Brisbane General Hospital Precinct | Environment, land and water | Queensland Government

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Brisbane General Hospital Precinct

  • 601903
  • 40 Bowen Bridge Road, Herston


Also known as
Royal Brisbane Hospital; Royal Women's Hospital; Royal Children's Hospital; Herston Hospitals Complex (current name); RBH; Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital; RBWH
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
28 March 2003
Health and care services: Hospital—other
9.4 Educating Queenslanders: Providing tertiary education
10.1 Providing health and welfare services: Providing health services
Atkinson & Conrad
Clark, JJ & McLay, CH
Queensland Department of Public Works
Construction periods
1875–1941, Brisbane General Hospital Precinct (1875 - 1941)
1875, Brisbane General Hospital Precinct - Fever Ward (1875 - 1875)
1895, Brisbane General Hospital Precinct - Lady Norman Wing (1895 - 1895)
1918, Brisbane General Hospital Precinct - Mental Ward (1918 - 1918)
1922, Brisbane General Hospital Precinct - Edith Cavell Block (1922 - 1922)
1941, Brisbane General Hospital Precinct - Superindendent's Residence (1941 - 1941)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century
Arts & Crafts
Old English


40 Bowen Bridge Road, Herston
Brisbane City Council
-27.44813708, 153.02662644


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The Brisbane General Hospital Precinct is important in demonstrating the development of hospital health care in Queensland since the 1860s and changes in government involvement in the financing and control of the state’s health services from the mid-19th century. The place is also important for its association with the development of nursing training and medical education and research in Queensland.

The former Fever Ward (1875) is the oldest building to remain on the site and, along with the adjacent Female Ward (1885), demonstrates the early development of the Hospital.

The Nurses’ Homes (Lady Lamington: 1897, 1914, 1931; Block 1, 1936; and Block 2, 1939) demonstrate the important role of the nursing profession in the provision of health care in Queensland, which for many years was exclusively female. Nurses’ quarters were an essential part of a hospital complex in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, providing on-site accommodation for nursing and training staff, and regulating nurses’ behaviour and lifestyle. The two tower blocks demonstrate the significant growth of the state's premier hospital during the 1930s and correspondingly the implementation of the state Labor government's new health policies.

Built in response to problems of overcrowding, the Lady Norman Wing (1895) is the only building surviving from the pre-1920 era of the Children's Hospital complex. Constructed to accommodate the increasing numbers of nurses required during a time of expansion, the Edith Cavell Block (1922) demonstrates the early 20th century development of the Children’s Hospital.

The former Mental Ward (1918) was the first attached to a general hospital in Queensland for patients being treated for mild psychiatric disorders and demonstrates changing attitudes in the treatment of patients with mental illnesses in Queensland. Extended in 1948, the building is also important for its later use as a hospital for the treatment of prisoners and acute alcoholics.

The former Superintendent's Residence (1941) demonstrates the practice (since 1866) of accommodating the medical superintendent on the Hospital site.

The Nurses’ Homes, Edith Cavell Block, Superintendent’s Residence, and associated garden setting, have developed to form a residential core, a central component of the functioning of the Hospital from the 1890s until recent times.

The mature plantings, gardens, pathways, walls and select designated roads are important in demonstrating early planning and subsequent development of the Hospital site, and contribute to the settings of the place’s buildings.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

The former Fever and Female wards are important as rare surviving examples of single-storey pavilion plan ward buildings, following a scheme employed universally from the 1860s to the 1940s in Queensland hospitals and aimed at healing patients by promoting natural ventilation and good sanitation.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

With its collection of residential and ward buildings, set in landscaped grounds, the Brisbane General Hospital Precinct is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a late 19th and early 20th century hospital complex.

The former Fever and Female wards, with their single open ward space and roof ventilation features, demonstrate the principal characteristics of single-storey 19th century pavilion wards.

The Lady Norman Wing is a fine example of a two-storey late Victorian-era hospital block designed to a pavilion plan. The building was designed by architects John James (JJ) Clark and Charles McLay, both of whom made important contributions to Queensland architecture.

The Nurses’ Homes and Edith Cavell Block are planned in a similar way: over a number of levels small accommodation rooms or cells are accessed off a central corridor and open to verandahs. This layout typifies institutional residential buildings erected during this time; as does the Lady Lamington, being planned around courtyards and gardens to create residential amenity and seclusion within the Hospital complex.

Lady Lamington is highly intact and the earliest surviving nurses’ quarters in Queensland. A fine building in an Arts and Crafts-influenced style, it is an excellent example of the work of RS (Robin) Dods, one of Queensland's pre-eminent architects. Influenced by the Spanish Mission style, established by architectural firm Conrad and Atkinson from the 1920s as the Brisbane General Hospital’s house style, Blocks 1 and 2 echo some of the motifs of Lady Lamington.

The Edith Cavell Block, designed by the Department of Public Works, is a good example of a public building in an Arts and Crafts-influenced style.

The former Mental Ward was the first in Queensland attached to a general hospital for the treatment of patients with acute psychiatric disorders and served as a model for other psychiatric wards within a general hospital.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The Brisbane General Hospital Precinct is notable for the collective quality of its groups of buildings and landscape elements, and is important for the range of building types and architectural stylistic influences employed there. Occupying a prominent hilltop off Bowen Bridge Road, a major arterial road for Brisbane, the Hospital is a major city landmark. The dramatic siting of some its buildings is made possible by the steeply sloping site.

