Lewisham Hospital, Convent and Grounds (Former), including interiors | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Lewisham Hospital, Convent and Grounds (Former), including interiors

Item details

Name of item: Lewisham Hospital, Convent and Grounds (Former), including interiors
Other name/s: Lewisham Hospital, convent and grounds
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Other - Religion
Primary address: 1 Thomas Street, Lewisham, NSW 2049
Local govt. area: Inner West
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
1 Thomas StreetLewishamInner West  Primary Address
2B and 2C West StreetLewishamInner West  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

The hospital is one of two in the municipality which began in the late 1800's and continued to grow and serve the community until the present day. Of the surviving gravestones (now in Rookwood) 90% have Irish connections, indicating the importance of St. Thomas' to the local Irish Catholic population.
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Construction years: 1860-1890
Physical description: This large group of convent and hospital buildings is laid out along West Street facing Petersham Park. The early buildings are of red brick, or red brick and stone, with tiled roofs. The group includes important areas of planting, and brick and stone fencing.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Fair - Good
Date condition updated:29 Jan 99
Modifications and dates: Enclosed verandahs, security fencing, window grilles etc.
Current use: Hostel, nursing home and medical care


Historical notes: This is part of the 19 acre site purchased by the Catholic Church in the 1840s. The first burial took place in 1863 and the cemetery was closed in 1884. In 1888 a convent was built on the adjoining land and the hospital was erected in the following year. Additions to the hospital now cover the site of the old cemetery.

In 1886 six acres were transferred from the Catholic Church to the Sisters of the little Company of Mary who proceeded to develop the lewisham site to provide high-quality nursing facilities. The six-acre site was essentially divided into two with the Petersham Cemetery on the southern half. In July 1891 the north-western boundary of the cemetery was planted with a commemorative row of English Oaks; only a single specimen remains.

Between 1923 and 1934 the cemetery land was resumed for the railway and hospital extensions. The human remains were relocated to Rookwood Cemetery and the 1960 annual report indicated that all the headstones had been relocated although remnant stones were left on the site.

In 1936 the Novitiate Building was erected to house 120 novitiates, on the cemetery site. This building provided the southern enclosure to the major courtyard space on the site known as The Garden. A 1945 plan of the site indicates that on the western end of the northern wall of the Novitiate there was a small enclosure. This was to provide a private garden for the Sisters. A timber pergola was installed on the southern and western perimeter of the garden.

In 1956-7 this rose garden area was extended to accommodate a swimming pool for the Sisters. Dr E G MacMahon had been advocating the necessity for a swimming pool for the Sisters for some time when Mr Harry Tancred, a patient in the hospital provided funds to erect a pool for the Sisters.

On the 5th November 1956, excavations for the swimming pool began. Associated works in the area included change rooms attached to the basement of the Novitiate, a dark red brick wall enclosing the pool with stairs and an access door to The Garden. The pergola appears to have been reduced in size to the south-western corner in front of a small grotto and the timber replaced with the current rendered steel.

In 1957 the pool was officially opened by the Community with Sr M Sophie being the first Sister to dive in. The pool continued to be used until 1986 when the last of the community was transferred to Kogarah.

Royal Navy Firefly Aircraft Crash 1946
On 1 February 1946 Sydney escaped one of its worst disasters when a Royal Navy Firefly Aircraft crashed into the boiler house of Lewisham Hospital killing three people. This tragedy came only months after the Mosquito airplane blew up over Petersham Public School killing the pilot and co pilot. In the Lewisham Hospital crash the pilot survived, parachuting out as the plane exploded and landing on the tracks at Petersham Railway Station. The navigator, Petty Officer E N Butterworth, 22 was killed. The other two victims were kitchen workers at Lewisham Hospital. They were Iris Thompson, 19 and John Smith, 18 Six other people were injured but survived their burns. The crash set fire to parts of the hospital. Great heroism was shown by the medical staff and nuns of the Little Company of Mary who evacuated their patients from the building. The hospital’s entire electrical system failed. Firemen from Stanmore, Marrickville and Newtown attended the emergency. They were later joined by members of the navy.

After this second disaster the State Premier, the Lord Mayor of Sydney and Marrickville and Petersham Councils (not yet amalgamated) campaigned to prevent military aircraft from flying over Sydney.

Marrickville Council placed a memorial plaque on the site of the disaster in 1997. This ceremony was attended by relatives of Iris Thompson and Jack Smith.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
SHR Criteria g)
Integrity/Intactness: The buildings and grounds are relatively intact and retain most of their integrity.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

General maintenance


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanMarrickville Local Environmental Plan 2001 18 May 01 86 
Local Environmental PlanMarrickville Local Environmental Plan 2011I6312 Dec 11   
Within a conservation area on an LEPMarrickville Local Environmental Plan 2001    
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Marrickville Heritage Study19861.7Fox and AssociatesNovember 1984 No
Marrickville Heritage Study Review19972030005Tropman & Tropman Architects1997-1999 Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1989DA 273/89 includes plans, some original, and heritage reports
WrittenBrian McDonald and Associates1991Plan of Management (2 vols) as part of DA199901284
WrittenChrys Meader Information on 1946 Firely Air Crash
WrittenConybeare Morrison and Partners1999Proposed Mary Mackillop Centre: Statement of Heritage Impact
WrittenJohn Graham & Associates2011Lewisham Hospital- West Street, Petersham
WrittenOCP Architects Pty Ltd2011Former Lewisham Hospital Site- Statement of Heritage Impact

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2030005
File number: 1.7

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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