The Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital is situated in the Municipality of Concord on the Parramatta River bounded by Brays Bay and Yaralla Bay.(Eagle Consulting 1993:2). It is a large complex on a large park-like riverside estate, with extensive and prominent landscape plantings, making it a landmark along the river.
An extensive garden principally of trees and lawn, unaltered in layout and adequately maintained, but in need of more careful and sympathetic replanting respecting the strict symmetry of its design. A symmetrical design of sweeping brick edged paths, drives, lawns and specimen planting around a symmetrically planned institution and having considerable frontage to the Parramatta River.
A central entrance drive (with borders replanted c.1981), leads to a turning circle planted with an Araucaria pine from which drives lead off on either side to encircle the building.
On the river side a central path bordered with Thujas, and palms (jelly palm, Butia capitata); many now removed), slopes from the hospital to its 'water gate'. The water gate is flanked by a symmetrical pair of Cook's pines, (Araucaria columnaris). Further drives extend from the water gate along the shore and then curve up to the extremities of the hospital's wings, enclosing areas of lawn on either side of the central path planted symmetrically with pines, Araucarias, figs etc. Two enclosed grassed, colonnaded courtyards with fountains (replanted c.1981)(RNE).
Within the grounds are extensive gardens and subsiduary outbuildings including stables, a gatehouse, the Joanna Walker Memorial Convalescent Childrens' Cottage Hospital and a wharf, including a two storey brick entry building flanked by two towering Cook's pines, (Araucaria columnaris). These buildings are compatible with the style of the main complex. (Bedford 1980)
Plantings near the main complex feature mature Cook's pines (Araucaria columnaris) including a pair flanking a riverside wharf entry building, a collection of palms including Canary Island palms (Phoenix canariensis), P. Reclinata, coral trees (Erythrina indica) and others.
Planting list from a 1/7/2004 visit:
North of the main building:
Bunya pine, Araucaria bidwillii
Cooks pine, A. columnaris (2 in formal pair near water gate)
brush box, Lophostemon confertus
Bhutan cypresses, Cupressus torulosa
Mediterranean cypress, C.sempervirens
Cocos Island/queen palms, Syragus romanzoffianum
azaleas, Rhododendron indicum cv.s around bases of buildings
box elders, Acer negundo
Norfolk Island pines, Araucaria heterophylla
Canary Island date palms, Phoenix canariensis
jacarandas, J. mimosifolia
turpentines, Syncarpia glomulifera
camphor laurels, Cinnamomum camphora
Qld. Kauri, Agathis robusta (pair of, near river)
kaffir plum, Harpephyllum caffrum
NZ christmas tree/pohutukawa, Metrosideros excelsa
carob, Ceratonia siliqua
Aleppo pine, Pinus haleppensis
coral tree, Erythrina sp. (probably E.x sykesii) (near water gate)
port wine magnolia, Michelia figo (against west wing)
Chinese rose, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cv. (against west wing)
Camellia sasanqua cv.
To the west:
giant golden striped bamboo, Bambusa sp.
Funeral cypress, Cupressus funebris
Mexican pine, Pinus patula
firewheel tree, Stenocarpus sinuatus
giant lily pilly, Waterhousia floribunda
umbrella tree, Schefflera actinophylla
Himalayan cedars, Cedrus deodara
Qld. Black bean, Castanospermum australe
On drive to south (of main building):
red oak, Quercus coccinea
lily pilly, Acmena smithii
brush box, Lophostemon confertus
orchid /butterfly tree, Bauhinia variegata
African olive (hedge), Olea europaea var. africana
Cocks comb coral tree, Erythrina christa-gallii
apple blossom, Abelia grandiflora
Cape/Jameson daisy, Gerbera jamesonii cv.s
Sacred/heavenly bamboo, Nandina domestica
On the drive:
oleander, Nerium oleander cv.s
bottlebrush, Callistemon sp/cv.s
?Chir/Himalayan pine, Pinus roxburghii (NB: this specimen could be P.canariensis, Canary Island pine)
evergreen magnolia/bull bay, M.grandiflora (2 on either side of north wing)
Cocos Island/queen palms, Syragus romanzoffianum (several)
(avenue to water gate)
Jelly palms, Butia capitata
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana cv.