Visible both from within the Hospital and from surrounding suburbs, the Nurses' Homes symbolise the significant contribution made by the nursing profession to the provision of health care in Queensland. The dramatic views uphill towards the Nurses’ Homes contrasts with the repose of the picturesque garden setting the Lady Lamington shares with the former Superintendent's Residence and Mental Ward below. Lady Lamington is a fine building; the quality and inventiveness of its design, construction and detailing, enhancing the site with its views, elevation, and sudden falls.

Sited on the western ridge of the steeply sloping site, the Edith Cavell Block commands a dramatic view to the north and its striking northern elevation is enhanced by the open space and mature plantings around it.

Discrete in scale and materials, the former Superintendent’s Residence belongs to a cohesive group of residential buildings within a garden setting in the centre of the Hospital site.

The Brisbane Tuff wall to Bowen Bridge Road is an imposing presence on this major city arterial road and is synonymous with the Hospital.

Criterion FThe place is important in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.

The Lady Lamington Nurses' Home evidences the early development of architectural interest in refining elements associated with domestic buildings and climate control. The building’s design uses devices such as awnings, verandahs, building orientation, cross ventilation achieved with partitions instead of walls, and large well-placed openings reworked for a different scale of building. These were to be abiding interests of Robin Dods in his reworking of the Queensland architectural idiom.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The Brisbane General Hospital Precinct has a special association with the Brisbane community in being its principal hospital complex since 1867.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

The Brisbane General Hospital Precinct is important for its association with major figures in the development of medicine and health services in Queensland, and for its strong association with the work of influential Queensland architects.

The 1918 component of the former Mental Health Ward is important for its association with Dr HB Ellerton who influenced its design and was instrumental in improving the treatment of the mentally ill in Queensland and establishing facilities for it in a hospital setting.

The former Superintendent’s Residence is important for its association with Dr Aubrey Pye, medical superintendent from 1933 to 1967 and the first to occupy it.

Lady Lamington is the first Queensland building designed by Robin Dods and marks the beginning of a long association between the Hospital and the firm he established with Francis Hall.

The pre-eminent interwar architectural firm Conrad and Atkinson were important hospital architects from the 1920s and architects to the Brisbane Hospital from then until the 1980s.


The Brisbane General Hospital was opened at the Herston site in January 1867, with the earliest buildings gathered around the corner of Bowen Bridge and Herston roads. This was followed by the Hospital for Sick Children (1883) erected on an adjoining site to the west, the Wattlebrae Infectious Disease Hospital (1902) to the north of O’Connell Terrace, and the Brisbane Women's Hospital (1938) on Bowen Bridge Road. At the beginning of the 21st century the hospital complex, known as The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH), is one of the largest in Australia and provides an extensive range of general and specialist services. It is a major teaching facility for medical, nursing and paramedical training, and a major medical research facility for Queensland.

An integral part of the RBWH, the Brisbane General Hospital Precinct comprises a collection of buildings and landscape features dating from the 1860s to the 1940s including the: former Fever Ward (1875); former Female Ward (1885); Lady Norman Wing (1895); Nurses’ Homes (Lady Lamington, 1897, 1914 and 1931; Block 1, north, 1936; and Block 2, south, 1939); former Mental Ward (1918); Edith Cavell Block (1922); former Superintendents Residence (1941); a Brisbane Tuff Wall (c1866) associated with the early entrance road from Herston Road; and a substantial Brisbane Tuff retaining wall dating from the late 1930s / early 1940s along Bowen Bridge Road.[1] Positioned on the highest point of the hospital site, the Nurses’ Homes and Edith Cavell Block are visible from across the northern suburbs of Brisbane and, along with the former Superintendent’s Residence, are set amongst landscaped grounds with pathways, stone and brick walls, gardens and mature trees; forming the residential core, a central component to the functioning of the hospital from the 1890s until recent times.

Initially, the Brisbane General Hospital was managed by a voluntary committee and funded by public subscriptions and government subsidies. In 1863, the Queensland Government established a hospital reserve of 15 acres on Bowen Bridge Road which the Hospital Committee reluctantly accepted, expressing concern that it was an inconvenient site for the residents of Brisbane. The site, known as ‘The Quarries’, was bounded by Bowen Bridge Road to the east, O'Connell Terrace to the north and the open space of Victoria Park to the west and south. The General Hospital opened in January 1867 in an impressive two-storeyed, masonry building with a central tower designed by the Government Architect, Charles Tiffin.

By the early 1900s the Hospital Committee faced a severe financial crisis. The growth in Brisbane’s population was not matched by increases in voluntary contributions and new facilities and upgraded existing facilities were necessary. Considerable construction work was undertaken between 1909 and 1920 including open air pavilions, a new operating theatre, outpatients building, mental ward and extensions to the Lady Lamington Nurses' Quarters.

The Queensland Government assumed control of the Hospital in 1917 after the committee experienced severe financial difficulties in operating the hospital’s facilities. The Hospitals Act of 1923 signalled the transition from hospitals operating as charitable institutions to being regarded as essential public community services funded and maintained by government. Developments in medicine, increasing population and changing social conditions and attitudes to health care resulted in increasing numbers of people seeking treatment at the Hospital. The Brisbane and South Coast Hospitals Board was established in 1924 and assumed responsibility for the General Hospital and Hospital for Sick Children.

