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Newsletter 41 June 2022

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Renew your membership now

The membership year for Friends of the Orphan Schools is the financial year, so it’s time to pay your membership fee by 30 June 2022.

Membership remains $20 per annum and details of how to pay can be found on our website, here.  In future, only financial members will receive a copy of the Newsletter.

Annual General Meeting 2022

The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the Orphan Schools Inc. will be held on Sunday 21 August 2022 at 2pm at the Old Sunday School, St John’s Park Precinct. The speaker will be Dr Dianne Snowden AM, who will address the issue of ‘Myths and Fallacies in the history of the Orphan Schools’.

From the Shadows update

We are proud to announce that – finally – all four of Rowan Gillespie’s From the Shadows statues have been installed and unveiled.

Mercury 28 February 2022 p.9.

From the Shadows would like to thank our major sponsors: the Federal Department of Infrastructure (facilitated by Andrew Wilkie MP, Member for Clark); Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA); and the Federal Group. We would also like to thank our generous donors, including the State Government (through Hon. Elise Archer MP, Member for Clark); South Hobart Progress Association; Friends of the Orphan Schools; Female Convicts Research Centre; Convict Women’s Press and the Fellowship of First Fleeters; and our many individual and family donors and supporters.

We would also like to thank Robyn Boyd, CEO, Southern Cross Care, and Stephen Shirley, Chairman, Southern Cross Care, for allowing us to use their land at 85 Creek Road, New Town for the Orphan School Children statues.

Many individuals have helped bring the project to fruition and we would like to thank Elaine Crawford, for our website; Jennifer Bett; Pru Bonham; Jo Doyle, WLF; Julie Hawkins, In Graphic Detail; Sue Hickey; Caroline Homer and Ross Latham, Tasmanian Archives; John Kelly, Footsteps towards Freedom; Michael Lawrence and Cameron Green, documentary makers; Paul Lennon; Angie Magowan, archaeologist; Deidre Macdonald and Russell Dobbie, Heritage Tasmania; Tony Parker; Rev. Bill Stewart, St John’s Church, New Town; Paul Swifte, Insurance Masters; Becher Townsend, Font PR; Elizabeth Wilson and the HCC Planning team; our musicians, Lags and Lasses and the Lochner Violin Quartet; piper Katy Robinson; Alistair Bett, photographer; and, of course, our models, Brydie (Martha), Emily (Elizabeth), Viktor and Estella (William and Mary Ann).

Last but by no means least, Irish sculptor, Rowan Gillespie, for his poignant and evocative works of art, and the significant contribution he has made to interpreting forgotten aspects of Tasmania’s history.

From the Shadows team
(Bob, Dianne, David, Lorraine, Ros, Sandra and Darryl)

From The Shadows Committee and sculptor Rowan Gillespie at the Launch
27 February 2022 Cascades Female Factory

Call for Submissions

195th anniversary of the establishment of the Orphan Schools (1828)

In 2023, the Friends of the Orphan Schools will be commemorating the 195th anniversary of the establishment of the Orphan Schools in Van Diemen’s Land (1828).

As part of the commemoration, we will be publishing a book about the lives of Orphan School children and others connected to the site. If you would like to contribute, please provide a 150-200 word summary of your proposed chapter by 1 September 2022 to

Orphan stories

If you think you may have an ancestor who was a resident at the Orphan Schools, we encourage you to look at the names of the orphans by searching on our website:

Many orphans and their stories have been researched and claimed by descendants whose names are recorded on the base of each child’s page. Can you add information to our records?

The Buildings on St Johns Park Precinct New Town

It is proposed that a second publication in 2023 will explore the history of the buildings on the St Johns Park Precinct. If you have an interest in, or information about, one or more of the buildings and would like to contribute to the publication, please contact the President Dianne Snowden. Dianne will also be able to answer any questions you may have. Chapters are due by the end of 2022 and should be about 2000 words and fully referenced.

Can you help?

The Friends of the Orphan Schools is seeking a Treasurer.

If you are interested or would like more information, please contact President, Dianne Snowden, on 0409 140 657 or by email.

Dr Edward Swarbreck Hall

and his campaign for improving the health and wellbeing of the children at the Queens Orphan Schools

Margaret Dalkin
With thanks to Richard Watson for the AMJ extract

Dr Hall

Dr Edward Swarbreck Hall Age 54. Photograph Frederick Frith 1858. Touched with watercolour. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Dr Edward Swarbreck Hall (1804-1881) and his wife Mary (Latham) arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on the Cabotia on 24th August 1833. [i] For the rest of his life, he was a tireless advocate and pioneer for public health, gaining an international reputation in the employment of statistics and epidemiology as a tool for better health outcomes. Dr Hall was especially known for championing the cause of the poor and vulnerable.

