Friday, October 8, 2010

St Martin's House, Ann St

Architect Lange Powell (BAFS Building, Masonic Temple) was born in Rockhampton in 1886, a descendant of early free settlers to the state. He died in 1938 at the building below, St Martin's War Memorial Hospital in Ann St Brisbane, situated next door to St John's Cathedral and part of the cathedral precinct. Powell himself had designed this building for the Anglican Church. The following photograph shows the rear, or Adelaide St side of the building.
(Photo: Courtesy DEWHA)

St Martin's Hospital was built as a memorial to those killed in WWI, and it opened in November 1922 and was run by the Anglican Sisters of the Sacred Advent. It was so named because the day that celebrates the armistice that ended WWI (11 November) is also St Martin's Day; St Martin of Tours being a soldier who became a saint. The hospital was not funded by the state - the necessary funds were raised by public subscriptions from both the Anglican and the wider communities. This private hospital served Brisbane faithfully for fifty years, and during its time it provided the highest standard of care to patients, extended free of charge to returned servicemen and women.

However, in 1967, the state and local governments started to talk about enhancing the cathedral precinct, apparently agreeing that several buildings including St Martin's would need to be demolished to improve the view of St John's Cathedral. The Anglican Synod approved the demolition of the hospital shortly afterwards.

And then the fun started.

Doctors, nurses, the Sisters of the Sacred Advent and the public all realised that the hospital, built by public subscription and providing valuable care for acute patients, would be lost to Brisbane. The Save St Martin's Hospital movement started, and endeavoured to have the decision to demolish the hospital overturned. The resultant clamour, including legal action, is too detailed to cover here, but it culminated in the closure of the hospital in 1971, with patients transferred to another hospital at Zillmere.

But the Anglican church's plans to demolish the building were stayed by the persistent public protest - the building remains today as administration offices for the church. My photograph below shows a current view of the Ann St frontage of St Martin's.

(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The front wall contains the following inscription (see photograph below):
"In humble thankfulness to Almighty God for the blessing of victory in the cause of justice and freedom 1914-1918. This hospital was dedicated by the churchmen of the diocese of Brisbane."
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

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Next: Frank Hurley


  1. It's incredible that so much amazing history exists in Brisbane!

    Do you know anything about Rockmount House in Annerley? It's a beautiful building, but I can't seem to find any information on it!


      found some recent news on Rockmount house Jasmine

  2. No, I'm sorry I don't.

    I'm not really aware of it.

  3. I liked the blogger who condemned a historical landmark building being destroyed, saying it was "a scandalous demonstration of what can happen when greedy developers enlist modernist architects to defeat supine planning authorities".

    I would add that the state and local governments who wanted to enhance the cathedral precinct by demolishing St Martin's buildings had zero sense of historical importance.

  4. claudes: thanks for the info on Rockmount.
    It doesn't appear on the Queensland or BCC heritage lists.
    It's a lovely residence and that article provides some history of the place.


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