The 19th century British convention of local authorities administering isolation or infectious diseases hospitals was adopted in Queensland with the Health Act of 1900. Responding to this legislation, the Metropolitan Joint Board for Infectious Diseases was formed in Brisbane and in 1902 the Wattlebrae Infectious Disease Hospital was established on property adjacent to the Hospital for Sick Children. Substantial buildings for the Wattlebrae Hospital were designed by the architectural firm Hall and Dods. Constructed in 1911, the complex included four open air pavilions with a small central brick building for ablutions and a two-storey timber administration block. Three open air pavilions and the administration block were demolished in 1999.


From 1866 to 1923 an intense building program was undertaken at the site in response to increasing demands for health care from a growing population. Buildings constructed during this time include the General Hospital Tower Block (1866), Nurses' Quarters (1866), Surgeon's Cottage (1866), Fever Ward (1875), Male and Female Fever Wards (1880), Hospital for Sick Children (1884), Children's Fever Ward (1884), Outpatients Building (1885), Operating Theatre (1887), two Female Wards (1885), Lady Norman Wing (1895), Lady Lamington Nurses' Home (1897 & 1914), O'Connell Block (1899), Courier Building (1908), Wattlebrae Infectious Diseases Hospital Open Air Pavilions (1911), Wattlebrae Administration Block (1911), Outpatients Department (1916), Mental Ward (1918), Mortuary Chapel (1918), Edith Cavell Block (1922) and a number of ancillary buildings and structures. The buildings described in the following paragraphs were constructed during this period and remain on the RBWH site:

Fever Ward (1875) and Female Ward (1885)

A single storey brick building for the treatment of fever cases was erected in 1875, to the north of the site overlooking O'Connell Terrace. Modelled on the pavilion plan, which was based on contemporary ideas about the importance to healing of a healthy environment created with natural ventilation and efficient sanitation, this building contained a single open ward surrounded by verandahs providing accommodation for 25 patients. The Fever Ward (Ward 6) was converted to a gynaecological ward in 1890 and along with two adjacent Female Wards (Wards 5 & 7) constructed in 1885, became the focus of female health care in the Hospital. The Female Wards, distinguished by prominent roof ventilators, were also based on the pavilion plan and constructed on a base of Brisbane Tuff quarried from the site. In the 1930s, the former Female Ward accommodated a clinic for the treatment of poliomyelitis under the direction of Sister Elizabeth Kenny.

In 2017 the former Fever Ward houses The Museum of Nursing History and the remaining adjacent Female Ward building has been adapted for use as offices. Despite demolition of part of the former Fever Ward and the enclosure of verandahs, the remaining fabric including the verandahs, doors, windows and clerestory, demonstrates its previous form as a pavilion ward. The verandahs of the Female Ward have been removed; however, the building is substantially intact, including a central ridge light. Also the integrity of the pavilion ward plan remains. A skillion roof has been constructed to the north covering a timber deck, structures which are not of cultural heritage significance.

Lady Norman Wing (1895)

The Hospital for Sick Children was established in 1883 in a two-storeyed timber building to the western end of the site. Responding to the constant problem of overcrowding in the Children's Hospital, a two-storeyed brick building was constructed in 1895 to the pavilion plan. It was named the Lady Norman Wing, in honour of the wife of then Queensland Governor Sir Henry Norman who opened the building and had an active interest in the hospital. The building was designed by John James (JJ) Clark and Charles McLay, who both made important contributions to Queensland architecture including with the Treasury Building, Brisbane [designed by Clark, QHR 600143] and the Brisbane Customs House [designed by McLay[2], QHR 600156].

The Lady Norman Wing contained four wards, two on each level positioned at right angles off a connecting corridor, as well as accommodation for nurses, a consulting room, lavatories and conveniences. The wards, each named after a woman who had made a significant contribution to the hospital (Cowlishaw, McConnel, Gray and Raff), were ventilated by opposite rows of windows and doors that opened onto verandahs, some of which were later utilised to accommodate patients during times of overcrowding. Subsequent additions included a milk kitchen, treatment rooms and lavatories in the 1950s, and the remodelling of wards in the 1960s and 1970s, including one for use as nursing tutorial and lecture rooms. The building was adapted for use as offices in the 1990s but retains its principal spaces and planning, and is substantially intact.

Nurses’ Homes (Lady Lamington; 1897 and 1914)

Pressure for improved nurses’ accommodation finally came to fruition when what was to be the first stage of the Lady Lamington Nurses’ Home was erected in 1896-7 on the crest of the hill overlooking the hospital. The L-shaped building selected by the Hospital Committee from a number of competition designs was submitted by architect RS (Robin) Dods. It included accommodation for some 50 nurses in cubicles partitioned to below ceiling height for better ventilation; a sitting room with fire place on each floor; servants' quarters at basement level; and a two-storeyed semi-detached toilet block (since demolished). Built of brick with a Marseilles tiled roof (believed to be one of the earliest uses of the material in Queensland), it was enclosed by verandahs; the semicircular steps to the courtyard garden became a popular posing place for nurses’ photographs. Although the competition brief called for a kitchen and dining room, these were not included.

In 1914, Hall & Dods called tenders for additions forming the building into a ‘U’ shape in plan; the contract being let to Brisbane builder George Day at a price of £11,889.

Lady Lamington Nurses’ Home (named for the wife of the then Queensland Governor) was the first of Dods' Queensland buildings and established the practice of Hall & Dods (1896-1916), which quickly became the leading architectural firm in Queensland undertaking numerous residential, commercial, ecclesiastical, and hospital works. The firm’s hospital work included the Mater Misericordia Hospital’s Private (1908-10) and Public (1909-11, extended 1913) components and its Nurses’ Quarters and Kitchen (1913). Dods has been acknowledged as ‘one of the most significant early 20th century Australian architects'[3] and one of few Arts and Crafts-influenced practitioners  in Queensland.

