For the first seven years after the opening of the Newtown Hospital, nurses were accommodated at the rear of each ward. As staff numbers began to grow, this arrangement became inadequate and plans for a new building were announced in 1886. This two story block would have bedrooms for twenty nurses on the first floor, and on the ground floor would be Matron's quarters, a nurses' dining room, beds to accommodate sick children, an area for outpatients and a lecture room. The block, which opened in 1888, would come to be known as the Matron's Block.
However, these extra rooms for nurses did not provide for all who needed accommodation. One probationer, Mildred Rees who joined the staff in 1891, told a reporter in later years "on joining the hospital, she was quartered with three other probationers in a bedroom along-side the morgue since then, as now, accommodation was cramped. Often the nurse would be awakened by the midnight arrival of another occupant next door. As there was no hot water in this part of the building, each day began with a cold bath for these Spartans."
On 5 November 1902, the NZ Times reported:
The Nurses' Home was duly built and the NZ Times reported on 2 September, 1904:
The Nurses' Home was duly opened on 26 October, 1904 by Lord Plunket, the Governor. Pictured below is the new home, dominant in relation to other hospital buildings of that time.
a close-up view
This building would be a happy home to a succession of student and trained nurses for years to come. The happiness is reflected in the photographs below:
The spacious sitting room appears below:
This nurses' home soon filled up and by the early 1920s was unable to accommodate all nurses. In 1923 plans were drawn up for a large four-storied addition, separate from the existing home save for a connecting one-story vestibule. The new wing was to contain seventy rooms. A new feature would be the installation of an elevator servicing each floor.
The addition was completed and opened in November 1924. It's style was different from the existing home and rather severe in appearance. The contrast is apparent in the photograph below.
Needless to say, nursing staff numbers increased relentlessly, and by the late 1930s ninety nurses were having to live out of the hospital environs, typically in family homes.
In 1939, the Exhibition Hotel opened in Kilbirnie to provide accommodation for visitors to Wellington for the Centennial Exhibition. With the onset of WW2, the Exhibition closed after six months. A proposal was tabled at a meeting of the Wellington Hospital Board for the purchase of the now empty hotel for £25,000 for use as a nurses home. This was a controversial proposal and it took several more meetings of the Board before the idea was confirmed by a majority of Board members after backing from the Director General of Health. The acquisition provided 200 more bedrooms for nurses.
Below are photographs of off-duty nurses enjoying their new accommodation.
In the early 1940s, Preliminary School students were housed in the Kilbirnie Home, and travelled back and forth to the hospital by tram.
The Hospital Board was well aware of the ever increasing staff numbers required and planning began for a second large Nurses' Home on hospital grounds.
On 26 March 1949 the 'No 2' Home opened.
Here is a 1952 aerial photograph showing the new and the 'old' nurses' homes.
The addition of the No. 2 Home was adequate for need for less than ten years and on 6 November 1958, No. 3 Home opened, to the west of No. 2, and nearer Riddiford St.
1980 aerial photograph showing all four nurses' homes
Ironically, the insistence that all nurses, including trained nurses 'live-in' was relaxed soon after the opening of No. 3 Home. By the 1970s, there was a significant surplus of accommodation, and the buildings were used to house non-nursing staff, and, on a temporary basis, various hospital departments.
With the rebuilding of the hospital, the nurses' homes were, one-by-one demolished, the last to go being No. 2 Home - to make way for the new Children's Hospital.