Learn more about the origins of the Royal Melbourne Hospital and how it has evolved over more than 170 years

Key points

  • The hospital’s foundation stone was laid on 20 March 1846 and it opened in 1848
  • The hospital is one of Victoria’s oldest public institutions
  • It was renamed the Royal Melbourne Hospital by Royal Charter on 27 March 1935
  • The RMH moved to its present location in Parkville in 1944
Aerial view of the RMH during Second World War
Aerial view looking north of the Royal Melbourne Hospital showing the buildings during Second World War. Also shows the Haymarket, University of Melbourne, Royal Parade and Parkville.

In early 1841 a group of community-minded citizens came together to give the people of a rapidly growing village access to critical medical treatment, housed in a humble cottage.

This was long before Victoria’s imposing Parliament House or the renowned Melbourne Cricket Ground was ever imagined. 

Only a decade after Melbourne was first settled, the hospital’s foundation stone was laid with much fanfare and a public procession on 20 March 1846. In contrast there was little celebration when the hospital opened two years later, on 15 March 1848.

The patients on this day numbered six (two inpatients and four outpatients) and all were male - the first two female patients were treated on 22 March 1848. As was the custom of the day, all were admitted on the recommendation of a subscriber or financial benefactor to the hospital. 

During its first year, a total of 89 inpatients and 98 outpatients were treated.

The hospital through the years

The hospital continues to this day as one of Victoria’s oldest public institutions, predating the University of Melbourne and the State Library of Victoria, both founded in 1854. Indeed it is older than Victoria itself, which became a separate colony from New South Wales in 1851, three years after the hospital opened.

Originally called the Melbourne Hospital and situated in a 10-bed, two-storey cottage on the corner of Lonsdale and Swanston Streets, the hospital expanded and was then completely rebuilt on that site in 1913.

It moved to its present location on Grattan Street in 1944 but remnants of the old buildings still exist on its original site within the QV Centre.

Renamed the Royal Melbourne Hospital by Royal Charter on 27 March 1935, the hospital in 2005 amalgamated with the former Mount Royal Hospital and now encompasses a site at Royal Park as well as mental health services across inner west and western Melbourne.

Learn more about the history of the RMH

Breakthroughs and milestones

Learn more about the breakthroughs and innovations first achieved at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. 

Our 175th anniversary

The Royal Melbourne Hospital was Victoria's first public hospital and celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2023.

Our archives

The Archives of the Royal Melbourne Hospital document the traditions and history of the oldest public hospital in Victoria.

History of the RMH Parkville

Learn more about the history of the Royal Melbourne Hospital at its inner city Melbourne and Grattan Street sites.

History of the RMH Royal Park

Learn more about the history of the Royal Melbourne Hospital's Royal Park campus.

Historical publications

Historical publications tell the story of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, our services and our people.

James Beaney: an eccentric surgeon from our past

James Beaney was a surgeon at the Melbourne Hospital from 1860 to 1891. His every step invited controversy and divided public opinion.

The RMH Medical Voices: oral histories with our senior doctors

The Royal Melbourne Hospital is preserving insights into our events and activities through oral history recordings with senior medical staff.

Then and Now: Online photographic exhibition

Be transported back in time and see some of our most-treasured historical photos placed side-by-side with modern-day versions, and read about how we've transformed over the years.

Timeline of our cancer research and treatment

View our timeline of cancer research and treatment between 1857 and 2016 and discover the major contributions our researchers and clinicians have made.