The Children’s Hospital at Carlton was characterised by response to demand – shaped by challenges in the form of two wars, various epidemics, and wavering income streams. The hospital was based in Carlton from 1876 to 1963, a period that encompassed tremendous medical developments and discoveries, which shaped the way the hospital treated patients and used facilities. The premises in Carlton was frequently augmented and adapted to suit the fluctuating needs of the hospital.
While there were many financial and physical restrictions on the hospital’s functions, the time at Carlton was a period of immense growth. Staff were increasingly given access to better training and education, and the seemingly endless facility constructions and renovations allowed an increased number of patients access to better care.
Memories of this time are mixed – the Carlton premises is remembered as intimate and friendly by some, but grim and claustrophobic by others. The wards were cold and draughty in winter and oppressively hot in summer. Important research was conducted from poky utility spaces repurposed as offices. Staff moved patients from building to building as services were spread across the grounds and facilities. Despite the physical challenges, the hospital met hardship with innovation and constant advocacy for the hospital’s capacity for contribution to the health of Victorian children.
After 1921, large building projects dropped away and the site was deemed too small for further development. Eventually the decision was made to find an ideal site and establish a purpose-built hospital that could provide care for a growing population and accommodate new medical research and techniques.