The History of the Royal Hobart Hospital


Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales, ordered that the Colonial Hospital be built when he visited Van Diemen's Land in 1811. At the time, sick convicts were treated in tents, wooden huts or rented buildings along the Hobart Rivulet. The new building was two stories high and had four wards. It could accommodate 56 patients but at times took up to 70.

1820The Colonial Hospital, run by the Convict Department, opened in Liverpool Street, Hobart in 1820. It provided the headquarters of the medical establishment and hospital services to convicts.
1860Responsibility for the Hospital was transferred to the newly established colonial government. The Colonial Hospital became the Hobart General Hospital. It remained on the Liverpool Street site.

The Hospital began evolving from a pauper institution to a public hospital. This process involved employing qualified nurses and trainees. Florence Abbott became the first qualified Matron during this time.

The process of evolution also involved new buildings. In the late nineteenth century, the replacement of the old unsanitary convict buildings with new ones resulted in a cleaner more modern hospital.

1876Nurse training began.
1878A Board of Management took over, the Hospital was run by a committee chaired by the Colonial Secretary.
1901A children's ward opened. It had 25 cots for children under 10. This brought the Hospital's capacity to 175.

Under the 1918 Hospitals Act, which also set up the Hobart Public Hospitals District, the Hobart General officially became a public hospital that treated people from all sections of society

1919The newly formed Hobart Public Hospitals District took over from the Board. In 1901, a children's ward opened.
1925The Hospital's capacity was 250.
1938The Hobart General Hospital became the Royal Hobart Hospital with its own coat of arms. The Latin motto underneath the coat of arms meant 'to care with compassion'. Unlike boards in most rural districts the Hobart Board was also responsible for a number of specialist hospitals and centres and some of these came to be closely associated with the Royal. One, the Queen Alexandra Hospital, was effectively absorbed by the Royal.
1968The Royal Hobart Hospital was accredited as a teaching hospital.

A Pathological Laboratory was established at the Hospital, as part of the Department of Public Health as from the 1 July 1936. Dr C A Duncan being appointed to the position of Government Pathologist.


At the end of 1963 the laboratory at the RHH moved to new quarters in the Out - Patients   building giving more space and better working conditions. The old space was used to establish a new State Health Laboratory.


From the 1 August 1970 the Pathology Department of the Royal Hobart Hospital came under the control of a Committee known as the Pathology Services Committee. The previous Department of Pathology was divided into four departments, each with its own Director. These four departments shall be co-ordinated into a 'Pathology Services Department'.


The Queen Alexandra Hospital, which was effectively absorbed by the Royal, had begun as a private maternity hospital in Battery Point. In September 1980 it moved into a new building on the Royal Hobart site and may be said to have become a part of the Royal from that date (if not earlier).

1999The Queen Alex closed its doors early in 1999 and the building was refurbished for the co-location of a private hospital with the Royal.

The Royal Derwent Hospital closed in November 2000 with most patients being cared for in community settings but a ward was established within the Royal Hobart to treat acute psychiatric cases


The Royal Hobart hospital remains on the site of the original Colonial Hospital.