Arts and Crafts was an international design movement that flourished between 1860 and 1910, its influence continuing into the 1930s. The movement championed traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and  drew from an eclectic range of stylistic elements and details. Importantly, it valued local variations in traditions so that good design would have relevance within its context. For Dods this translated into designs that were climatically responsive, paying attention to aspect and ventilation,[4] with well-proportioned solid forms, wide porches or verandahs, and prominent steep roofs.

Lady Lamington was to form the first part of what became the residential precinct for the Hospital site which stretched from the top of the hill down towards Bowen Bridge Road. It included the Edith Cavell Memorial Block for Nurses (1922), Medical Officers Quarters (1934; 1939; demolished 1994), Medical Superintendent's Residence (1941; now offices), and two other residences (erected 1941, since demolished).

Edith Cavell Block (1922)

Between 1908 and 1923, major development of the Children's Hospital was undertaken in response to the increasing population and advances in medicine and surgery. The Hospital Committee purchased a portion of the Herston Estate and erected the Edith Cavell Nurses' Home to accommodate the increasing numbers of nurses required for the expanding Children's Hospital. Designed by the Department of Public Works in an Arts and Crafts-influenced style, the building was completed in 1922. The building was named in honour of Edith Cavell, a British nurse executed for helping refugees escape in Brussels during World War I. A swimming pool with associated landscape was constructed to the north of the building in 1958 and the area remains one of the few extensive open spaces on the site.

Mental Ward (1918, extended 1948)

In 1918 a single-storey, brick building was constructed to accommodate patients suffering from mild psychiatric illness. It heralded a new approach in the treatment of mental illness. Previously patients requiring psychiatric treatment could only be admitted to hospitals for the insane at Goodna, Ipswich and Toowoomba. This was the first ward in a general hospital in Queensland to provide treatment for the mentally ill. Initiative for constructing this ward came from Dr Henry Byam (HB) Ellerton, Inspector of Hospitals for the Insane, who was closely involved in the design with the Department of Public Works. Responsibility for individual projects within the Department of Public Works is seldom clear-cut but departmental files suggest that Thomas Pye had a major influence on the design of projects in the office during this time.

Residential in scale and influenced by the Arts and Crafts architectural movement, the U-shaped building accommodated male and female patients in separate wings divided into cells, a marked difference from the dormitory type buildings at contemporary mental hospitals. The garden was an important element of the setting of the building with grassed areas to the front planted with trees. Following increased demand to accommodate acute alcoholics and prisoners requiring medical treatment, locked cells were erected to the rear in 1948. The rear portion was known as Ward 14 while the front became known as Ward 16. In 1958 the former Wattlebrae Infectious Diseases Hospital (1930) was converted into a psychiatric unit and named Lowson House and Ward 16 became known as Ward 15. In 2017, the building houses offices for the Hospital’s Safety and Security Services Department. Externally, the building retains its original form except: the front parapets have been removed from the north and south wings and in-filled with fibrous cement sheeting, the front verandahs to the main wing have been enclosed with glass and metal louvres and the verandahs to the north and south wings have been enclosed with timber and glass. The building’s interior has been altered but the integrity of its form and plan remains.


The 1920s and 1930s was a period of great expansion for the Hospital, with a major building program announced in 1925 following the introduction of the Health Act of 1923 by Edward Granville Theodore's Labor government, which saw the state government accept financial and administrative responsibility for the provision of health services in Queensland.

Atkinson and Conrad (also known as Atkinson Powell and Conrad and later Conrad and Gargett) were appointed Hospital architects in the mid-1920s. They were the pre-eminent interwar architectural firm in Queensland, particularly known for their use of the Spanish Mission style. Examples of the firm’s work include: Tristram's Factory, West End (1930); Brisbane Boys College, Toowong (1930, QHR 600337); and Craigston (1926, QHR 600165). As a high rise apartment block (albeit non-institutional), Craigston may be seen as having influenced Blocks 1 and 2 at the Brisbane Hospital site. The firm's work there included General Blocks 3 & 4 (late 1930s), Medical Officers Quarters (1934; 1939), and the Brisbane Women's Hospital (1938, in association with the Department of Public Works). All these buildings have since been demolished.

Development at the Hospital site between 1926 and 1938 included the construction of Blocks 1 (1928), 2 (1930), 3 (1938) and 4 (1937); service buildings including the laundry (1926), kitchen (1935) and boiler house (1935); and additional staff accommodation including major extensions to the Lady Lamington Nurses' Home.

Nurses’ Homes (Lady Lamington, Block 1 and 2) (1931, 1936 and 1939)

With a dramatic increase in nursing staff in the 1930s, further accommodation was required. In 1931, Atkinson and Conrad in association with Lange Powell added a third wing to Lady Lamington creating the E-shaped plan of today.

In 1936, the first of the two tower blocks, Block 1 (north), was completed; the second, Block 2 (south), in 1939. Both were joined to the first and second floors of Lady Lamington. They were planned in a similar way to the earlier quarters with a central corridor flanked by small rooms opening onto verandahs. The architectural vocabulary employed was, however, very different, using the contemporary Spanish Mission style favoured by Conrad and at this time established as the hospital’s house style. Accommodation was also provided for nursing training. A small single-storeyed library was built between the Blocks 1 and 2 in the 1950s. The roof on the northern block was rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 1993, and the Marseilles tiles on the Lady Lamington roof were replaced in 2012.

