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The Prince Charles Hospital

In The Beginning Was the Bush

The dark mass of Beneke's Bush looms behind the accoutremens of 21st Century society. It has been here since time begun while the latter just arrived yesterday, and will probably be changed or gone tomorrow.

For thousands of years the site of the hospitals was the home of the indigenous people of the Turrbul Tribe. They took what they needed to live and nothing more, they were very successful at sustainable living. They prospered and the land prospered.

When the Europeans arrived they brought a different system of of living which exploited the land and, in the short run, gave them a good standard of living. In the latter part of the 20th Century many people became aware that the system was not sustainable and started to do something about changing our wasteful lifestyle.

One of these changes was to try and preserve something of the remaining bushland in the area. The result has been the development of Beneke's Bush in the grounds of the Chermside Hospital Complex.

The 1864 Survey of the Downfall Creek Area

The map shows the N/S roads of Gympie and Webster while the E/W roads are Hamilton and Rode. The blocks which the hospital grounds are inside the black border and were acquired by the government in the 1940s.

In 1864 Edgar Huxtable was employed by the Colonial Government of Queensland to survey the present site of Chermside and surrounding areas. The first land sales were held in 1866 and others followed. The names of the original buyers, along with size of their blocks, are recorded on the Moreton 20 Chain Map Sheet No. 8b published 1888 by the Surveyor General's Office.

The site of The Prince Charles and Holy Spirit Hospitals is bounded by Hamilton Road to the North, Rode Road to the South and Webster Road to the West. It consists of Blocks Nos. 541, 540, 539, 538, 537, 531 and 542 totalling 90 acres 1 Rood 5 Perches (36.6 Ha)

1866 The First Buyers of Land on the Site of the Hospitals

Some of the early buyers were speculators and never intended to settle on the land. This means that the person whose name appears on the individual block may not have even seen it let alone occupy it.

The two blocks Nos. 540 & 541 were bought by J. Patterson who probably was the first shopkeeper in Downfall Creek. His shop was on Gympie Road near Banfield Street on the site of the present Green Motel. He probably never farmed the blocks.

James Cockle, who bought Nos. 539 & 542 could have been Sir James Cockle, First Chief Justice of Queensland from 1863 to 1879. If so then he was not the first member of the judiciary to buy land as Justice Lutwyche, also of the Supreme Court, bought a lot of land in the Kedron area and built a grand manorial house.

So far nothing is known about T F & B W Wells who bought blocks 538, 537 and 531.

1909 Fred & Blanch Staib - Small Part Time Farmer - 37 acres + House Blocks.

The circle in the top right corner of the above map is the round-about at the intersection of Hamilton and Webster Roads.

The Staib farm was 37acres in size which was a common size for the Downfall Creek Chermside area. The blocks along Hamilton Road were about an acre in size; each was owned separately.

The small house on Webster Road was the first one they built in about 1909 using timber from their block. The other larger house was built in 1927and much of the materials came from the old Kedron Shire Chambers. According to Tom Hamilton's Diary 14-8-1926, Fred Staib paid 197 pounds 10 shillings ($395) for the building which he demolished. This was a large sum for the time but the quality of the material would have been good and very hard.

The Staib property extended along Hamilton Road from Webster Road to Farnell Street with gates opening on to all these roads.

Unfortunately the land was not very good and was mainly used for grazing. The best part would have been the small block occupied by Grannie Staib in the north east section of block 542 where Downfall Creek washed silt over the area in flood time. The two dams were the only water supply for the animals as the farm had no access to the creek.

The small cultivation area grew beans, peas, watermellons for sale while corn was grown as cattle fodder.

Fred continued to work as a labourer and then in the tanneries such as the nearby Packer's tannery, Gallagher's tannery at Kedron and Granlind's at Kelvin Grove; he was skilled roller of cattle hides. Later he was able to work full time on the farm but during droughts he would return to the tannery to supplement his diminished income.