Hall aroused considerable professional criticism and debate in his efforts to protect the public from infectious disease. His study, “On the Medical Topography and Vital Statistics of the City of Hobarton, Tasmania, and its Southern Sub-Districts, for 1855” was serialised in the Australian Medical Journal from 1856 to 1858. [ii] The April 1857 issue exposed the mortality and conditions at the Queen’s Orphan Schools at New Town and led to local and international attention. The mortality of children at the Orphan Schools then being almost six times that of children in the general population. [iii]

Following publication of the April edition, Dr Hall presented his findings to a meeting of the Royal Society of Tasmania on 8 September 1857, the ramifications of which were to continue for years. [iv]

A letter to the Editor of the Australian Medical Journal by E.S.P. Bedford, the medical officer of the Queen’s Orphan Schools published in The Hobart Town Advertiser in November 1857 severely criticised Hall’s statistical methodology. Bedford provided his own analysis over a longer time. [v]

Dr Hall responded in the Tasmanian Daily News on 1 December 1857 [vi]

A review supporting Hall’s study was published in the Tasmanian Daily News in April 1858. Accusations about Dr Bedford’s professional integrity were made in that he was dishonest by deliberately suppressing facts. The writer gave examples of why Bedford’s objections were groundless. [vii]

The following extract from the April 1857 issue of the Australian Medical Journal reveals in part Dr Hall’s findings. The entire article may be read online; [viii]

With the important facts I have recorded established, it becomes the imperative duty of every man of science—every conservator of public health—every friend of humanity in Tasmania, to lend a helping hand, regardless of all personal predilections—to ascertain the cause or causes of such havoc from disease in the Queen's Orphan Schools at New Town, and endeavour to remove them.

A more happily chosen site for such an institution could not have been selected. Sheltered by hills on its most exposed aspects, it enjoys a pre-eminently advantageous locality, on an elevated knoll admitting of the most perfect drainage, an excellent water supply, and every advantage for establishing efficient ventilation, and every other requisite for promoting the health of its inmates. I spent some hours a few days ago in the inspection of this institution, and I do not think any sanitary student will feel surprise at the mortality which its returns show, when I state the result of my inquiry.
The largest dormitory contains a space of 17,576 cubical feet of breathing room. This dormitory is fitted up with 80 beds for boys above six years of age—that is, when each bed is occupied, the sleeper has about 220 feet of breathing room. This is one hundred feet less than the Lodging House Act of Tasmania compels every lodging house keeper to provide for every lodger above 14 years of age.

It is well known that the prison regulations in England give 1,000 cubic feet of breathing space for every individual. Our most eminent physiologists state that less than 800 cannot be allowed with safety to health. At the time of my visit, however, there were, I was told, only 65 beds occupied; so that each would have 270 feet. This dormitory was an attic one, lighted only from the roof by a lantern and skylight. With the door closed, a fresh supply of air could only get admission through apertures in the side-walls, communicating directly with the open air, on a level with the floor, and only screened with a plate with large perforations. The vitiated air can only escape—there being no fire-place and chimney—by the windows of the skylight being opened, or through louvres in the ends opening directly to the air. One of two things must constantly exist in such a sleeping chamber—the air must be either injuriously foul or hot, or the inmates must be subjected to most chilling and dangerous thorough draughts.

None of the dormitories in the establishment are of a superior kind to this, but several are much inferior. All, however, were most scrupulously tidy and clean. The day on which I visited was a chilly, breezy one, with alternate clouds and bursts of hot sunshine, and some slight showers of rain—snow still resting about the summit of Mount Wellington, which overhangs the institution on its south-western or most exposed side. The thermometer on this day, as recorded by Mr. Abbot, in Hobart Town, was, at 7a.m, 50; at 1 p.m, 59; and at sunset, 57. The solar intensity was about 118; the max. heat, 65; the min. 47. So that many families were glad of a fire, particularly in the evening. Nevertheless in every room of the establishment, whether occupied by children at school or otherwise, the windows on both side of the apartments, as well as the doors, were open, and a very strong chilling draught blowing through them.