Superintendent's Residence (Pye House, 1941)

Located to the east of the Lady Lamington Nurses' Home, the Residence for the Medical Superintendent designed by Conrad and Atkinson was completed in 1941. With its asymmetrical composition, and combination of face brickwork, imitation half-timbering and textured render, it reflected the nostalgia and quaintness expressed in the inter-war ‘Old English’ style.[5]  The lower level provided a kitchen and living rooms, and the upper floor provided bedrooms. Maids’ quarters were provided in a single-storey semi-detached portion to the rear. Dr Aubrey Pye was the first Superintendent to occupy this residence. In office from 1935 to 1967, Pye was the longest serving Superintendent of the Hospital, presiding over a period of extraordinary development and dramatic change. Pye exercised significant influence over the administration of the Hospital and oversaw major changes and expansion to all facets of its activities. The building was refurbished in 1966. Known in 2017 as Pye House, the building is now used as offices. Few changes have been made to the building.

1945 to 2017

By the end of the 1930s the site had become the largest hospital complex in Australia and has continued to expand, except for disruptions caused by World War II. During the 1950s new buildings included the Lady Ramsey Wing, a nurses’ home for the Women's Hospital. From the mid-1950s an increasing proportion of the capital works budget was devoted to facilities and equipment for support services. The first major building on the site to specifically accommodate specialist services, Block 8 commenced in 1956 and was built in three stages over 14 years, accommodating the pathology department and the Queensland Radium Institute. The hospital’s continuing role in medical education was reflected in the construction of the Edwin Tooth Lecture Theatre (1957) and the Clinical Sciences building (1966). During the 1970s, the major building project was the 14-storey Block 7 completed in 1977 with accommodation for casualty and outpatients, general wards and administration.

Redevelopment and expansion of the Hospital has continued from the 1970s with demolition of existing buildings, construction of new buildings, additions and renovations to existing stock and acquisition of additional property. More recent developments include new blocks for the former Children's Hospital and the Queensland Institute for Medical Research, and extensive redevelopment across the northern half of the site, including a station for the Northern Busway along Bowen Bridge Road. These modern developments on the Hospital site do not form part of this Queensland heritage register entry.

Historically, on-site accommodation for the (female) nursing staff was seen as an integral part of both hospital efficiency and the propagation and maintenance of the nursing code. Recent social and educational changes have meant that the requirement for on-site nursing accommodation has greatly diminished, meaning adaptation of the Nurses’ accommodation buildings is required.

In 2000, a statue of Edward Michael Hanlon was relocated to the northernmost part of the garden area in front of the former Mental Ward. Completed by Brisbane sculptress, Maria Kuhn, it had originally been unveiled in the forecourt to the Women’s Hospital in 1955. Its commissioning and placement acknowledged the instrumental role played by Hanlon in the development of the Hospital and in particular maternity facilities throughout Queensland.

The grounds and landscape

The grounds contain strong evidence of the layering and close conjunction of garden areas or elements from different periods of the hospital’s development. The steepness of the site has required terracing and stone retaining walls for major buildings and roads. The use of Brisbane Tuff, obtained from quarries on site, is a major landscape element. One of the most striking walls is the substantial Brisbane Tuff wall along Bowen Bridge Road constructed in the late 1930s / early 1940s as a result of a road widening.

Roads, pathways and walls throughout the site demonstrate the early planning and subsequent development of the site. The road to the rear of Block 7 is a remnant of the original planning of the Hospital. When it was established, the hospital’s main entrance was from Herston Road and this road was the principal thoroughfare on the site. The road has influenced the development of the site since its inception and was part of the master plan devised by Conrad, Atkinson and Powell in the 1930s. It remains a prominent roadway within the site. This road is separated from Block 7 by a generally 2m high Brisbane Tuff wall. Photographic evidence suggests this was part of the first building on site constructed in 1866 and has helped define the road since that time.

The roadway from Bramston Terrace running between the Lady Norman Wing and the Edith Cavell Block was formerly part of O'Connell Terrace and was the main entrance to the Children's Hospital. Also, the pathway connecting the Lady Lamington Nurses' Home to the main Hospital complex is an integral element of the site.

The Hospital grounds have two distinct garden styles: the 1930s hybrid character of picturesque garden beds and stone work, and the more recent style of mixed shrubbery of native and exotic plants. Distinctive features of the grounds include the planting of large flowering trees (in particular poinciana and jacaranda); palms; large shade trees (ficus and camphor laurel) and pines (hoop (Araucaria cunninghamii), bunya (Araucaria bidwillii), Bribie Island (Callitris columellaris) and kauri (Agathis robusta)).

The landscaped grounds surrounding the Lady Lamington Nurses' Home, Edith Cavell Block and former Superintendent's Residence have developed to form a green, residential core within the Hospital site.

In recent times, a memorial garden has been established in the landscaped area to the east of the Lady Lamington Nurses' Home (adjacent to the northwest of Pye House) to commemorate early pregnancy termination and loss. The garden provides a place for grieving family to place cremated remains in memoriam of their loss. A consecrated memorial wall has also been established in the garden upon which families are able to place plaques. The use of the area has important community value. Its placement within the landscape setting that has developed around the Nurses’ Homes and Pye House reflects how this differs in character from other parts of the RBWH site.