This Mud Map of the family farm on which he grew up was drawn by Lindsay Staib. It contains a lot of useful information about the settlement in the area in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The map is not to scale but the relationship to fixed points such as side streets is accurate and the same template was used for the following map. 1. Present service entry to Prince Charles 2. First house 1909 3. Dam 4. Grannie Staib's house 5. Cow bails 6. Second house 1927 7. Site of trees still standing beside the present helipad. The dashed line is the probable boundary of the Staib farm.

Present Site of Staib's Farm

This sketch map was developed using a brochure from the hospital. The numbers mark the location of: 1. Fire & Rescue 2. Ambulance 3. Breast Screening 4. Family Centre 5. Child Care Centre 6. Community Health Centre 7. Old Cricket Pavillion and Trees 8. Extended Care 9. Pallative Care 10. Secure Unit.

There is no sign of the earlier occupation in this northern part of the hospital complex. The small acre blocks along Hamilton Road are now occupied by the Fire, Ambulance and Brest Screening buildings.

The first house built in about 1909 by Fred and Blanch Staib would have been about the entrance to the western Staff Car Park on Webster Road. The second house built in 1927 would have been about opposite Sparks Street but well back from Farnell Street in what is now the the eastern Staff Car Park.

The present helipad was built in about 2007 but the the previous cricket oval used to double as a helipad for many years. It is thought that the original use of the area was a burial ground for the nightsoil collection from the backyard lavatories or dunnies in every house until a new burial ground was opened near the reservoir on Hamilton Road in what later became West Chermside.

The southern boundary of the Staib property would have been along a line drawn joining the southern boundaries of the two car parks.

The Staib Story - Very Hard Workers.

Taken in 1931 this photo shows Fred and Blanch Staib with their youngest son, Lindsay and the family dog. The log they are sitting on was one that Fred would cut into lengths with a cross cut saw and then split into posts using wedges, maul and a lot of muscle. This is a genuine old growth tree with a girth of about 5m (17ft). The trees in the background are still growing in the grounds of Prince Charles beside the helipad. (See photo on right sidebar)

Gottlieb Friedrich Staib (B 1811 - D 1893) born at Hohenhaslach, Wurttemberg, Germany - a farmer and mayor of Hohenhaslach. Married Ana Stoll (B 1813 - D 1880) in 1837 and had 12 children, five of whom died in infancy.

Their 10th child, Friedrich (B 1851 - D 1924) married Marie (B 1854 - D 1940) they had eight children and migrated to Australia in 1877 and settled on the family farm on Hermann now Hamilton Road. Part of portion 541 which was originally purchased by John Patterson in 1866.

Their third child Friedrich William (B 1883 in Germany - D 1941) married Blanche Strange (B 1890 - D 1949) in 1909 and they had five children (one stillborn) of which Roy and Lindsay remain.

Roy Staib takes up the story in a speech he made at the naming of Staib Road in the grounds of Prince Charles Hospital.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
I would like to share a short history of our family and their association with the land that now forms a large part of the Prince Charles Hospital grounds.

Our father's parents migrated from Germany in 1886 and settled on a small block of land at the corner of Hamilton and Webster Roads. At the time, Dad was three years old. When he was twelve (1895),he started work as a casual labourer and was paid two shillings and six pence (25 cents) per week.

Our mother was born in New Zealand and with her parents migrated and settled in Lutwyche where her father carried on his trade as a boot maker.

In 1909 our parents married and had a family of four sons. They purchased a block of land, approximately 12 acres (5ha), facing Webster Road by using borrowed money. Dad then assisted with the building of a small house. He also did the fencing of the block of land, built a large storage shed including cow bails for milking. Most of this was done mainly at night using timber from the property.

Dad had to continue working as a labourer, and later as a tanner, during the day while the trees were cut down in the evening by the light of a hurricane lantern. Mum helped Dad cut the trees, saw and shape the timber, whilst her children were asleep on a blanket or in a carry basket.

