Avonleigh Rockhampton ca. 1906

Avonleigh, located at 248 Quay St is one of the very few 19th Century Rockhampton buildings with a history as a hospital to have survived to the present day.[1,2]  The building was constructed for Mr Frederick Morgan in 1885.  Mr Morgan and his brothers were responsible for the commencement of gold mining in Mt Morgan in 1882.  The brothers sold their share of the Mt Morgan Mine in 1884 and it was this money that Mr Morgan used to construct Avonleigh which was one of the first grand mansions built in Rockhampton.  After selling his share of Mt Morgan he continued in a prominent role and was Mayor from 1891 – 1893.  He died at Avonleigh in November 1894.

The property stayed in the family until the title was transferred to John Henry O’Brien in September 1904.  In April 1906, Dr Daniel Patrick O’Brien acquired the property for use as a private hospital.  Dr O’Brien was a prominent medical practitioner who held the position of Government Medical Officer, President of the Rockhampton Medical Association and medical officer to the local Hibernian association.[2] According to the summary of the entry in the Queensland Heritage Register,

“On 7 December 1906 the right to use the party wall on the northern side of the building was registered indicating additions to the building were undertaken at about this time. After the building was extended to the northern side, the hospital consisted of eight bedrooms and an operation room on the first floor and on the ground floor were the waiting and consulting rooms, dressing room, dispensary and nurses quarters and sitting room. The doctor resided in adjoining apartments at the northern end of the ground floor. The walls of the interior were polished cement coated with enamel. The ceilings were of a newly introduced 'artistic plaster' which was described as a 'perfect non-conductor' of heat. The ceilings in the new section had decorative cherubs set into the plaster which are still extant.”[2]

It is reported that:

In May 1908, he (Dr O’Brien) advertised it (Avonleigh) as a ‘new two-storeyed building’ in the charge of a competent matron and staff of trained nurses.  Each patient had a separate room and special accommodation was available for confinement cases.  Fees were the same as Hillcrest – two guineas a week.”[3]

By 1930, Dr O’Brien had opened Leinster Private Hospital on the corner of Agnes and Spencer Streets but he continued to reside and have consultations at Avonleigh until 1938 when he leased the building to Dr V T J Lynch who used it as a surgery and residence.  Dr O’Brien died in July 1941 and the property was subsequently transferred to his widow.[2]

Between 1947 and 1978, the building had a number of commercial uses and underwent significant modification, some of which were required to meet health and safety standards.  After 1978, it underwent restoration and was used for an extended period as Doctor John Lowry’s surgery with another business on the ground floor an two residential units on the upper floor.[2]

This photo shows Avonleigh as it was at the beginning of 2008.


Avonleigh Rockhampton 2008



1.  ACHHA Archives

2.  Queensland Government Heritage Register Entry, ‘Avonleigh’, https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600813  accessed 16 March 2016.

3.  Lorna McDonald, Rockhampton – A History of City and District, Rockhampton City Council, 1995, p. 366.