A look into Fairbank’s medical past


• Belinda Somerville-Hall and Robert Hall at Fairbank, which was formerly the Springfield hospital.

By Daisy Baker
August 07, 2019

• The Springfield Hospital on opening day in 1907.

• Nurse Heazlewood’s Bible.

• The Heazlewoods made butter referred to as ‘Fairbank’, which has become the Springfield property’s namesake.

On a hill in Springfield lies an historic homestead surrounded by farming land, known as Fairbank, which was the Springfield hospital throughout the early 20th century.
Nursing sister Mary Kellow married Charles Heazlewood in 1898 and after the birth of their two children Rita and Melba, they built a house big enough to be used as a hospital, which was officially opened in 1907.
An article about the opening in the Daily Telegraph stated: “The hospital is a large building, built upon the cottage principle, and stands upon a gentle eminence commanding a beautiful view of the surrounding country, and situated in the midst of large and well-kept grounds…”.
Mr C. O’Reilly who delivered the opening address was quoted as saying: “It is an institution the want of which has been long felt on the North-East Coast. Nurse Heazlewood deserves every praise for her energy in combatting great difficulties in the establishment of such a home for the amelioration of suffering humanity.”
Current owners Belinda Somerville-Hall and Robert Hall, and Robert’s parents who owned it previously, have done some work to the building but have retained much of the original character.
“When this back part of the house was rebuilt they used very similar dimensions,” Mr Hall said.
“The shape and layout is pretty much the same. Internally we’ve taken a fireplace out and opened up that wall.”
The original scrim and paper walls have been replaced with hardboard and eventually plaster over the years.
During renovations Mr Hall said they found sand in the walls which they believe was used to soundproof the room for a birthing suite.
Mrs Somerville-Hall said many locals or their ancestors were born at the hospital, including members of the Gerke and Hall families.
“This is nurse Munroe who was a nursing steward with twin boys who were born here on August 3, 1907, which would make them some of the first babies born here,” she said displaying a photograph.
“The boys are Lawrence and Stuart, twin sons of Marion Tulloch and Arthur John Heazlewood.”
Sand in the walls is not the only reminder of Fairbank’s past life.
“The loungeroom used to be two rooms which had standard windows and beneath them were two little doors,” Mr Hall said.
“We imagine that the bottom window would have been lifted right up and these two little doors would open – we think that was perhaps a nursery room for the babies and they would wheel the babies out onto the verandah.”
The Heazlewoods left the hospital in 1928 after Nurse Heazlewood had a stroke.
Mr Hall said following their departure, the property had around seven owners in nearly as many years.
“When Mum and Dad came here, it had been derelict for a long time,” he said.
“Doors were open, windows were broken and stock could wander through.”
Over the years the property was restored to a liveable standard and what was originally a 100-acre block has been extended into a property of nearly 300 acres.
Mr Hall said his family began referring to the property as Fairbank after he and his mum found a letter one day while cleaning up.
“There was something that slipped behind the mantlepiece, anyway we fished it out and it was a letter addressed to Fairbank,” Mr Hall said.
“The Heazlewoods apparently used to make butter and they called it Fairbank butter so the name has stuck.”
More than 100 years on since it was opened as a hospital, Fairbank homestead still stands tall, full of reminders of its medical past.