As you can hear they were tough times and Mum and Dad worked extremely hard. Chermside was then regarded as being a long way from the city and as a separate rural community.

Dad always felt that the area had a positive future and strong growth potential. Over time he acquired two adjoining blocks of land making a total of approximately 37 acres (13ha). The undergrowth and scrub was cleared and the land used for grazing and vegetable farming. One of his major problems was the lack of a permanent water supply.

In the late 1920s a larger house was built in the centre of the block bounded by Hamilton Road and Farnell Street. During 1941 all of the land including the two houses was put under notice of resumption by the State Government, originally for education purposes. The resumption was finalised in 1949.

Dad died in 1941 aged 57 and Mum in 1949 aged 59. Unfortunately they were not able to enjoy any benefit from their years of hard physical work or receive any rewards for themselves with the later increase in the value of the land and the unbelievable development of Chermside.

Today we have before us the marvellous facilities of the Prince Charles Hospital of benefit to many people not only in Chermside but throughout Australia and overseas.

On behalf of my brother Lindsay, myself and our families, we thank you for the honour of renaming Staib Road in memory of our father and mother.

1954 The Brisbane Chest Hospital

This aerial view shows the Chermside Hospital in 1954 taken from the west with Webster Road in the foreground, Wallace Street on the left and Rode Road on the right terminating in the hospital grounds. In the middle of the buildings is what seems to be the beginnings of the main block. The buildings on the left are the Senile Annex and the Orthopaedic Ward. On the right side are the Handicapped Childrens' Wards while the Boiler House with the high Smoke Stack is in the foreground. The dense bush is part of what was dedicated as Beneke's Bush in 1995. (Courtesy of John Oxley Library)

The Beneke's Bush Report noted that in 1946 the Qld State Government resumed a large portion of the present hospital area for 8,000 pounds and in 1948 the remainder of the first six blocks at 135 pounds per acre.

In July 1954 the Brisbane Chest Hospital opened to cater for tuberculosis (TB) patients at Chermside. The Police Report of 4/8/1954 reported that it had 3 wards in use with 75 patients, 27 nurses, 20 maids and 20 wardsmen. It was planned to have 186 patients within 3 months and a brick and concrete building was underway.

Sister May Hibberd takes up the story: At the time a concentrated effort was being made to eradicate tuberculosis in Australia. People were expected to visit mobile X-ray units to be screened for signs of the disease. The campaign was successful and the disease is now virtually unknown in Australia.

The hospital consisted of four wartime army huts, prefabricated buildings. They were located near the Wallace Street entrance, which is now a staff car park. The main brick block was built and opened in 1960 (Telegraph 12/12/1964 says September 1959 and cost 2million pounds) and the TB patients from the prefabs were moved in. This block was demolished in 1999 to make way for a more up to date building.

It was still a TB hospital and strict isolation of the patients was still observed during their stay of from six to twelve months. Children could not come into the wards but the patients could talk to their children from the veranda while the children would be on the lawn outside.

When the TB patients moved into the main block, several other groups of patients moved into the prefabs. One group came from Wilston and was made up of handicapped children aged from babies to 10 year olds. Many of them were virtually abandoned as the parents rarely, or never, came to visit them. Another group was made up of geriatric patients from Eventide at Brighton. Quadriplegic patients made up the final group and they came from the Diamentina, now Princess Alexandria Hospital, at South Brisbane.

The Beneke's Bush Report noted that in 1959 the Queensland State Government transferred Block 542 to the Prince Charles property. It had been resumed for a school but the school was never built. This completed the present area of Prince Charles Hospital which totalled 90.5 acres (36.6 ha)

1961 The Chermside Chest Hospital - North Face

This photo was taken in 1961 and is from the north side. It shows the ex-Army prefabricated huts were the first patients were housed. The top of the Nurses' Home can be glimpsed on the left of the main building. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Austrlaia A1200, L38263)

The Police File reported that on 7/4/1961 there were 490 patients and nursing staff of 115 at the hospital.

