The Two Towers of St Margaret’s Hospital

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit St Margaret’s Hospital. A former convalescent (and later rehabilitation) hospital in the seaside suburb of Semaphore. Thanks to my fantastic guide, I was given a tour of the site that gave me a small insight into the history of St Margaret’s.

St Margaret’s was built as a convalescent home where patients would receive short term rehabilitative care. Sites were often chosen near the ocean as sea air was thought to be beneficial for recovery.

Of particular note is the buildings two towers, which very much draw the eye. Most internal evidence of there use has long since gone.

Back in the office, I consulted A History of St Margaret’s Rehabilitation Hospital by Ian L D Forbes to see if i could find out more about them. What follows is a brief summary from this book regarding the two towers of St Margaret’s:

St Margaret’s Circa 1915. Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia B46960

The smaller tower was built in 1875, part of the first section of the hospital to be built, with wings added later. The tower was almost 10 metres high with a flat roof, a balustrade and flag pole. The first floor had a smoking room and stairs leading up to the roof top promenade. From here patients could enjoy uninterrupted views of the surrounds as well as the sea breeze.

Foundation stone for the first section of the hospital built.

The second and taller tower was built with the addition of the Angas Wing in 1891. This tower was over 15 metres tall and featured a lookout and viewing platform. This tower also had a hydraulic lift, which at least initially, did not work as desired due to the poor water pressure at the hospital. The Angas wing was originally intended to house children, so with this in mind the tower had a brightly coloured awning to shade children from the sun.

In 1934 and 1935, due to the advancing age of the building the towers were closed off and the promenades were removed and covered with iron roofing.

Painting showing St Margaret's Building
Painting showing the front view of the hospital (painted after the removal of the promenades. It is hanging on the walls of St Margarets.

By Jonathan Hull