was there in her cot.  We were wonderfully looked after.   I was sad to see that old Maternity Hospital closed."

Jill Bletchynden
Jill was born at Te Rangi in 1928 (her sisters were also born there in 1926 and 1929) and was delivered by their family Doctor Jameson.  Jill and her sisters later trained and worked at Nelson Hospital (mid 1940's).

Mona Alborough
Mona’s son was born in 1948 at Te Rangi maternity hospital. Mona has memories of the hospital layout and thought you had to go through the kitchen to get to the wards. She recalls a lovely rose garden. Mothers were bound around the middle after giving birth

Lesley Kotoa
Lesley gave birth to two children at Te Rangi maternity hospital during the 1960's. She remembers not being able to deliver her other two children at Te Rangi because it was "closed for the holidays". The hospital had a "forbidding" entrance, down a path behind a high hedge. She walked to hospital to give birth. If you did not have your own transport it was the only option. There were no telephones to use to call for help.

Roya Delorenzo
Roya lived nearby in the Wood and, during one Christmas confinement, was able to go home for Christmas dinner at lunchtime and then return to Te Rangi.

Val Gunn
Val had three babies at Te Rangi: 1961, 1962, 1965. Generally there were fewer problems with infections or illnesses or post natal drama at Te Rangi, but Val Gunn got an infection from a placenta that did not come away correctly. She had a clot that caused a problem and much blood loss the next day. She was put in isolation for over one week which was very hard. Val was confined to a single room at the back (on the western side). It was a single room, in a glassed in area of the porch, with a small office next door that had a glass window. She has visits from a nurse and doctor but no one else was allowed in. She was not allowed to see her baby boy. Each night a nurse would hold Stephen up to the office window and she kissed him goodnight through the glass; the nurse would wave his little arm at her. She was expressing milk,  but he had been a big baby (11 pounds) and by the end of her stay at Te Rangi they were feeding him formula. Her meals were passed into her room very quickly. Val's husband had to stand in the garden at the back window to talk with her through the glass and they were not to open the window. It was a hard time. Val said she felt like a leper. She can recall hearing a phone conversation in the corridor with Sister Hall giving her doctor a real dressing down about it; the Sister was very angry. To this day she does not know exactly what was wrong; a nurse would give her injections every day, with a huge needle, and she had one each day in each buttock.

Val said that they were not forced to get up, but were encouraged after day two to get up and walk around. The bathroom was like a family home bathroom with a toilet and hand basin and bath; she can’t recall if a shower was over the bath. Val said that single mothers were not treated as kindly as married mothers. Single mums were put in a different area. They did not mix with the others. The rooms did not have much of a view. Val did not know about single mums being separated out until one day she passed one of the smaller rooms and the door was open and a nurse was in there. Later she was told that was the single mother’s area. Val is certain that the sunny glassed in porch where they sat a lot was on the north side and faced Halifax Street, but there was a thickly planted garden with large trees and so you could not see the houses or road of Halifax Street.

Margaret Major (nee Joyes)
Margaret had five children born at Te Rangi: Andrew James in 1950; Nicholas Joyes in 1952; Martin Irvine  in 1955; Stephen John in 1957; Sarah Jane in 1961. Margaret Major had had her first baby in 1950 at age 21 and her last aged 34. Women booked themselves in to Te Rangi  and,  when the hospital was still private, her husband paid the fees. In those days Margaret's family was like many others, and the public health system was not trusted; the thought of going to a public hospital filled her with dread. The thought of going to a homely place like Te Rangi was a comfort. Going to Te Rangi was like staying with familiar relatives.

In 1950, when Margaret first visited the hospital to book in, “Sister Carpenter asked me, if I knew anything about childbirth. Of course I knew very little, so she gave me a book on natural childbirth to read. When my baby was ready to be born a few months later, early one morning I went through the back door and through the kitchen where Sister Hall was drinking a cuppa and warming herself by the old Aga stove. I received a very kindly welcome and she delivered Andrew shortly afterwards.”

