IN this week’s tale from the Vincent Local History Centre we have the story of Newcastle Street’s nurse Alice Stockley, a pioneering midwife and nurse who supported her family solo while building a private hospital.
THE Vincent Local History Centre receives many interesting and curious donations.
In 2019 treasure hunter Kenneth Barber shared a lucky find he salvaged from the Rockingham tip.
Sitting beside a pile of old washing machines, Kenneth found the brass name plate of Nurse Stockley’s Private Hospital, which stood on the corner of Newcastle and Loftus streets in West Perth.
Kenneth soon realised the name plate had historic value and he kindly donated it to the city’s Local History Collection.
The nameplate is currently on loan to the WA Women’s Hall of Fame for a travelling exhibition honouring the 2021 inductees which includes nurse Alice Maud Stockley.
Alice Stockley arrived in Perth in 1907 with a family of four children. Soon after their arrival, her husband Joseph deserted her and the children.
She supported her family as a registered midwife with a practice at 47 Newcastle Street in East Perth, which was also the family home.
In 1913 she purchased vacant land at 590 Newcastle Street and took out two mortgages to build the hospital, which opened three years before King Edward Maternity Hospital.
The 10-room private maternity hospital employed five doctors on call, which was rare at this time for Perth.
Her three daughters and her granddaughter Viola Smoker were later employed as nurse aids with duties such as cleaning, cooking and attending to the patients.
Alice had a tennis court built next door to the hospital with a clay surface and lights to hire out for added income.
The hospital grounds also included a chicken coop, flowers and fruit trees and a rose-covered archway at the entrance gate.
Over the years, Alice opened another hospital at 572 Newcastle Street – Highercrombie Maternity Hospital.
In 1944, she retired aged 78 and died a year later. She was interred at Karrakatta Cemetery and she was honoured in an obituary that praised her fortitude and life’s work as a midwife.
After her death, the hospital at 590 Newcastle Street continued to operate as the Blaich Appin Maternity Hospital.
It was purchased by the Department of Health in 1949 and converted to a child health and welfare clinic.
The property was listed on the city’s Municipal Heritage Inventory in 2009 due it its significance in the development of maternity and obstetrics health services in the area during the first half of the 20th century.
It was removed from the Municipal Heritage Inventory in 2012. The building was sold in 2013 is currently in private ownership.
Nurse Stockley’s descendants Rod Smoker and Brian Christmass have shared photographs and stories about their remarkable ancestor which are available via the Vincent Local History Centre and online at https://cityofvincent.imagegallery.me/