Sister May Hibberd started working in the hospital in 1960 looking after the handicapped children and in 1962 went into the main block. At that time the main block was occupied by TB patients on the Ground, first, third, fourth and fifth floors while the second floor catered for Thoracic and Cardiac patients.

The Prince Charles websited records that on 4th October 1960 Dr Graeme Neilson inserted a catheter into a patient's heart. The first thoracic surgery by Dr Colin Lomas was on 8 February 1961. In 1964, the first "hole in the heart" operation was successfully undertaken and the first pacemaker implant was performed. As the incidence of TB was declining cardiac surgery was increasing and would eventually replace it.

On the 10-12-1966 the Courier Mail (p.22) reported that in 1964 850 cases of TB were identified in Queensland but by 1970 when 250,000 people had been screened there were only 280 cases. The Telegraph on the10/12/1966 reported there were 782 patients of which 260 were tuberculosis sufferers at the hospital. These reports indicate the success of the campaign to eradicate the disease.

In about 1967 the Matron, Miss Grigg, who had started at the hospital in 1954, (Telegraph 12/12/1964) asked May to take charge of the proposed Outpatients Dept, which was to be established on the second floor of the main block. It was to give the Thoracic and Cardiac patients after hospitalisation care such as regular check ups. The discharged TB patients had to go into Brisbane for their check ups at the Chest Clinic.

In 1970 the first coronary artery bypass graft operation in Queensland was performed at Prince Charles Hospital. (N. C. 13/10/2004 p.19)

1963 The Chermside Chest Hospital - South Face

This image, dated 1963, gives a wider view of the changes that had taken place by that date. In the top background are Hilltop Avenue and Farnell Street. The ex-army huts are still in use to the north of the main building. On the south side in the foreground are the Handicapped Children's Wards and the Supply Department with the Boiler House and its high chimney. The Nurses' Home is sited to the right of the main building. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia A1200, L46020)

1974 The Prince Charles Hospital

The royal family are very good people persons and Prince Charles shows this by the way he is mingling with the crowd. The people are responding to his casual stance, hands behind back, leaning forward and focusing on the very upright gentleman to whom he is talking. In between the two is Sister May Hibberd in her uniform.

In 1974 Prince Charles came to officially open the building and, presumably, to name it after himself. At one stage he is said to have quipped that he would have to come back and rename it when he became king. (If he becomes king!)

The Nurses

In 1970 nurses were still wearing elaborate head gear. It could not have been an aid to efficiency, was it just a tradition?

For a long time the nurses wore white while the doctors wore their usual clothes except in theatre or some such place.

Jennifer Helyar sent the following comment in response to my questions in the two photos: The veil used to be cloth - to keep the hair up and out of the way while caring for patients. It eventually morphed into cardboard pieces of nonsense that just caught on the curtains etc., so they were eventually discarded in the late '70s.

Then, to show who were the 'charge' sisters and who were ordinary ones, they introduced epaulettes of different colours.

The head gear was changing - what is the relevance of the different horisontal stripes on the hats?

It seems that white continued into the 1970s.

Jennifer Helyer continues: The markings on the student nurses' hats denote their year of training. As they were hospital-trained, it was an easy way of showing the seniority and experience of the nurse. I don't know the reason for the different colours at Chermside. Each of the hospitals had slight differences with the headgear. Because of the large number of intakes per year, at PAH, after the nurse had completed and passed her lectures for the year she earned a diagonal "bar" across the back of her stripes, showing her greater knowledge base.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge Jennifer.

In the 1980s the white uniform gave way to the blue and red except for Sister Hibberd who is wearing white and epaulettes.

The 1980s saw more changes with more colour. Notice how the nurses always seem to be young.

1995 Dedication of Beneke's Bush

Inside Beneke's Bush one can glimpse something of what the original forest was like. Since this is mostly secondary growth the trees are still small in girth and the canopy is open enough for grass to grow. However there was little grass in this section and the ground is covered with litter. The tree on the left is about one third of its full girth. Give it time and the real bush will regrow.

