rpa history

rpa history

The first Royal visit to Australia by Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, was marred by an attack on the Prince. On 12th March, 1868, while attending a picnic at Clontarf beach on Middle Harbour, Prince Alfred was shot by an Irish-Australian, Henry James O'Farrell.

The Prince was quickly taken to Government House and two days later the bullet was extracted by Dr Young of HMS Galatea. The gold probe used in this procedure is on display in the RPA Museum.

The citizens of Sydney held public meetings and quickly resolved to construct 'Prince Alfred Memorial Hospital' as thanksgiving for the recovery of the Prince. The community dug deep and in less than six months raised more than £21,000 (about $3,802,228 today) to build the Prince Alfred Memorial Hospital brick by brick.

The University of Sydney then granted land from the Grose Farm estate in exchange for a joint venture to train medical students and serve as a clinical school for the new Medical School of the University and a training school for nurses. The 1873 Act of Incorporation of Prince Alfred Hospital followed. This partnership continues to thrive today.

The foundation stone was laid on 24th April, 1876 by Sir Hercules Robinson, the Governor of the Colony and the hospital opened on 25th September, 1882 with 146 beds. In its first year, the hospital treated over 1000 patients.

Prince Alfred Memorial Hospital began as an experiment in the colony of NSW. It was to be founded on the newly-developed Nightingale style of hospital design and nurse training. Florence Nightingale, the 'Lady of the Lamp' of the Crimea and famous nurse-reformer of the nineteenth century believed that bad air or 'miasma' caused infection to arise spontaneously in poorly ventilated and dirty places and hence the original wards of Prince Alfred, C and D Blocks, were built in the pavilion-style favoured by Nightingale, long, airy and bright 32-bed wards.

RPA has always maintained its strong ties to the community as a hospital built by the people for the people.