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King George V Memorial Hospital

bookmarkCategory: RPA Historical Walking Tour
feed Stop: 8
location_on Location: King George V Building (off Missenden Road)


Museum Walking Tour
RPA Museum Image: King George V Memorial Hospital for Mothers and Babies, 1941

Opened during World War II and designed by award-winning architects Stephenson and Turner, the King George V (KGV) building, formerly the King George V Memorial Hospital for Mothers and Babies, stands alongside several noteworthy pieces of art, including statues by the Hungarian sculptor, Andor Meszaros, and murals by Danish sculptor Otto Steen. Today, the King George V building is home to administration services and the RPA Museum on Level 8.

Museum Walking Tour
RPA Museum Image: KGV Kitchen Services, 1963

Opened in 1941, the King George V Memorial Hospital for Mothers and Babies became the first Maternity Hospital in NSW to be attached to a General Hospital. Designed in the Inter-War International Art Moderne style, the architects Stephenson and Turner were awarded the Sulman Medal in the category of outstanding public or monumental building for their design.

At the front of the building are several statues and works of art. In the northern grassed courtyard stands 'Maternity', at the front entrance is 'King George V', and at the southern end you will find 'The Surgeon'. All three works were created in the 1940s by Andor Meszaros, a celebrated Hungarian sculptor who immigrated to Australia in 1939 and who designed the medals for the 1956 Olympic Games. 'Maternity' and 'The Surgeon' are made from Hawkesbury sandstone, while 'King George V' was carved from Queensland white marble, which required special tungsten chisels.

Museum Walking Tour
RPA Museum Image: First KGV neonatal ICU course students with tutor, 1973

There are also four bas relief panels in glazed terracotta fixed to the front of the building. These panels are the work of Otto Steen, who immigrated to Australia from Denmark in 1927. Located at eye level, the two larger 3m high panels present two variations of the 'Mother and Child' theme. The two 'Bambini' reliefs measuring 2m in height can be seen on the KGV wings on the 9th floor. All four sculptures are in the Della Robbia tradition of the early Renaissance. The colours are warm cream on a Della Robia blue background. These colours originally formed the motif throughout the KGV building.

'On the clear, cool evening of the 8th May 1941, the King George V Memorial Hospital for Mothers and Babies presented a picture of fantastic beauty. Powerful floodlights picked out every detail of the stream-lined facade, every light within was lit, and every window sparkled. The balconies were banners of light rising one above the other to end abruptly against the night sky. One of the nurses in the RPA Preliminary Training School in early 1941 remembers we were told to stay back in the evening to form a guard of honour with the Junior Resident Medical Officers for the opening. We spent ages ironing our uniforms, polishing our shoes and preparing our butterfly caps. The doctors stood on one side of the red carpet and the nurses on the other.'

— Anonymous, June 1941

Museum Walking Tour
RPA Museum Image: First Matron Parry Evans with nurses and babies, 1941

Last stop, RPA Museum