Beneke's Bush - after several years of campaigning and planning between Greening Australia, Neighbours of Huxtable Park Inc. and The Prince Charles Hospital a remnant of the original bush on the western end of the hospital block, measuring about 4.92 ha, along Webster and Rode Roads was dedicated for posterity in October 1995.
Local volunteers planted some 200 native species in the remnant

This is one of the few remaining areas of the original bushland in the local area and consists of a re-growth of the original stand of dry sclerophyll woodland of mixed eucalypts. In 2007 there were a few old growth trees measuring 800mm in diameter and 25-30m to the top of the crowns, but the rest is young growth of between 100mm - 150mm diameter interspersed with some of 300mm. They are all very straight as befits an open forest with tuft grasses growing in some sections.

There are nine eucalyptus species including spotted gum, ironbark, stringybark, grey gum, forest red gum, as well as a few hoop pines, wattles, melaleucas, silky oaks and many small shrubs.

During WWII it was used by the US forces as a bomb storage site for 250 and 500 pound bombs when the preparation for the roll back of the Japanese army was gathering momentum.

Ironically the name of the bush is taken from a German settler family which lived on Rode Road near the entrance to the hospital. Heinrich Beneke used to cut wood from the area and sell it as fuel; maybe he gave a wry smile when he heard they were restoring the area which he had cut down and then, naming it after him.

It is an eerie, but satisfying feeling to stand in the remnant of primeval bush and watch the traffic lights control the traffic build up on Webster and Rode Roads during the morning peak hour; how much time do we spend sitting in our cars waiting?

Two Old Growth Trees in Beneke's Bush

These two old growth trees are growing beside the service entrance to Prince Charles off Webster Road at the eastern end of Beneke's Bush. The one on the right, a Spotted Gum, is 2.8m (9ft 3ins) in girth and approx 34m (112ft) high to the crown.

When Heinrich Beneke started to cut the trees from this section of the bush it was full of old growth trees. They would have been bigger than this pair, maybe like the one on which the Staibs are sitting on in the 1931 photo above.

In the 19th Century trees were in the way, they had to be cleared so the farmers could grow their crops. The attitude then was to control nature by changing it from forest to cropland; it made sense then. Now we are trying to rescue and preserve the remnants of the forest and the attitude is to work with nature.

We will know how successful we have been in about another century when Beneke's Bush is full of trees like these two and bigger.

The Beneke Family

This 1912 photo shows some of the Beneke Family with Heinrich on the left and two of the children. They strike an interesting pose in the photo with left hand on hip. (Hamilton Collection)

The Beneke family were part of the large German immigration to the local area in the 19th Century. Many of them settleded in the area around the intersection of Hamilton (originally Herrmann) and Webster Roads. The Beneke family home formed a southern section of what was known locally as the German Quarter.

The Prince Charles Hospital - Main Entrance

The main entrance to The Prince Charles Hospital is screened by a luxurient growth of stately palm trees, hence the oblique photo. The main drive leads straight up from Rode Road loops around along the front to the set down and pick up area at the far end and back to the main drive. This is the main building and from here patients can be ferried to all parts of the building and to the other departments outside. For the lost souls, like the author, there are volunteers called Charlie's Angels to guide us safely through the labyrinth and see us back again.

The Prince Charles Hospital - Side View

This side view of the main building gives some idea of its size. While only three levels high it covers a very large area. This is a staff parking area and the small rotunda on the right is where smokers make their last stand before entering the hospital.

Chermside Hospital Complex

This view, in 2009, shows the Hospital Complex with the Burnie Brae Respite Centre in the foreground. The photo was taken standing on or about the location of the Hamilton home Burnie Brae built in the 1870s. One of the reasons why the hospital was located on a hill was to get the fresh air which was so important for the Tuberculosis sufferers back in the 1950s.