When remarking on this in the Boys' School Room, and saying that, if no better mode of admitting the requisite supply of fresh air existed than by the windows, &c., at least the windows only on the least exposed side should be open, the Schoolmaster replied that, in that case, the School would be so stifling as to be unbearable. The same official, however, could not perceive that, if this were the case in the school room for a few hours in the daytime, how much more injurious it must be in the dormitories for so many more hours during the night. Even in the Boys' Hospital there is no provision for a supply of fresh air, except by doors and windows near to the level of the ceiling; all of which, with a thorough cross draught, were open when I saw it. The vitiated air could only make its exit by the same apertures and the fireplace. Yet, in the Code of Instructions for the Management of the Convict Hospital, published in 1845, and approved by the then Lieutenant-Governor; and every medical officer, and others concerned in the care of sick, &c., are enjoined to act in strict conformity with its regulations. It is stated in section 14 :—

The several wards are to be ventilated according to the state of the weather, and the diseases of the patients, under the special direction of the attending medical officer—injudicious and indiscriminate ventilation being hurtful to the sick. Thorough draughts and currents of air are to be particularly guarded against.

The propriety of such a rule no intelligent person could for a moment question. In a room erected last year—since the great mortality in the young children—as a day-room or nursery, no improvement on the defective, injurious, and universally condemned mode of ventilation I have described was established, except by making large perforations in the ceiling; so that when the impure warm air gets into the space between the ceiling and the roof, it has no provision made for its exit. It can only escape through the chinks in the shingles, and every tyro in pneumatics knows that, before it could so effect its retreat, it would lose the caloric that gave it buoyancy and become so much heavier as to fall again to the lowest level with as much certainty as water would. In this day-room, with the door and windows open, I found two children between two and three years old asleep across a narrow bed, with a blanket to cover them, which had fallen off their feet. On removing the shoe and stocking from one child, its foot was found to be icy cold. Both their feet could be felt so through their coverings. Of course, with the blood repelled from the extremities during inaction and repose, congestion and disease in some vital region might, as a natural sequence, be calculated upon.

This same neglect prevailed almost universally when I first took charge of the perishing convict children at the Cascade House of Correction; and to this, with many similar and other causes, I attributed the enormous mortality that had so long prevailed amongst those children, as I testified in my evidence before the Legislative Committee.

In the open yard of this nursery the children from one to six years of age were exercising without any covering on the head, neck, arms, or legs, but otherwise well clad. A very large portion of the surface of the body—the highly sensitive skin, whose exhalant office is of so much importance to health, was thus liable at one moment to be chilled and its functions arrested by the cold breeze; and the next scorched by the hot sun. The boys above six years of age, however, had every part of their bodies comfortably covered with suitable warm clothing, except the face and hands. Why the younger and more delicate should not be similar arranged and protected, is one of those contradictory anomalies so common in society at large, as well as in this home for helpless childhood, and has drawn from Dr. Combe and many other medical philanthropists withering satire and hearty maledictions.

[i] Denholm, Carey and Petrow, Stefan. Dr Edward Swarbreck Hall: Colonial Medical Scientist & Moral Activist, North Melbourne, 2016 p.16 & p. 168.

[ii] Hall, E.S. “On the Medical Topography and Vital Statistics of the City of Hobarton, Tasmania, and its Southern Sub-Districts, for 1855”, Australian Medical Journal,Part1, July 1856, pp.162-7,Part 2,October 1856, pp.242-51, Part 3, April 1857, pp. 82-109 and Part 4, April 1858, pp.85-105.

[iii] The Tasmanian Daily News (Hobart) 1 December 1857 p.3. Accessed 21 May 2022,

[iv] Tasmania Legislative Council. Queen’s Asylum, Report of the Royal Commission, 1867. Evidence of Dr E.S. Hall p.27, Queen's Asylum Report of the Royal Commission ( accessed 22 May 2022.

[v] The Hobart Town Advertiser (Hobart) 23 Nov 1857, p.2. Reprint of a letter by Dr E.S.P. Bedford dated 27 August 1857 to the Editor of the Australian Medical Journal. Accessed 21 May 2022, 23 Nov 1857 - THE ORPHAN SCHOOLS. - Trove (

[vi] The Tasmanian Daily News (Hobart) 1 December 1857 p.3. Dr Hall’s letter to the Editor analysing and refuting Dr Bedford’s letter dated 27 August 1857. Viewed 21 May 2022,

[vii] The Tasmanian Daily News (Hobart) 20 April 1858 p.2. Viewed 21 May 2022, p2 - 20 Apr 1858 - The Tasmanian Daily News (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1855 - 1858) - Trove (

[viii] The April 1857 edition of the Australian Medical Journal may be freely downloaded from the website of the University of Melbourne. The link on 21 May 2022 being

2022 Newsletter Article Deadlines

1 August
1 November

Editor: Margaret Dalkin
Publishing: Andrew Cocker

Contact Us

Friends of The Orphan Schools
PO Box 4659
Bathurst Street PO