The Brisbane General Hospital Precinct comprises a collection of buildings and landscape features dating from the 1860s to the 1940s within The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH); itself a substantial complex bounded by Bowen Bridge Road (east), Herston Road (south), Bramston Terrace (west) and Butterfield Street (north), and situated in the inner northern Brisbane suburb of Herston. Significant buildings include the: former Fever Ward (1875); former Female Ward (1885); Lady Norman Wing (1895); Nurses’ Homes (Lady Lamington, 1897, 1914 and 1931; Block 1, north, 1936; and Block 2, south, 1939); former Mental Ward (1918); Edith Cavell Block (1922); former Superintendents’ Residence (1941); a Brisbane Tuff Wall (c1866) associated with the early entrance road from Herston Road; and a substantial Brisbane Tuff retaining wall (late 1930s / early 1940s) along Bowen Bridge Road.

The prominent Nurses’ Homes and Edith Cavell Block are situated on the highest point of the Hospital site and visible from vantage points across the northern suburbs of Brisbane. These buildings, along with the former Superintendent’s Residence and former Mental Ward, are set amongst landscaped grounds with pathways, stone and brick walls, gardens and mature trees.

Former Pavilion Wards: Fever Ward and Female Ward

The former Fever Ward is a single-storey, brick building located to the east of the former Mental Ward, about halfway between it and Bowen Bridge Road. Aligned approximately north-south, the building contains a single open ward with timber verandahs to the north, east and west (now enclosed). The southern end of the building is clad with timber weatherboards. A timber pedimented former entrance is centred on the northern verandah, which retains stop-chamfered timber posts with moulded capitals. The hipped roof is clad in corrugated metal and has boarded eaves and a clerestory, which along with the early verandah doors and windows demonstrate the building’s previous form as a pavilion ward. The interior has been altered but the original queen post trusses and timber ceiling remain intact above a suspended plasterboard ceiling. A covered link connects the northeast verandah with the adjoining Female Ward to the north.

The former Female Ward is a single-storey, brick building overlooking a portion of former O’Connell Terrace within the Hospital complex. The building, on a Brisbane Tuff base constructed from stone quarried at the Hospital site, is distinguished by two prominent roof ventilators and a central flue. Rows of early double-hung sash windows, with fanlights set above the level of the now demolished verandahs, are retained along the east and west walls. The north and south elevations are symmetrically arranged, with double-hung sashes flanking centred French doors. Original verandahs have been removed and the north-facing deck is modern and not of cultural heritage significance.      

Lady Norman Wing

An L-shaped, two-storey brick building designed to the pavilion plan, each floor consists of a large ward and a smaller ward opening onto wide verandahs. Set at right angles, the wards are connected by a two-storey brick core that contains a large central staircase and various rooms along a central corridor; a faceted bay projects from the northeast corner. The intersecting hipped roof is clad in corrugated metal and features six corbelled brick chimneys; a lantern is centred over the core. Two brick towers with distinctive pyramidal roofs attach to the western side of the building accommodating ablutions facilities.

The verandahs have stop-chamfered timber posts with moulded capitals and decorative cast iron balustrades (first floor) with timber top-rails. Early timber joinery is retained throughout, including: narrow double-hung sash windows (core); top-hung awning windows (towers); and alternating casement windows and French doors, with fanlights, in the wards. Some verandahs on the northern side are enclosed and doors modern replacements.

The building retains the principal spaces and planning, some of the wards have been partitioned for offices but the ward spaces are discernible. Many original internal features remain including: the decorative staircase with stop-chamfered timber posts that have moulded capitals and brackets; a timber-framed skylight; and numerous fireplaces, some retaining decorative mantles and others enclosed. Many internal finishes are intact. The ripple iron ceiling to part of the upper floor remains, with a fretwork ceiling vent retained in one room. In the entrance foyer is a bronze plaque in memory of Mary McConnel, the founder of the Hospital for Sick Children.

Nurses’ Home (Lady Lamington, Blocks 1 and 2)

The Nurses' Homes consist of three linked buildings which form an integrated complex organised around a series of courtyards. The Lady Lamington Nurses’ Home is a brick building, E-shaped in plan, with timber verandahs and Marseille tiled roofs. It is situated on the crest of the hill on a steeply sloping site, and has walled courtyards facing east which contain established gardens. Attached to the western side of the Lady Lamington are two eight-storey towers (Blocks 1, north; and 2, south) of masonry construction. These towers are positioned opposite the southernmost and central wings of the Lady Lamington. All three buildings have sweeping views of Brisbane; to the north and east from the verandahs of the Lady Lamington and in all directions from Blocks 1 and 2.

Lady Lamington

Built in three stages (1897, southern wing; 1914, central wing; 1931, northern wing) the Lady Lamington Nurses Home is two storeys with a basement in the older southernmost part. At the north eastern corner, the building perching dramatically on a steep slope is, due to the sudden fall in the land, five storeys tall. The courtyard gardens, are accessed from the verandahs via sweeping concrete stairs that are ornamented with concrete spheres mounted on low pillars.

The verandahs have simple timber balustrades constructed of square dowels and arched timber valances between the verandah posts at the second top level; the ground floor level at the southernmost end. Below this level the verandah posts are mostly brick forming a screen wall with arched openings. The verandah floors, timber in the first stage, are concrete in stage two and three. The continuous verandahs are connected vertically by a series of external fire escape stairs and ladders.

The building has a gambrel roof, which also covers the verandahs, and a number of brick chimneys. The chimney nearest the north eastern corner is brick with cement render bands. The English bond brickwork in the first section has been coated with a red pigment, and a cement-lime mixture has been painted on to resemble stretcher bond; and the basement brickwork is dark brown, contrasting with the red brick used elsewhere.