NSW christmas bush, Ceratopetalum gummiferum
Camellia japonica cvs.
Hill's figs, Ficus microcarpa var. Hillii
Himalayan cedars, Cedrus deodara
silky oaks, Grevillea robusta
tree ferns, Cyathea sp. (C.cooperi?)
Gordonia axillaris (2) I
frangipani, Plumeria rubra cv.s
(Stuart Read, pers.comm./visit, 1/7/2004)
MAIN COMPLEX - The main Thomas Walker Hospital complex is of Federation style based on a pavilion format. Each pavilion is planned to retain its functional integrity with the central block for administration and service wings on each side.
The two storeyed central block includes an intricately detailed three storeyed tower over the main entrance, an impressive vestibule and an entertainment hall for 300 people. Sandstone wood panelling is found internally and externally. (Bedford 1980) The hospital comprises eight main buildings:-
An extensive complex housed in a single symmetrical building of two storeys with an attic level. The main section overlooks the Parramatta River. There is a large central clock tower, flanked by smaller matching towers. Other sections, mostly two storeys are connected by a single storey Recreation Hall. Either side are residential quarters about cloisters, at rear are kitchens and two dining rooms.
Other items within the group of State Significance:
JOANNA WALKER CONVALESCENT HOSPITAL - A small single storey building of Queen Anne style designed to complement the main building. Features include decorative stonework a timber rear verandah and a central courtyard. The building is brick with a terracotta tile roof. (Schwager Brooks 1992)
ADMINISTRATION WING - Basement, ground, first and second floor and a clock tower.
RECREATION HALL - Partial Basement and main hall with gallery, raised stage and apse.
DORMITORY WING (Pavilion) - Ground and first floor.
SCHOOL WING (Pavilion) - Ground and first floor.
TWO DINING ROOMS - Each with one level only.
KITCHEN - A basement and ground floor
SERVICE BUILDING - A ground floor and partial second floor.
These eight buildings are interconnected by single level covered walkways.
All buildings are of a similar construction.
EXTERNAL WALLS - Masonry (clay brick with sandstone portals, piers, cornices and friezes.)
INTERNAL WALLS - Generally masonry with some later additions of timber partitions.
FLOORS - Generally of timber construction with some wet areas having lightweight concrete (coke breeze) supported by unprotected steel members. Floor coverings include carpet and linoleum in the majority of areas.
ROOFS - Timber framed with terracotta tiling to the majority of areas with some metal roofing to the first floor corridors of the Administration Wing.
CEILINGS - Set plaster under floor and ceiling joists.
INTERNAL DOORS - Generally framed and panelled timber with some having glass panels and others having glazed transoms. The original transom glazing in the cormitory has been replaced with wired glass.
(Eagle Consulting 1993: 3-4)
1893 - 94 - Joanna Walker Memorial Children's Hospital built.
1900 - Stables built.
1915 - Cottage built.
(Schwager Brooks 1992)
Just prior to 1939 the Commonwealth Government acquired the land on which the main complex is situated.
C.1981 Central entrance drive borders replanted; Two enclosed grassed, colonnaded courtyards with fountains replanted
1976+ the hospital houses the Central Sydney Area Health Service's adolescent psychiatric unit, Rivendell.
By 1986, when Knox & Tanner had conducted their study of the grounds, minor paths had disappeared, the carriage loop on the front slope was covered with grass and all of the productive functions of the landscape had ceased. Several specimen plantings had been added, particularly in the area of the Joanna Walker Memorial Children's Cottage and on the west side of the main building. (Otto Cserhalmi & Partners, 1997, 54).
1993: An extensive garden principally of trees and lawn, unaltered in layout and adequately maintained, but in need of more careful and sympathetic replanting respecting the strict symmetry of its design. On the river side a central path bordered with Thujas, and palms (jelly palm, Butia capitata); many now removed), slopes from the hospital to its 'water gate'.
