Peter Gower talks to us about John Watkins.
Well John Watkins, who gave the money for that first wing, as far as I understand had been in Kingston during the period when we were the capital, and that news that we were going to be the capital excited a lot of people because they realized that, wonderful as it was, there really wasn’t accommodation for many things.
So the empty hospital became the parliament building, the Summer Hill, opposite of the hospital, became offices and residences of civil servants. And people like John Watkins started making their money by building houses, good houses, for the members of parliament, or the civil servants who were coming in, and if you look to city records you’ll find Watkins name constantly appears in the early records of houses being built in the 1840s in Sydenham Ward.
He obviously was a philanthropic because then in 1860 when they decided that the hospital needed an extension, needed to have more to it, he gave that money. Later on we know that he gave money to St. George’s Cathedral and he’s remembered there with now three stained-glass windows, and when they were lost in the 1899 fire they are amongst the first windows which were replaced. So then even a number of years after his death, he was still well remembered. So he’s one of those people that I think is very important in a nineteenth century city, or town when the city itself does not have that amount of money to spend, and it relies on individuals who have made their money and are willing then to be charitable in how they spend money.