All the wings are connected by long central corridors which have rows of identical cell-like rooms on either side; some larger rooms, with fireplaces, are located at the northern end of stage one. Each room opens onto the verandah via large double hung windows with sills at floor level (stage one and two) or French doors (stage three), with fanlights; the spaces between the interior partitions and the ceilings have been in-filled, mostly with glass louvres and flat sheeting. Large sitting rooms, with fireplaces, are positioned at the eastern end of the north and south wings, and the ground floor of the southern wing contains a main entrance, lobby area and large open space. Internal staircases and bathrooms are positioned adjacent to the western end of the central and northern wings.

Early interior joinery, finishes, linings and fixtures are retained throughout, including: panelled doors, with fanlights; moulded archways, architraves, skirtings and picture rails; decorative fireplace hearths and surrounds; plastered walls, V-jointed (vj) tongue and groove (T&G), pressed metal and galvanised ripple iron ceilings (some concealed by later flat sheeting); door and window hardware; internal staircase balustrades; and functional features such wall-mounted bin frames and laundry chutes.

The building’s climate-responsive features include: its ridge-top location; nine feet (2.7m) wide verandahs to all sides; verandah windows and doors; and vj T&G interior partitions designed to assist cross ventilation by originally stopping four feet (1.2m) short of the 13 feet high (4m) ceilings.

Blocks 1 and 2

The eight-storey Blocks 1 and 2, similar in appearance and organisation, form two sides of a bitumen surfaced yard which is open at the western end. The lower two storeys, one of which is partly below ground level, have external walls of face brickwork while the upper six storeys are finished with white-painted cement render. Arcaded verandahs run along the northern and southern elevations. Both buildings have a number of decorative features that connect them to the Spanish Mission style such as textured render, arched openings, ornate columns at the uppermost level and decorative brackets and awnings at the ground level. Windows are metal-framed with smallish panes. Both buildings have flat roofs with sloped tiled parapets. The lift motor rooms which protrude above the parapet level have Marseille tiled external walls and castellated parapets.

A lift and staircase is located at the eastern ends of the blocks, with a concrete staircase with metal balustrade at the western ends. The lift shaft in Block 1 is partly enclosed by a decorative screen. The eastern and western ends of the buildings are connected on almost every level by a central corridor off which open a row of identical, cell-like rooms on both sides. Each room opens onto the verandah via timber French doors. On the lowest floor of the southern building (Block 2) is a large recreation room containing a stage.

Early interior joinery, linings and fixtures include: plastered walls and columns with recessed dado and picture rails (ground floor); moulded architraves, skirting and cornices; and decorative glass light fittings.

Former Mental Ward

Located within the garden setting adjacent to the residential core of the Hospital, the former Mental Ward is a single-storey, U-shaped building to the northeast of the Lady Lamington Nurses' Home. Residential in scale, the detailing and massing of the ward building show influences of the Arts and Crafts movement. Symmetrical about a rectangular central wing which terminates in wings to the north and south, the building is distinguished by its steeply pitched roofs covered with terracotta tiles and three large roof ventilators. Approached from the east up a flight of concrete steps from the garden below, the central arched entrance of the main wing sits beneath a bell-shaped parapet, which has a decorative concrete capping and a bulls-eye vent. The verandahs flanking the main entrance have been enclosed with glazing. The parapets to the north and south wings have been removed and are now sheeted with fibrous cement. Verandahs to the north and south wings have been enclosed.

Edith Cavell Block

Dramatically posed on the western ridge at the summit of the steeply sloping Hospital site, the Edith Cavell Block affords sweeping views across to the north of Brisbane. The building is H-shaped in plan, three-storeys with a basement, and clad in face brick. The south elevation is symmetrical about a projecting central bay with a polychrome arched loggia entrance at ground level. This bay is divided by brick piers between which there are concrete spandrel in-fills and sash windows. The central wing terminates in pavilions to the east and west. The external walls are faced at ground and first floor level with glazed brown bricks and above with a rough-cast finish. The south elevation has a regular rhythm of flat arched window openings with prominent rendered keystones and rendered sills. The striking north elevation consists of a polychrome arched loggia to the ground level opening from the building to the garden and swimming pool area. Verandahs to the first and second floors are divided into bays by brick piers and in-filled with painted timber slatted balustrading. These verandahs overlook the garden and swimming pool with change shed.

Former Superintendent's Residence

Situated to the east of the Lady Lamington Nurses' Home and southwest of the former Mental Ward, the building forms part of a well-defined group of residential buildings in the centre of the Hospital complex. Residential in scale and materials, the building was skilfully designed and detailed with reference to the inter-war ‘Old English’ style by architects Conrad and Atkinson. A two-storey building, the lower floor is constructed in cavity brickwork and the upper floor is stucco over a timber stud frame. The house has a tiled roof and a distinctive asymmetrical front elevation to the east. There is a distinctive decorative bargeboard above a large bay window to the north of the arched entrance.

Grounds, Landscape and Views

The Brisbane General Hospital Precinct grounds are well established, retaining a range of landscape elements and plantings from various phases of the hospital’s development. The site slopes upwards to the east from Bowen Bridge Road and to the west from Bramston Terrace, and is terraced with stone and brick retaining walls, for buildings, roads and garden areas.