2008-11: Carpark in south-eastern corner (servicing adjacent Concord Hospital complex):
The arborist recommended the removal of the stringybark tree, which has been undertaken by SSWAHS.
The arborist report also recommended the removal of asphalt from around all four sides of tree trunks in S2 car park. "Asphalt removed 0.3 metres two sides and 1.0 metre remaining two sides and soil cultivated to loosen compacted soil in April 2008. " This work has been completed. Pine buffers have been installed at this perimeter to prevent damage to the tree base by cars.
The trees within the car park have been slow to recover, however there is evidence of new growth in all but one of the trees within this area.
Concerns were also raised regarding possible damage to the Stables and Mortuary buildings on the Thomas Walker Estate from runoff from the car park. In order to mitigate runoff, drainage has been installed along the northern perimeter of the car park. The drains now lead to two pits located adjacent to the Stables building.
Since the sealing of the car park, Sydney Local Health Network has developed a restoration plan for several buildings on the Thomas Walker site. These include:
* Repair to the main entrance brick wall
* Repair to the Stables
* Repairs to the mortuary
* Repairs to the gate house and main gates
* Repairs to the sandstone faade of the main building
Repairs to the brick wall at the main entrance are complete, with repairs to the stable expected to complete within the next month. Workers will then move on to the mortuary and gate house repair works. The Sydney Local Health Network is currently applying for funding under the Centenary Stone Program with NSW Public Works. It is hoped that a shared cost
model will be accepted as part of the program next financial year.
Physical Condition - Fair
Garden: (1981) unaltered in layout and adequately maintained but in need of more careful and sympathetic replanting respecting the strict symmetry of its design. (RNE).
1/7/2004 water gate - timber balcony first floor - rotten. First floor plaster ceiling falling - rusting steel. Wall arch upstairs also has cracked plaster (Read, S., pers.comm./visit)
The original Thomas Walker estate at Concord was an area of 390 acres (total)(Concord Heritage Society).
The establishment of theThomas Walker Convalescent Hospital was initiated by a 100 000 pound bequest in the the will of Thomas Walker, who died in 1886. He was a philanthropist, at various times a member of the Legislative Council of NSW, President and Director of the Bank of NSW, a magistrate and a prominent man of commerce.
Walker resided at Yaralla Estate at Concord, later to become known as the Dame Eadith Walker Estate, home to the Dame Eadith Walker Convalescent Hospital (the next peninsula east of today's Rivendell). He requested in his will that a portion of the Estate, known as Rocky Point be set aside for the building of the Hospital. This would fulfil a desire he had been harbouring for some time during his life but had been unable to fulfil due to other pressures.
Today's Rivendell Adolescent Unit was formerly the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital. Section 19A of the Walker Trusts Act 1938 provided for the overall control, management and administration of the Rivendell Estate.
To fulfil Walker's wishes, the executors of the will Joanna Walker, Thomas Walker's sister, A.Consett Stephens and A.J.Mackenzie announced a competition in April 1888 for the design of a convalescent hospital on Rocky Point. Judges were Thomas Buckland, Thomas Rowe and a qualified physician. The winning design was John Kirkpatrick.
The reasons for Sulman becoming Architect are not clear. However, Kirkpatrick's scheme was criticised as being to expensive and in mid 1889 it was announced that although Kirkpatrick's design was to be built, the architectural commission had been given to Messr's Sulman and Power. This led to further criticism.
John Sulman had also been engaged as a consultant during the competition and had been acting as an advisor to one of the Trustees. A new plan was recommended combining features of several of the competition designs, but the Trustees were under no obligation to appoint the competition winner as architect. This may help to explain his appointment.
Tenders were called for the building of the hospital in August 1889. In December Alexander. M. Allen was accepted with a quote of 65 189 pounds. Work was then sub-contracted out. The final cost of the hospital was 150 000 pounds, the extra 50 000 pounds being contributed by Eadith Walker, Joanna Walker and Anne Sulman, Eadith's childhood companion.
