Wattlebrae Infectious Diseases Hospital

Lamington nurses quarters is at the back left of the photograph, with Wattlebrae or Lowson House on the right. The centre building housed Wards 16 and 14.

The original Wattlebrae Hospital was a house within the confines of the Brisbane General Hospital, where those suffering from an infectious disease were treated and cared for. In 1910, an article appeared in the Brisbane Courier  announcing that plans had been prepared by the architects Hall & Dodds for the removal of the old Wattlebrae premises and the redevelopment of that site with a new hospital for infectious diseases. Although Hall & Dodds, prepared the preliminary plans they did not win the contract, as the tender was finally given to Messrs Walls & Juster at a cost of £4743/19/6.

The proposal was to build a new administration block with four wards that were fully equipped with the necessary conveniences.  The administrative block was to contain accommodation for eight nurses and four servants, and its own kitchen where food could be prepared.   The wards were built using the open air principle which consisted of a series of open pavilions to enable fresh air circulation. This form of treatment was used for a variety of diseases, especially tuberculosis. Each ward was to be capable of holding eight patients. Unfortunately it was not long before Brisbane had its share of epidemics creating overcrowding in this small hospital.

Former Wattlebrae Hospital

Again it was necessary to redevelop on this site; this was one of many renovations or rebuilds this hospital was to undergo as again it was transformed with major alterations being completed in 1929.  The new buildings at Wattlebrae Hospital, now comprised of several wards and administrative blocks. The building was five stories at the front and four at the rear, and provided accommodation for one hundred patients, an improvement on the previous eight. It was equipped with all modern appliances and fittings that were necessary for an infectious diseases hospital. For the time it was state of the art as it included an electric lift, glass-lined metal chutes for soiled and infected linen from each floor to the bins for despatch to the laundry.

Today Wattlebrae can be found on level 6 of the Joyce Tweddell Building of the Royal Brisbane Hospital. The links below will take you to references and further reading on the history of Wattlebrae.

More information

A history of health & medicine in Queensland 1824-1960

Royal Brisbane Hospital : Herston complex : photographic record HCF 725.5 roy

Former Wattlebrae Hospital buildings : Herston Hospitals complex : a report for the Capital Works and Asset Management Branch, Queensland Health Q 725.51 BLA

Janette Garrad – Original Content Technician, State Library of Queensland

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Hall and Dods (one "d") were the architects for the building and Walls and Juster were the contractors. It is not correct to say that Hall and Dods did not win the contract as that was for the building works only and not for the design and plans for the building. It is quite clear in the newspaper articles. Hall and Dods were a prominent Brisbane architectural practice.

My elderly mother who has later stage Alzheimers, was locked in this place as a child and the horrific memories that are coming out from her about it are heartbreaking. She fears going to sleep as the children used to get beaten with what she calls "whackers" or canes and when she used to try and stop them hitting the littler children she used to get more whacks across her back. We sit here crying listening to her relive this over and over again. So it definitely wasn't a nice place to be put into.

I was a patient at this hospital in the early 1950s as I had suspected polio. Is it possible to get access to the medical record that covered me at the time?

Hi Mike.
Thank you for your question. It appears that Queensland State Archives might hold these records or at the very least be able to advise you on how to access them. Here is a list of records related to the hospital on Queensland State Archives' database - https://bit.ly/3ATfVpQ