“Willow Grove”, 34 Phillip St, Parramatta (2013)
Locals may be aware that ‘Willow Grove’ was once a private hospital known as ‘Estella’ or ‘Nurse Davidson’s Private Hospital’ but we thought others may be interested in the background of this heritage listed building nestled in the heart of Parramatta City.
Originally built as a private home sometime between 1870 and 1880, it was a private hospital, then a Telecom office and is now a commercial building owned by Forever Living Products.This Victorian Italianate house was registered as a private hospital known as “Estella” when a Mrs E.E. Davidson, a matron and midwife purchased the property in 1919.1 This was the same year the world-wide pandemic of influenza struck Sydney and Parramatta.When Estella Private Hospital opened there were 129 private ‘lying-in’ (or maternity) hospitals recorded in Sydney in 1920. The majority were run by trained midwives forming a private maternity hospital system in New South Wales. The Private Hospital Act of 1908 made provision for annual licencing and regular inspection of hospitals to improve standards for midwifery care and the gradual elimination of untrained staff among the hard work of the Australasian Trained Nurses Association.2
Based on the public family notices about Estella (below) we can tell that Mrs Davidson was a trained nurse as her professional title given was ‘Sister’. In addition, the mention of doctors (Dr. Whiting and Dr. Waugh) signifies that beside ‘lying-in’ care, medical and surgical care may also have been available.
In 1923 advertisements for Estella Private Hospital reveal that it underwent a name change to Westcourt Private Hospital and that it had a telephone number U8503.
Again in 1925, the name was changed to “Aloha” and it continued to operate as a nursing facility until 1952 when the property was subdivided and sold by then owner Sister Frances Amy Thompson.3
The property’s Parramatta River frontage (located at the rear of the house) was sold to Parramatta City Council to create a car park and open space. The remainder of the property was sold and given to the Post Master General’s (PMG) Department (renamed the Australian Telecommunications Commission in 1975) as an Telecom office on 31 March 1953.
In 1994 the property was brought by US-based company Forever Living Products owner Rex Maughan, who renovated, restored and continues to operate from Willow Grove. In June 2015, the property was purchased by Parramatta City Council.
Anne Tsang, Research Assistant, Parramatta Heritage Centre 2013 (updated 2017)
1. Office of Environment & Heritage. (n.d.). Willow Grove and potential archaeological site. Retrieved October 4, 2013 from http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=2240440
2. Adcock, Winifred & N.S.W. Midwives Association (1984).With courage and devotion: a history of midwifery in New South Wales. Marrickville, N.S.W.: Southwood Press, 1984.
3. ‘History’, Conservation strategy for the reconstruction and adaption of ‘Willow Grove’: 34 Phillip Street, Parramatta, NSW. (n.d.). Parramatta, NSW : Order Architects Pty Ltd & Order Interiors Pty Ltd. pp. 4-5.
4. History of ‘Willow Grove’: 34 Phillip Street, Parramatta. (n.d.). Parramatta, NSW : Parramatta Heritage Centre. ‘Willow Grove’ Vertical File.