Gas was supplied to the convalescent home in 1892 from the new Australian Gaslight's company at Mortlake. The opportunity was taken to lay mains to supply Yaralla and its grounds as well (Kass 1995: 8)
The hospital was opened on 21 September 1893 and was used for convelescence until World War II. No infectious or terminal cases were admitted to the hospital and all patients were referred by doctors from hospitals such as Royal Prince Alfred, St Vincents, Sydney, Concord and Burwood hospitals. The patients were not charged for their care, Walker's endowment providing for four week stays with a provision for a stay of two months if necessary (Walhaus et.al. 1986: 3-14)
In 1894 the Joanna Walker Memorial Children's Convalescent Hospital was opened in the hospital grounds. It was also designed by John Sulman. The hospital was adjacent to the main building and contained places for 12 children with an airy central courtyard (Schwager Brooks1992)
Mr J.Upton Sen was in charge of the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital's grounds for 16 years, a position he resigned to take up the business of carnation growing. Upton Sen was a member of the Horticultural Society of NSW for 34 years. He was a very successful exhibitor of roses and chrystanthemums when in charge of the gardens of the late J.C.Smith, Esq. and the late Mr J.M.Toohey, MLA of Strathfield. Upton Sen was born in England and received his training from experienced head gardeners near Birmingham and was last employed at Perry Hall, South Staffordshire. He arrived in Australia in 1887 (Parsons/RHS NSW, 2012, 26).
In 1897 were the last round of renovations.
In 1920 there was a major subdivision of the Walker estate between Concord Road and the gates of the Dame Eadith Walker Estate (Yaralla), forming much of today's Concord West suburb (Concord Heritage Society)
In February 1943 the military took possession of the hospital under regulation 54 of the National Security (General) Regulatons Act. The use of the hospital for convalesence was discontinued and was run by the Australian Red Cross as the 3rd Australian Women's Hospital until March/April 1946. The Perpetual Trustees regained control of the estate in 1946 and the hospital was again used for public convalescence. In the intervening years, increased affluence and general living standards, the establishment of a broad range of government-funded social welfare provisions and the development of antibiotics meant that many debilitating illnesses such as scarlet fever and tuberculosis were virtually eliminated or at least rendered innocuous. The demand for the facilities offered by the hospital declined from the 1950s. By the 1970s increasing costs combined with declining need rendered continued use of the hospital as a free convalescent hospital impracticable (Otto Cserhalmi & Partners, 1997, 44).
In 1976 the Trustees decided that the use of the site as a convalescent hospital was no longer a viable proposition and entrusted it to the NSW Health Commission on the condition that it be used as closely as possible to Thomas Walker's intentions.
Administration of the site was given to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital who used it for seven years as Rivendell Adolescent Unit, a rehabilitation centre for emotionally disturbed adolescents set up c.1977 (Walhaus et.al. 1986: 3-14). The Joanna Walker Memorial Children's Convalescent Hospital was taken over by the Concord Historical Society in 1972 (Otto Cserhalmi & Partners 1997, 43-4).
In the 1980s the hospital was administered by the Health Commission of NSW on the condition that it should keep as closely as possible to the convalescent ideal embodied in the will of Thomas Walker. Rivendell, now administered by the NSW Health's Sydney Local Area District Health Service, combines therapy, counselling and school classes for teenagers who board at the centre through the school week, returning to their families at weekends (Otto Cserhalmi & Partners, 1997, 43-4).
In September 2017 the inaugural RIvendell Flower Show was held, as fund raise for a gymnasium for Concord Hospital's Geriatric Unit Strong program. The Royal Horticultural Society of NSW and others partnered to present the show. Rivendell Patron, The Hon Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO officially opened the event (RHSNSW, 2018, 10).
*FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE WALKER'S AND THEIR ESTATE SEE THE DAME EADITH WALKER ESTATE/ CONVALESCENT HOSPITAL SHR entry/history.