Professional people working in Beecroft

 Medical Services

Beecroft and Cheltenham were founded at a time of tuberculosis, cholera and the plague in Sydney. By way of example Clarice Green, a 9 year old girl, died of typhoid fever in Beecroft in 1897. Because of its altitude many people moved to Beecroft in the hope that family members could recuperate in the higher altitude and dry air. Families who gave this reason for moving to the district included the Coward, Holcombe, Nixon, Pierce, Seale, Skellett and Vernon families. Later in the 1920s the Surgeon family of Cheltenham said that they moved from Charters Towers because of the climate.

Early General Medical Practitioners

The first trained medical practitioner with a connection with the locality of Beecroft was John Savage who received a grant of land in what is now the northern part of the suburb. There is no evidence that he even visited, let alone lived or practised, on this land [1].

The earliest local medical services were provided by a friendly society branch that was founded by the local station master in 1895. This friendly society arranged for a Pymble doctor, Dr Walters, to see members on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.   

The first doctor recorded as having a practice in Beecroft was Dr Mark Cowley Lidwell who practised between 1904-1912. He initially lived in the two story house near the corner of Beecroft and Copeland Roads – that became Beecroft College. While there he purchased the land and then built a new home and surgery (from 1909) at Lorne, 63 Beecroft Road (now part of Arden School) [2].

Arriving in Beecroft in 1909 was Dr Ellen Wood [3] and in the following year Lidwill sold his practice to Dr Charles Rygate.

[1]      For more information on John Savage see elsewhere on this website.

[2]      For more information on Dr Mark Lidwill see a separate article on him under People and for his home see under Houses, Lorne Beecroft Road

[3]      For more information on Dr Ellen Wood see elsewhere on this web site under People.

Charles Daniel Harley Rygate

Dr Rygate was the son of a surgeon, Robert and Jane. He was born on 24 December 1860 in Hartley, NSW. He attended Sydney Grammar and then the University of Sydney where he obtained a BA. He then pursued his medical studies in England where in 1889 he obtained his specialist qualifications of MRCS and LRCP. Later he returned to Guys Hospital in London, England, to obtain a Diploma in Public Health in 1902.As a teenager and young man he was a keen athlete and also played intercolonial football [1]. He married Claire.

Following his obtaining his specialist qualifications he returned and worked in his father’s practice in Wellington NSW before being appointed as the Government Medical Officer in Warren in 1890 [2]. After returning from his second trip to England he lived in Brisbane before running a medical practice in Orange [3]. In 1910 he purchased the medical practice and home of Dr Lidwill in Beecroft. Apart from his general practice Rygate also undertook public health initiatives such as vaccinating some 550 local people by 16 August 1913 [4].

Rygate employed (possibly Lidwill may have also previously done so) Harold Roberts as a ‘house steward.’ Roberts was one of the first to enlist and he fought at Gallipoli, was awarded the Military Cross on the Western front and was finally killed at Flanders [5]. Mrs Rygate presided over the Red Cross response to World War 1.

He sold his practice to Dr Davis in 1918 to undertake effort for the War [6].

In about 1923 he became a ships doctor for health reasons and then died while sailing between Auckland and Sydney in 1926. He was buried at sea [7].

[1]      Cowra Free Press, 7 May 1926 p.5; Gosford Times, 13 May 1926 p. 16.

[2]      Government Gazette, July 1890 p. 6171

[3]      1903 Electoral Roll; Pugh’s Almanac & Queensland Directory 1911. Dr Watt purchased the Orange practice and he separately sold his effects: Wellington Times, 11 April 1910 p. 2.

[4]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 16 August 1913 p8. Also see the article elsewhere on the web site on the Spanish Influenza pandemic. 

[5]      Sydney Morning Herald, 5 October 1917. At his death he was a lieutenant, 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade. He is buried at Reninghelst, Flanders, Belgium. T Cuneen, Beecroft and Cheltenham in WW1 (Deerubbin Press, Hornsby, 2006) p. 55.

[5]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 13 July 1918 p.6.

[6]      Cowra Free Press, 7 May 1926 p.5; Gosford Times, 13 May 1926 p. 16.

Arthur Christian Holt

In 1913 Dr Arthur Christian Holt (1873-1942) established a practice on the corner of Copeland and Beecroft Roads.

Dr Holt had attended The Kings School (1887-91) [1] was a keen sportsman playing in the 1st XV Rugby in 1890 and the 1st XI cricket in 1891 at The Kings School, tennis and (after moving to Beecroft) was an active supporter of Pennant Hills Golf Club which he re-founded by calling a meeting in 1922 and where he was a director from 1923-1928 [2]. He was also the local leader of the New Guard in the early 1930s [3]. His daughter was married at St James King Street in the Sydney CBD to Dr R H Macdonald in 1929 – at the commencement of the Great Depression. Her dress comprised “a wispy frock of orchid pink georgette, made with graduated tucks, and dipping into a peacock skirt at the back. Behind her trailed a white over pink tulle train, over which fell a foamy white veil of white cut tulle. The shower bouquet that she held was made up of pink roses, lily of the valley and stephanotis” [4].

One of the trials of being a doctor at this time was when the streets turned into a ‘huge swamp’ resulting in help being needed to dig Dr Holt’s car out of (for example) the mud pits in Shields Lane, Pennant Hills [].

[1]      P Yeend (ed), The Kings School Register 1831-1981 (The Kings School, Parramatta, 1982) p 143

[2]      R Harper, Golf in the Pennant Hills District (Pennant Hills Gold Club, Beecroft, 2000) p 30

[3]      See elsewhere on this web site for politics in Beecroft in the 1930s.