A large Brisbane Tuff wall runs along Bowen Bridge Road and defines the eastern boundary of the Hospital site. Brisbane Tuff features extensively in landscape across the site, including a two metre high Brisbane Tuff wall to the rear of Block 7 that is associated with the early Hospital entrance road from Herston Road. Any modern surfaces within the boundaries for each Tuff wall are not of cultural heritage significance. Former quarry extraction sites are evident on the northern (former O’Connell Terrace) and southern edges of the precinct, forming steep rock-faced cliffs.

The precinct is accessed from the north by part of former O’Connell Terrace that runs through the Hospital, and from the east by the roadway from Bramston Terrace running between the Lady Norman Wing and the Edith Cavell Block that was the main entrance to the Children's Hospital and offers a view to the Nurses’ Homes above. An additional roadway from Bramston Terrace to the north of the Edith Cavell Block is framed by poincianas (Delonix spp.) and Brisbane Tuff retaining walls.

The associated grounds of the Edith Cavell Block, former Superintendent's Residence, and the Nurses' Homes form a residential core—in scale and character—within the Hospital site, which along with the gardens surrounding the former Mental Ward is the most extensive area of landscape on the site.

Courtyard gardens on the eastern side of the Lady Lamington include lawns, stone and brick-edged garden beds, concrete pathways, mature palms and hedges, and are enclosed by brick (south) and stone (north) walls ornamented with concrete spheres mounted on pillars adjacent to the entrance gateways. The brick wall to the southernmost courtyard sits on a battered stone retaining wall. An early concrete pathway and steps connects the Lady Lamington to the main Hospital complex, revealing views of the elevated Nurses’ Homes through the surrounding trees. A level area to the south of the Lady Lamington containing two poincianas is terraced by a brick wall and overlooks a steep, vegetated drop formed by the upper face of a former quarry and a rock wall excavated when the former Children’s Hospital was constructed. The modern pathways, services trench and shade structure in this area are not of cultural heritage significance.

On the northern side of the Lady Lamington, a mature Bribie Island pine (western end, Callitris columellaris) and row of mature camphor laurels (Cinnamomum camphora) and the remnants of brick fence piers overlook the former quarry cutting along O’Connell Terrace. A line of short brick pier remnants runs adjacent to the northern elevation of the Lady Lamington, beyond which is a concrete path. Any modern fabric associated with O’Connell Terrace that is at the base of the quarry face and within the heritage boundary is not of cultural heritage significance.

Other mature trees include a camphor laurel and leopard tree (Libidibia ferrea) on the eastern side of the Lady Lamington, and a hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), poinciana and frangipani (Plumeria spp.) to the northwest. The elevated Nurses’ Homes are a prominent feature of the Hospital, offering panoramic views of the site and surrounds from their numerous verandahs, and highly visible (particularly Blocks 1 and 2) from vantage points and major roads across the surrounding suburbs.

Grounds surrounding the former Superintendents Residence and Mental Ward comprise a series of contoured terraces with roads, pathways, walls, gardens and lawn areas, and mature plantings. To the northwest of the residence stands the memorial gardens commemorating early pregnancy termination and loss. The fabric of this garden is not of cultural heritage significance. Garden beds to the front (east) of the former Residence have stone retaining walls and lawns to the north and south are surrounded by jacarandas (Jacaranda mimosifolia), palms, poinciana and stone-edged garden beds containing various shrubs. A lawn area between the former Residence and Mental Ward is framed by stone-edged garden beds and contains a mature hoop pine and leopard tree.

The northeast corner of the Mental Ward terrace features a mature poinciana surrounded by garden beds, in the shade of which stands the memorial statue of Edward (Ned) Michael Hanlon (shifted to this location in 2000). The cast bronze sculpture stands on a cantilevered bronze plinth the front face of which is cast with the words ‘Rich in Good Works’. The plinth rests on a Brisbane Tuff retaining wall on which the original bronze plaque and a newer one explaining the shift are fixed. Concrete stairs and pathways flanked by garden beds give access to the front of the building. Areas of lawn and stone-edged garden beds extend to the southeast, with concrete pathways, stone curved steps, a stone spoon drain, a palm and a mature hoop pine. In the treed area on its western side is a cut along which stand a number of brick piers similar to those on the northern side of Lady Lamington.

The grounds associated with the Edith Cavell Block are one of the few open spaces remaining on the site and provide the building with a pleasant garden setting and opportunities for sweeping views to and from the north and west. The garden area contains a fenced swimming pool area with change shed, garden seats, mature plantings and a stone edged garden beds.

The area to the east of the Fever and Female wards is landscaped with lawn and recent plantings, with a terrace formed at the northern end by a modern brick wall. All modern landscape, road and pathway features within the ward buildings boundary are not of cultural heritage significance.

Other Structures

Other buildings, structures, sheds, footpath and roads within the cultural heritage boundary, as well as modern partitions, joinery and suspended ceilings within the significant buildings, are not of cultural heritage significance.


[1] Dates for the remaining significant buildings are based on completion/opening date.
[2] It has been suggested that JJ Clark was involved in the design of Customs House: Bruce Ward, ‘Classic detail and its influence on façade design of nine Brisbane buildings 1865 and 1930’, Master of Architecture Thesis, UQ, 1994.

[3] Robert Riddel, RS (Robin) Dods 1868-1920: the life and work of a significant Australian architect, UQ PhD thesis, 2008, pviii.
[4] Robert Riddel, Robin Dods Selected Works, Uro Media, 2012, p29 & 37.
[5] Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds, A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture, Angus and Robertson, 1994, pp.202-205.

Image gallery


Location of Brisbane General Hospital Precinct within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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