Margaret recalls with her first baby that all went well with the birth until, just as the baby was about to come out, she needed a cut (episiotomy) and the doctor (Dr Evans) gave her a general anaesthetic. She came to and Andrew was beside her in a crib. Babies were then put in the nursery and only brought out at feeding time. After birth, mothers were bound in a length of calico around their tummies and confined to bed (the term confinement comes from this) for one week and were not allowed to get out of bed or have a bath or shower. They had to use bed pans and nurses wiped their bottoms with cotton wool held with tweezers. After a week they could use the bathroom.

There was a sun porch overlooking Coillingwood Street, a glassed in veranda. It had built in seats and the mothers spent time sitting out there during their second week.

Sister Hall was extremely capable and was trusted more than many doctors. Nursing new mothers and babies was her life and she was wonderful. Babies were kept in the nursery and only brought out for feeding. They were not unwrapped until the day before they went home: "We were shown how to unwrap and bathe them and how to wrap them up again. The day we left we bathed baby in the morning and got ourselves ready to go home. We had experienced two weeks of being well cared for in a restful and homely place."

Gwen Aydon
Gwen, now 88, said her mother was Kitty Rutherford and a state registered nurse, who trained with Rena Hall. Gwen had two babies at Te Rangi: Sharyn, born 29/2/1952  with  Dr Johnstone/Miss Carpenter/Nurse Kent (later became O’Beirne) in attendance; and Meryl, born 28/10/1957 with Dr Belton / Mrs Leslie / Sister Leov in attendance. Gwen’s husband, Allan, wasn’t born in hospital in March 1916, but was delivered by his Grandmother, Maria Barlett at her home.  Maria was a midwife in Milton St (between Grove and Cambria Sts , but the house is no longer there).

Jill Jordan: (nee Carey)
Jill had three children at Te Rangi maternity hospital. Sandra was born 15/12/61; Judi was born 18/6/1963 and Susan was born 10/3/1966 and was one of the last babies born at Te Rangi.

Gabrielle Coote
Daughter Bridget Ann was born 16/9/1961 and delivered by Dr Ken Galloway. Bridget is now a nurse at Nelson Hospital. Gabrielle was in hospital at the same time as Margaret Major and they became friends later and for many years were involved in the Nelson Suter Art Society. “I remember being asked to walk from the theatre bed to my room – unthought of for my first two children born in Dunedin”

Josie Lauria
Josia contributed her memories in writing: ”Te Rangi Hospital provided a great service to Nelson, especially being so close to town.  It had 12 Beds plus about 13 theatre beds. I always remember the hospital to be very comfy and compact. My four children made their entrance to the world from 1957 to 1963 at Te Rangi maternity hospital. My GP was Dr Miles Hursthouse, and he was there for all my births.  Going to Te Rangi maternity hospital was very restful time for me, as I usually left a busy tomato season consisting of 8½ thousand plants, in production. My son was born 17th December 1963, and I remember Sister Hall bringing him up to me with a blue knitted hat on his head. On Christmas morning 1963, Dr Hursthouse (what a wonderful man), came to visit me on Christmas morning with Mrs Hursthouse, to wish me Happy Christmas.”

Te Rangi Karen WoodKaren Wood with her mother and , it is believed, the much loved Sister Janet Leslie. Geoffrey Wood was a professional photographer at the time so the Wood family were more fortunate than most to have an early birth photograph such as this. Image courtesty Karen Wood.
Click image to enlarge

Karen Wood
Karen, the daughter of Geoffrey & Ellen Wood, was born at Te Rangi 6 June 1946.  Her sister, Natalie Carol was also born at Te Rangi maternity hospital on Christmas Day 1947, on her mother’s birthday.  Karen has allowed use of a photograph of her mother and herself with, it is believed, the much loved Sister Janet Leslie. Geoffrey Wood was a professional photographer at the time so the Wood family were more fortunate than most to have an early birth photograph such as this.

Marilyn Steet  
Marilyn was born at Te Rangi  in 1941 and subsequently had her own two daughters there - Diane in 1962, and Debbie in 1964. She recalls it as a pleasant experience.

The staff

Jesse Snow (nee Greenwood)
Jesse was a midwife and Sister at Te Rangi maternity hospital 1954-56 (Jesse died 2 March 2015 so we are privileged to have these memories).

