It is with a nostalgic nod to a bygone era that we say goodbye to Riddiford House – the last of Wellington Regional Hospital’s former Nurses Quarters.
In 1883, Wellington Hospital established the first formal nursing training programme in New Zealand. For the next 90 years, supervised Nurses Homes would be built on hospital grounds throughout the country in order to attract ‘respectable’ young women to the profession. In that period there were fewer men in nursing, with most mainly involved in psychiatric care. By the late 1970s and early 1980s hospital based Nurses Homes around the country would be demolished or re-purposed, as polytechnics and universities began offering degree programmes.
Opened on 6 November 1958, and named after Daniel Riddiford one of Wellington’s earliest settlers, Riddiford House was one of three dedicated Nurses Homes built on the Wellington Hospital campus. It was better known as ‘Building No.3’ by the thousands of students and nurses that passed through its dormitories throughout the late 1950s – 1970s.
In an era when nurses were required to stand to attention whenever a doctor entered the ward, and daily duties also included dusting, changing bed pans and making beds so that the Wellington Hospital emblem could be seen from the doorway; surprisingly the dormitory rules weren’t always closely observed by some of Riddiford House’s young residents! The recent demolition work has prompted many people to share some of their more colourful memories – such as smuggling young admirers in past supervising matrons, or returning well after curfew! As one former nurse recalls, there are “Great memories of nurses in white uniforms, caps and red capes, looking like butter wouldn’t melt!”
In the 1990s, the building would become home to men working aboard the Cook Straight Ferry, and it would also serve as accommodation for staff, medical students, families visiting from out of town and for a while, social housing tenants. Wellington Hospital’s Eye Clinic was also located in Riddiford House until it moved next door to the Grace Neil building in 2010. With engineering reports highlighting significant concerns for its seismic safety, the building was been empty for some years.
We are incredibly grateful to property developer and philanthropist Mr Mark Dunajtschik for building and gifting a new children’s hospital for our region, and it is exciting that construction is now underway. Working alongside the Capital Coast District Health Board and Wellington Hospitals Foundation, this new children’s hospital will be completely different from anything we’ve seen before and will ensure a brighter future for generations of children to come.
The entire project will cost $100 million. The Foundation is now fundraising to raise $6 million to equip this stunning new building with state of the art medical equipment, and to ensure that it is a welcoming and family-friendly environment.
Join us on this journey and donate to the ‘All Brand New’ Wellington Regional New Children’s Hospital Equipment Fund by donating online here!
Check out how the new children’s hospital is taking shape the next time you’re passing!
Some of your memories of Riddiford!
“I met my husband at the bottom of those steps on a blind date in May 1969 and we are still together nearly 50 years later!!!!”
“ My bedroom was on the 6th floor at the left far end of the building, next to the conservatory, I enjoyed the stay there, you shared the bathrooms but I remember it was all a good atmosphere to live in. If we wanted to go out, especially if you were going to be out after 12-1 am at the latest, you had to get a late pass before you even went out from the Matron who looked after the home!! You were in trouble if you were late home. You had to go up to Number one Nurses Home to have your meals, so if you were on Mornings you had to get up early and run up there, gobble down your food and be on the ward by 6.45 am”
“Sneaking back into the nurses home after a night out so late, that we would have been locked out had it not been for that nice supervisor who let us in!!”
“I have many fond memories of the parties that were held every night on one floor or another, sneaking boys in through the fire escape doors and much much more. I have been watching this building coming down, bit by bit and have a heavy heart. The memories will always stay with me and to the great people that shared the adventure with me and helped me “survive” the training and the cockroaches in the kitchen, THANK YOU”
“I lived in this building during my training after the compulsory 3 months in the old red brick nurses home!”
“OMG that building was an integral part of my youth. Many happy days.’