Following the sale of Willow Grove, 34 Phillip Street, Parramatta in 1903 to partially satisfy the accumulated debts of local draper Annie Gallagher, the property was purchased by the firm of W & A McArthur Ltd, one of the creditors seeking recompense from Annie’s Assigned Estate.
The property was rented out for a time before being transferred on 1 November 1906 to the ownership of Elizabeth Melhuish, the second wife of Henry Dutton Melhuish of Granville.
Henry Meluish had lived in Parkes for a number of years and then relocated to Spring Hill near Orange, New South Wales in about 1883. After the death of his first wife, he married widow, Elizabeth Hubbard at Granville in 1898. Elizabeth was a property owner in her own right and held a number of rental properties in the area. Henry Melhuish had made his money from his engineering business H D Melhuish and Son, of Spring Hill. Melhuish had a talent for invention and registered a number of patents for his improved machinery designs for agricultural purposes.
It is certain that the couple resided at Willow Grove during the period 1906 to 1915 after which the property was probably rented out. The Sands Directory lists a Mr and Mrs S Hoffman as occupying the property in 1915 and later in 1917 a Mrs Brown was noted in the local newspaper as the occupier.
Elizabeth Melhuish retained ownership of Willow Grove until 1919. By that time Henry and Elizabeth had purchased the home Taringa in Granville where Elizabeth passed away in 1924.  In the transfer of title dated 5 February 1919, Evangeline Estelle Davidson, wife of Robert Davidson of Ashfield became the new owner of Willow Grove with the purpose of opening a private hospital in the property. Willow Grove was in continuous use as a private hospital for the next thirty-four years.
The new hospital was to be known as Estella and was licensed as a “medical, surgical, and lying-in” facility with a capacity of ‘not more than fourteen medical, surgical and lying-in cases in six wards”. Estella was one of 129 small private hospitals operating in NSW during this period.
The NSW Private Hospital Act of 1908 ensured the regular inspection and annual licencing of private hospitals in order to raise the standard of medical care and reduce the numbers of untrained staff. The convention of ‘lying-in’ was the name given to the medical practise where a pregnant woman would be hospitalised for a period of bed rest before and after the birth of the child.
It was customary to announce the birth of a child in the local newspaper and there are many notices published in local newspapers mentioning the place of the event as Estella Private Hospital or Sister Davidson’s Private Hospital, Parramatta. Grateful patients sometimes publicly thanked those associated with a successful medical outcome.
After four and a half years of operation the hospital, Davidson sold the premises to nursing sister May Victoria West on 23 July 1923. Sister West announced that the hospital was now to be known as Westcourt.
May Victoria West retained ownership of the property for twenty-six years until August 1949, however in October 1925 she leased the property to that Sister Amy Agnes Allen and Sister (Elvira) Maud Lowe as a private hospital with the new name of Aloha. One of the clauses within the lease agreement stipulated that the building was restricted to use as a private hospital.
Maude Lowe had passed her ATNA (Australasian Trained Nurses Association) general nursing examinations in June 1921 and was training at Parramatta District Hospital at that time. Amy Agnes Allen had completed her general nursing accreditation in December 1918 had passed her examination in Obstetric Nursing while a trainee at St John's Nursing Home, Young, NSW, prior to moving to Parramatta to continue her training at the district hospital.
It seems that the hospital did not continue under the management of nurses Lowe and Allen for very long as in 1927 the lease of the building was taken over by sisters, Hannah Florence McLachlan and Mary McLachlan.
The sisters had previously operated Inchneuk Private Hospital on the corner of Smith Street and George Street, Parramatta in partnership with Mary Helena Watson. Watson continued to operate Inchneuk and the sisters commenced management of Aloha in Willow Grove.
Hannah McLachlan undertook her nursing training at Lister Private Hospital in Lithgow, NSW and her sister Mary in the Goulburn District and became registered nurses on 31 January 1927.
After the closure of Willow Grove as a private hospital in 1953, a portion of the land was sold off to Parramatta City Council for use as a car park and open space. The residue of the block became the property of the Commonwealth of Australia and was transferred to the ownership of the Post-Master General Department in June 1953 for use as office for engineering staff.
In March 1987 part of the land was transferred to Agostino Bros Pty Ltd, then in 1994 the property was purchased by US-based company Forever Living Products owner Rex Maughan, who renovated the property and operated his company from Willow Grove.
From June 2015, the property was owned by Parramatta City Council until resumption for the construction of the Powerhouse Parramatta precinct which commenced in January 2022.
Cathy McHardy, Research Assistant, City of Parramatta, 2022
- Certificate of Title: Volume 1052 Folio 160
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- A Patent. (1899, September 27). Leader. p. 6 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/252159287
- Certificate of Title: Volume 1052 Folio 160
- Licence in NRS 905, Colonial Secretary, Special Bundles, Private Hospital Licences 1918-9, SANSW 5/8033
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- ATNA Examinations. (1918, December 19). Sydney Morning Herald, p. 8. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/15816305
- ATNA. (1923, December 1). Sydney Morning Herald, p. 14. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/16106237
- Public Notices. (1927, November 4). Sydney Morning Herald, p. 1. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/16416107
- State Records and Archives of NSW: Nurses Index 1926-1954
- To ease P O overcrowding. The Cumberland Argus. p. 1. (1953, July 29) Retrieved on 15/02/2022 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/132141368
- Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences: https://www.maas.museum/new-powerhouse/
- Estella Private Hospital. http://historyandheritage.cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au/blog/2013/11/29/estella-private-hospital-parramatta-1920-1953