Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Museum

Unique city stories

Australia’s first nursing school, the Nightingale Wing, is the oldest remaining building on the site of the demolished 'Rum' Hospital.

Sydney Hospital celebrates a continuous history since 1788 as the first hospital in Australia. The central building of Governor Macquarie’s new three-winged General ‘Rum’ Hospital was constructed on this site from 1811 to 1816, in return for a monopoly on the importation of rum, hence its name. However, packed with convict patients, the hospital was overcrowded and rife with dysentery, and quickly became known as ‘the Sidney Slaughter House’.

The central 'Rum' Hospital building was demolished in 1879, however, the North and South wings of the 'Rum' Hospital still stand today. The North Wing houses the Parliment of NSW, and the more extant South Wing now known as the Mint houses the head office of Sydney Living Museums. The oldest remaining building on the site of the demolished 'Rum' Hospital is Australia’s first nursing school, the Nightingale Wing, completed in 1868. The four-storey Gothic Revival building was designed by Thomas Rowe and approved by Florence Nightingale herself. It opened soon after the arrival of Miss Lucy Osburn and five other nurses sent from England at the request of Henry Parkes.

Osburn arrived in March 1868 and commenced the first Nightingale School of Nursing in the new building. Like Florence Nightingale, she advocated tirelessly (in the face of bureaucratic obstruction) to raise hospital standards. She would go on to lay the foundations of modern nursing in Australia, following the Nightingale principles of cleanliness, ventilation, healthy food and excellent care. Today, the first floor of the Nightingale Wing houses the Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Foundation Museum. The building is listed under the National Trust.

The Nightingale Wing is open courtesy of Sydney Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital. Medical artefacts and other objects from the Sydney Hospital nursing collection are on display in the exhibition areas.

    Opening hours 


    Other times by appointment 02 9382 7427

    Sydney Hospital 'Moorcliff' staff, c.1910.
    Sydney Hospital 'Moorcliff' staff, c.1910. Photo © Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Foundation Museum.

    Content supplied by Elinor Wrobel, Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Museum

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