[4]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 28 December 1929, p18

[5]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 16 May 1917 p2.

Doctors of 1940s to 1960s

Dr Cook, Lorne Beecroft Road

Dr Donaldson, Hannah Street

Dr Terry, Hannah Street

Dr Sillar, Cheltenham


In 1903 the Progress Association discussed the need for a local hospital for consumptives [1].

A hospital was located on what is the present Village Green during the time of World War 1. Kendra was a convalescent hospital which operated in a building on the Village Green (north of the tennis courts) in about 1929.

Sister Margaret Howard built a cottage maternity hospital ‘Kirra’ in 1939 at 66 Beecroft Road. The hospital closed in the 1960s and the building was demolished in about 2005. Sister Howard was a triple certificated nursing sister and ran the 7 ward hospital with the assistance of her two sisters who acted as cook and bookkeeper. Stuart Braga (later a noted history teacher and Chair, Beecroft Cheltenham History Group) had a tonsillectomy in the hospital so that it obviously provided some surgery in addition to obstetrics. 

A number of the local general practitioners also operated in their surgeries.

[1]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 14 March 1903

Early Dentists

Dr Isaac Percy Cliff

Dr Cliff was born on 18 December 1870 to John William and Jessie Louise Cliff in St Peters. While growing up in Sydney he went to the United States in about 1891 and while there he obtained a doctorate in dentistry from Philadelphia Dental College, Philadelphia, United States of America [1]. He married Annie W Blanchard in Philadelphia on 4 November 1896 at Walnut Street Presbyterian.

He and his wife returned to Sydney in 1898 and stayed in the Colony until 1904 when they returned to Philadelphia for a year during which time he was a ‘demonstrator’ presumably at the College from which he graduated [2]. In 1899 he was practising at 135 Liverpool Street Sydney and then in 1900 at 149 Elizabeth Street while living in Burwood Road, Burwood. In 1901 he was living at Cliff Villa off Glen Street, North Sydney and had a child. Between 1903 and 1904 he was in Beecroft until his return trip to the States [3].

When he returned from the United States in 1905 he set up at The Albany, 201 Macquarie Street and lectured at the University of Sydney. He was noted as an expert in gum disease. He married Elizabeth Bibby at Ryde in 1907 [4].

Because of ill-health he established a dental practice in Muswellbrook in 1910 when he moved in 1922 to Watt Street Newcastle [5].

Cliff died 15 October 1922.

[1]      Macleay Chronicle, 18 October 1922 p. 4.

[2]      Muswellbrook Chronicle, 10 February 1909 p.2.

[3]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 2 July 1904.

[3]      Muswellbrook Chronicle, 10 February 1909 p.2.

[4]      The Catholic Press, 17 March 1910 p. 46; Newcastle Morning Herald, 17 October 1922 p. 5

Dr William Morton

Like Dr Cliff he was a graduate of Philadelphia Dental College, United States of America graduating in 1899. In 1913 he was practising in Copeland Road.  

Frederick Charles Stephens

Frederick Stephens was registered as a dentist in 1901 and in 1914 had a practice in Elizabeth Street Sydney. In 1913 however his practise was at Clutha, 8 Hannah Street. That property was later the home and practice of Os Seale.

Oswald Owen Seale

Oswald Owen Seale was born in 1882 to John and Maria Seale who built and moved to Mindaribba Malton Road, Beecroft. He graduated in dentistry at the University of Sydney and was first registered in 1903. He then commenced practice in Grafton before arriving back in Beecroft in 1905 where he established a practice at his parent’s home. In 1909 he married Jean Lyall Brown and opened his practice at what was afterwards to become Beecroft Grammar on Beecroft Road, but had just been vacated by Dr Lidwill. His mother-in-law died at Croyne, corner Malton Road and Wongala Crescent (as they are now known) in 1910 and their daughter was born in Croyne in 1912. In 1914 he opened up a surgery further north in Beecroft Road (second house north of Hannah Street) where he remained until around 1925. In 1926 he was living and conducting his practice at Lyndley 8 Hannah Street – which had previously been built for the Sargents and been the dental practice of Dr Stephens [1].

Seale died 4 July 1972 at 513 Pennant Hills Road, Pennant Hills.

[1]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 11 July 1908 p.10, 20 May 1905 p. 10, 23 December 1905 p. 10, Sydney Morning Herald 1 December 1910 p. 14; Government Gazette 18 February 1914 p. 1075.

Harry Gordon Vernon

Harry Vernon was born 6 November 1879. He practised initially in Pitt Street in Sydney CBD but also had a surgery which had been included in his parent’s home, ‘Cranbrook’ corner Malton and Sutherland Roads by way of a separate entrance [1].

He had a brush with notoriety when in 1920 he was involved in a murder trial. The trial was of Eugene Falleni (born Eugenia Falleni) who was charged with murdering Annie Crawford in 1917. Annie had married Eugene (who was then calling himself Harry Leo Crawford) in 1910 and, it was alleged, she had discovered that he was transgender in 1917. Vernon identified the teeth of the burnt corpse as those of Annie Crawford that he had worked on in 1910 [2]. 

He enlisted in World War 1 in 1915 at the age of 35 years and returned in 1919.

Vernon died on 17 February 1939 and had been living at 22 Malton Road for a number of years.

[1]      Sydney Morning Herald, 17 September 1910

[2]      Daily Telegraph, 6 October 1920 p.9.