The Nelson Cottage Hospital


Early Nelson had no shortage of medical men, but providing medical buildings was much more difficult. The first hospital was a lean-to added to the side of the immigration barracks.

Cottage Hospital, Founders Heritage ParkCottage Hospital, Founders Heritage Park
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In 1853 the first permanent hospital began on the corner of Rutherford and Examiner Streets  and provided nurses' accommodation and beds for about twelve patients.

At this time doctors were allowed to continue their own private medical practice as well as work at the Public hospital.

Dr Leighton’s house. The Nelson Provincial Museum,  Bett Collection 1/2 176Dr Leighton’s house. The Nelson Provincial Museum, Bett Collection 1/2 176
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Public hospital care was only considered to be for the poor, so private medical care was an important source of income for doctors. They would either visit patients at their homes or set up a part of their own home as a cottage hospital.

There were also larger private hospitals, like Manuka Street, for surgical and medical patients. Healthcare was a precarious business.

Mrs. Turnball describes how, as a trainee nurse, she was asked by Dr F.A. Bett how many wounds healed by first intention. She replied "none" and added "Sir, I have never heard of it and what is it?" Almost every wound became messily infected.

Hospital theatre, Manuka Street. The Nelson Provincial MuseumHospital theatre, Manuka Street. The Nelson Provincial Museum
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Duncan House was a cottage hospital before it was purchased by the Duncan Family. This building was donated to Founders Heritage Park by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions and had been the Redwood College music block on Manuka Street. The building arrived at Founders Park in 1983 and then became the cottage hospital. Other Redwood College1 buildings in the Park include the Granary and the Port Museum.

The text of this story was written for an Interpretation Panel at Founders Heritage Park, 2010. (updated 2022)

Sources used in this story

  1. Moore, C. (1982, November 6) At Redwood College, closing the doors after 104 years. Nelson Evening Mail.

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