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THE HOMEOPATHIC HOSPITAL MELBOURNE, AN EARLY HISTORY

This postcard was issued in 1876 and featured the 1875 1d adhesive “Bell” design in pale mauve on a yellow card, which has a distinctive surround border.   The stamp is postmarked with the duplex MELBOURNE/ 5X/ JA 15/ 77 with a VICTORIA obliterator.  The card is addressed to T.J. Crouch Esq., Elizabeth St., City  (Figure 1).

 
 

The reverse is headed HOMEOPATHIC HOSPITAL, 17 SPRING STREET (Melbourne), with a manuscript Jan (1)5 1877.  The Memorandum describes that a General Committee Meeting will be held on Wednesday next, the 17 inst at Four o’clock p.m.,(discussing) General Monthly Business.  It is signed by the (illegible) Hon.Sec. (Figure 2).

 
 

T. J. Crouch was most likely Thomas James Crouch (1833-89) a prominent designer of ecclesiastical buildings in Victoria and who is frequently mentioned in the minutes of the Lying-in Hospital, Melbourne.  He was a member of the Royal Society of Victoria and one of the founders of the Victorian Institute of Architects.  Addendum June 2010:  "Thomas Crouch, the architect, in 1859 attended the first meeting to propose a homeopathic dispensary and was appointed to the committee.  The dispensary didn't proceed at that time, however, as the doctor who was supposed to become the resident homeopath moved to Sydney instead of staying in Melbourne as originally intended.  Mr. Crouch was appointed to the first committee of the dispensary, initially in the combined role as Secretary/Treasurer, from 1869 to 1875.  In June1879, the time of the postcard), he was one of the two vice-presidents of the hospital.  The signature on the reverse of the postcard was that of F.A. Westbury, who was secretary at that time".
 
Homeopathy was introduced into Australia in the early 1850's and was brought there by practitioners who learnt their skills in England.  One of these early homeopathic doctors was John B Hickson who began practicing in the suburbs of Melbourne and later settled in the Collins St.reet.  He promoted this new trend in medicine in The Argus a leading Melbourne newspaper, and by 1870 he had one of the largest practices in the colony.  At the same time Dr Thienette de Berigny arrived from France and started his fight for the recognition of homeopathy through articles in The Age.  Both men were very successful and soon other doctors followed in their footsteps.

Robert Ray had originally come to Australia from Sussex in 1853 when he was 25 years old.  In 1859 he went to London where he studied medicine and became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and a member of the Royal College of Surgeons.  He was persuaded to come back to Australia by his brother who practiced homeopathy in the goldfields around Ballarat, and he opened his Collins Street consulting rooms in1864. Unfortunately, Robert was accidentally killed in 1883 when thrown out of his "dog cart" near his home in Beaumaris.

Dr J W Guenst, a Dutchman and graduate from the University of Leyden, came to Sydney in 1852 and opened the first "Hydropathic Institution" which also used thermotherapy.  In 1865 he also opened a "Hydropathic Institution" in Melbourne.  Later he practiced medicine in Noumea before returning to NSW where he worked as a physician.  Then he visited London before finally returning to Melbourne.   From 1870 on he published "The Homeopathic Progress in Australia". He was very active in founding the first homeopathic dispensary in Melbourne and he was also an honorary member of the board of management.

These early Homeopaths could only practice because of their access to a supply of Homeopathic medicines from the Homeopathic pharmacist "Edward G Gould & Son" (formerly "Kidner and Gould") located at 90 Collins Street. The firm became "Gould & Martin with the addition of R.H. Martin and in 1882 they were joined by Charles Pleasance, who eventually became the sole proprietor of the firm under the name of "Martin & Pleasance."

The early Homeopathic physicians used to meet at the rooms of Gould & Martin to discuss the possibility of opening a Homeopathic dispensary in Melbourne.  On 30 October 1869 they met with a group of influential lay friends of Homeopathy, including some of Melbourne's leading business men;  one of the prominent members of that group was the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Reverend Hussey Burgh Macartney.  They decided to open a dispensary, which would care for the medical needs of the poor people of Melbourne.

The group acted promptly - they leased a house at 153 Collins Street East, advertised in the daily newspapers, posted placards on suburban railway stations and opened subscription lists in order to raise funds. Three weeks later, on 22 November 1869, the Melbourne Homeopathic dispensary was opened.  At the same time doctors were appointed as honorary medical officers.  It was open 3 days a week from 9:00 am - 10:00 am. From 10-15 patients a day were seen in the early days, it soon jumped to 95.  In 1875 there were 695 individual patients with 5672 consultations.

A problem was to secure a supply of homeopathic doctors. There were a few from England, and the other source was America.  However, when American doctors came to Australia, they discovered that they could not register under the British Medical Association rules and had to practice on the "black".  Many could not stand that and returned after a year or two to America, where they were fully recognised.


In October 1885 Dr Wilbur Knobble Bourton arrived from the Boston University School of Homeopathic Medicine, Massachusetts.  He was Resident Medical Officer at the Melbourne Homeopathic Hospital in 1885 and from 1891 until his death he was Surgeon in charge. He had a huge and flourishing practice in Collins Street and was widely respected for his skill and activity. In 1894 he was elected to the board, and in 1909 he became vice-president of the Hospital, and president in 1918.  A 1906 view of the Homeopathic Hospital, Melbourne is seen in Figure 3.

 

Ever since 1924 allopathic doctors [allopathy is the method of treating disease by the use of agents, producing effectts different from those of the disease treated (opposed to homeopathy)] had been allowed to practice at the Homeopathic Hospital in Melbourne, bringing with them their allopathic skills and subversions:  "innovations" at the hospital centered not on homeopathic needs but on those of allopathy which could not accept a hospital without x-rays, pathological labs and all the gimmicks of so-called "modern medicine". The final result of these difficulties was the closure of the homeopathic hospital in 1934; shortly afterwards it was converted into the Private Henry Hospital (eventually part of the Monash University Medical Centre) by decree from his majesty, King George V.  However, despite the demise of the Homeopathic hospital, homeopaths have continued to practice in private, free from the financial troubles of public institutions.

Acknowledgment:  I received 2 emails from Barbara Armstrong in June 2010, and have added one combined paragraph after Figure 2 as an addendum . I have not done her justice, for she has researched and written about early Homeopathy in Australia, and shared with me 10-fold the amount of her information, which I have not included.  If she agrees, I would be pleased to direct enquiries about additional homeopathic information to her.

I an indebted to a website of Dr. Joseph von Moger for much of the information in this paper.

 
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