The Sister in charge was Janet Leslie when Jesse worked at Te Rangi maternity hospital.  There were six midwives including Fay Riley plus ten Nurses/ nurse aides on the staff at this time, of which 3-4 were on duty every shift. "To book in you’d visit Te Rangi maternity hospital with your note from the doctor with your dates.  There were about 18 beds available, and Te Rangi Hospital worked in with Nelson Hospital to take the overflow of patients. Te Rangi Hospital would take you if they could, if that was your preference.  There were three shared rooms with four beds in them plus four single rooms. The Blue room looked towards theatre; the Apricot, Yellow and Pink rooms overlooked the garden. It was hard work as EVERY room had a step as the hospital had not been purpose built.  It was a challenge moving beds, trolleys and cribs. This was an altered house not hospital construction. It was the luck of the draw what room you got, though if you were famous/ had good connections/or a doctor’s wife you might get priority.

The front gate facing Halifax Street was rarely used.  There was a lovely garden there.  You generally entered the hospital from Collingwood St. Inside the door was a small space with a table for bookings.  Then you entered the kitchen, which was large and had a dining room to the right of it. Leaving the kitchen you entered a corridor. If you were orientated to be looking to Halifax St, you had the Theatre on one side and prep room opposite. Heading up other way (on the same side as prep room) was a waiting room, one of the four bedded rooms, one of single rooms then a sluice room.  The sluice room overlooked  Morrie Abrahams Dance studio (on the corner of New/Collingwood Streets)."

Amy Canon
A staff nurse at Te Rangi in 1950’s (while Jesse Snow there), Amy remembers staying at the nurses home (which faced New St) and a peeping tom incident. She was disturbed by a man spying on her through an open window.  When the police interviewed her she had a distinct memory of the man’s watch when his hand was on the sill.  This information, when given to the police, led to the man’s arrest.

Amy recalls seeing dancers at the Morrie Abrahams Dance studio from the sluice room windows at Te Rangi maternity hospital, when dealing with bedpans and other sluice room tasks.  She could not recall the Bathroom/toilet facilities for patients. Women did not get out of bed for two days and used bedpans. She recalls the use of the sunlamp for cracked nipples and Ungvita ointment being applied. You could get burnt by the sunlamp if you were silly enough to stay under for too long.

Amy remembers they had a number of single mothers delivering their babies at Te Rangi maternity hospital. Apparently they often told families they were apple picking for the season and disappeared off to Nelson. They were put into separate rooms, segregated from the married mothers. Their babies were adopted.  A lady welfare office visited Te Rangi maternity hospital and did the placements. Amy subsequently worked in ward 5 at Nelson Hospital, then at St Helens Christchurch, and completed Plunket/karitane training in Dunedin. She worked at Te Rangi maternity hospital until her fiancée returned from Malaya at the end of 1950s

Pat Eggers ( nee Whiting) Nurse Aide 1944-1945. 
Pat was 18 when she started at Te Rangi maternity hospital.  In those days you couldn’t do your nurse training until you were 20. She was married by then so she didn’t continue, as you weren’t allowed to train when a married woman. Pat recalls Sister Hall as being  a wonderful mentor, and very kind. Sister Hall even made Pat’s wedding cake.

Pat recalls that you slept at the nurses’ home if you were on early duty.  Nurses and aides didn’t live there full time. The room they used had five beds in it. The matron’s bedroom was next door. You were not meant to go out at night, but if you wanted to go dancing you climbed out of a window to New Street. Entry to the Nurses’ home was from Collingwood Street , through the kitchen then out through the back of kitchen and boiler house.  Then you would-turn left into yard to go to the Nurses’ home. The wall of Sister Hall’s room was right on the edge of the footpath of New St and it was boarded up.

Zena Wells (information provided by Jenny Eade)
Jenny provided photos of her mother Zena Wells, who was a nurse aide at Te Rangi maternity hospital in 1930s. Jenny was born at Te Rangi maternity hospital in 1943 and she had her first baby there herself in 1964.  By that time mothers were permitted to have their husband present at delivery.  Sister Daniells delivered the baby and Doctor Ashley was her GP attending to her otherwise.

