History of Tweddle

Tweddle came into being in 1920 through Sister Maude Primrose, a graduate in infant welfare and disciple of Dr. (later Sir) Truby King of New Zealand. Approaching a Mr J.T. Tweddle in company with the Hon. J.Hume and Dr J.W.Springthorpe, a well known lung chest and heart specialist who was appalled at the infant mortality figures.

This little band wanted something done about it and although infant welfare centres controlled by Plunket Sisters had been set up in Coburg and Footscray, there was no place to train further double certified sisters in the methods of baby care that had proved so successful in New Zealand.

Miss Primrose and Dr. Springthorpe put the case to Mr Tweddle who had a property at Greensborough but in 1920 Greensborough was virtually in the ‘wilds’ so that idea was scrapped.

In the meantime Miss Primrose had enlisted other helpers including Mr. Gent, the Town Clerk of Footscray and Mr J Levy. They called on Mr Tweddle again, the Footscray Council granted the site and Mr Tweddle donated 3000 pounds to start building operations and he guaranteed the overdraft up to 7000 pounds, the amount he received for his Greensborough property.

Miss Moreland who had been one of Dr. Truby King’s Sisters was brought from New Zealand as Matron for Tweddle and was so keen to improve conditions that she worked for at least the first six months without salary.

Matron Moreland who eventually returned to New Zealand was followed by Matron Gertrude Graham and upon her retirement Matron Evelyn Ross was appointed to take charge of Tweddle (1948).

No it’s not Tweedle!

If we had a dollar for every time we let people know that we are Tweddle, not Tweedle, we’d be rich! It was 96 years ago that Joseph Thornton Tweddle started Tweddle Hospital For Babies and School of Mothercraft. Back then Tweddle was looking after the most vulnerable of children, many of them abandoned or foundling babies.

Joseph Thornton Tweddle (1865-1943), businessman and philanthropist, was born on 14 April 1865 at Winlaton, Durham, England. He was one of eight children and was born into a working family, his father Thomas a butcher.

Joseph was educated at the local council school and he had some commercial experience with an ironmongery firm at Newcastle upon Tyne. Joseph had poor health and when it deteriorated he migrated to Victoria in 1887.

He was introduced, possibly by letter, to Henry Angus who worked a farm with his brother at Mincha West. He later partnered the brothers in irrigation development at Kow Swamp and at Benjeroop.

The Benjeroop scheme failed due to drought. Joseph then started clerical work with the Colonial Gas Association Ltd, Melbourne, and then with a firm of solicitors.

On 5 April 1893 he married Lilian Billis. Sadly his new wife died two years later in 1895.

As an accountant, in 1896 he joined Andrews Bros Pty Ltd, a woollen warehouse in Flinders Lane and by 1899, aged 34, he was a director. In 1904 Joseph married Isabel May Hunter.

He was a member in 1915-16 of a royal commission to inquire into the Victorian Public Service. Its report was scathingly critical of management and operations. By this time Joseph was managing director of Andrews Bros.

The firm expanded greatly during World War I and ended up with branches across Australia and in London. In 1933 he became chairman of directors of the business.

Joseph was very active in public service and was councillor (1915-39) and president (1935-39) of Queen’s College at the University of Melbourne and a councillor of Wesley College (1921-43). He funded extensions to both Wesley and Queens College which were completed in 1923.

We are grateful to Jim Hevey who documented ‘An Historical Tribute to Tweddle – ’95 years of Community Service’. This fundraising book is available to purchase at Tweddle.

We are always grateful for past Tweddle staff, babies and parents to keep in touch. Please let us know if you would like to become a Friend of Tweddle. Email our Communications Manager.


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