Te Rangi aerielAerial photo of Collingwood Street showing Te Rangi hospital and Midwife Leahy's home, 1920's. Nelson Provincial Museum.
Click image to enlarge

Dr Miles Hursthouse
Doctor Hursthouse had a share in the ownership of Te Rangi Trust, which owned both Te Rangi maternity hospital and Manuka St surgical hospital.  He  was responsible for bringing in modern anaesthesia equipment. He arrived as an anaesthetist in Nelson from Wellington in the early 1950s. Miles worked for a short time at Te Rangi, before moving to Manuka St and Nelson Hospital. He delivered 4-5 babies at Te Rangi, but elsewhere in Nelson he delivered many more (in total 1300).  He found equipment in Nelson very poor (no machinery) so he  brought equipment down from Wellington to Te Rangi and Nelson Hospital. There was only one theatre at Te Rangi - If medical help was needed patients were referred to the Nelson Hospital. Te Rangi closed in 1968 because it was too expensive to run, and Manuka St and Nelson Hospital replaced it, as they were better equipped.

Moana Toetoe, domestic help, 1958-1960
Moana lived on site, doing primarily cleaning and domestic help. She recalls cleaning the wooden floors with tea leaves; climbing out of her bedroom window to visit boyfriends and being locked out one night. Moana felt that  excellent care was provided at Te Rangi maternity hospital. It was very clean and good; provided nutritious food; mothers stayed 10-12 days and had physio, classes in baby care, feeding etc.. Moana told stories about cleaning the bedpans and cleaning under the beds (which were metal and on on rollers).  Janet Leslie (matron) ran a tight ship and was previously the Matron at Alexandra Hospital in Richmond.  Moana noted that matron's room was always the messiest!

Lyneve Bloxham (nee Burden)
Lyneve was a  nurse aide 1958-1960. Sadly Lyneve got tonsilitis and was not allowed to work with babies after that, so had to leave the hospital.  She loved the beautiful garden and recalls one big ward and two smaller ones, plus the delivery theatre.

Miss Rena Hall.
Sylvia Kelly wrote of her memories of her aunt Miss Rena Hall, Senior nurse at Te Rangi.

Sister Hall, as she was always referred to, even outside the hospital, never married or had any children. Sister Hall had her own accommodation at the hospital and on days off she had a room at her sister’s home, which was where Sylvia saw her regularly. When Sister Hall retired she purchased a small cottage, but passed away while living at Green Gables.

Sister Hall was an amazing cook, and was well regarded as she was very kind to the mothers. Babies’ welfare always came first. During Sister Hall’s time at Te Rangi maternity hospital, mothers stayed there for 12 days and were not allowed to get out of bed for a week. Mothers were bound around waist area after giving birth. Mothers had to make their own pads, and were not allowed to lift when they got home e.g hang washing on the line.

Sylvia recalls a story she had been told about her own birth when a nurse took her to the wrong mother. Sylvia’s cousin was born before midnight on the 26th and had fair hair, her mother had dark hair. Sylvia was born very early on 27th and had lots of dark hair, and her mother was fair. Both babies had the same surname. The nurse took the fair haired baby to the fair haired mother and the dark haired baby to the dark haired mother. My mother informed the nurse that wasn’t her baby. As 10yr olds at school, Sylvia and her cousin discussed that they may have been growing up in the wrong house, but decided even if they were, they didn’t want to swap!

Heather Brooker and Jessie Chamberlain
Heather provided notes from Jessie Chamberlain who worked at Te Rangi hospital in the 1930s as an aide, before doing her nurses training. The hospital was still a dual maternity and surgical hospital at the time. Jesse is now 100 yrs old and living in Christchurch.

Heather's own memories are of the 1950’s. Heather recalls the tragedy of a baby being badly treated in its bassinet in the nursery. It was killed by its father, and there was a big investigation.

Heather recalls the privet hedge at the front of Te Rangi maternity hospital, which was always clipped well. Bicycles were parked leaning on this hedge while the riders went to visit  Te Rangi. The garden was meticulously kept and roses grew over the archways.

 2014 (updated July 2020)

Sources used in this story

  • Interviews with staff and patients of Te Rangi maternity hospital, October 2014

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  • I was born in Nelson 14/6/1941 to Winifred Lillian Annette Coleman nee Warren. I am hoping to locate which hospital I was born in. Can you help me? or can you suggest where else I can search, thank you. Ed - Hospital records are held by the archivist at the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board

    Posted by Margaret June Eyles nee Coleman, 09/10/2018 9:19pm (6 years ago)

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