What was the Benevolent Asylum
The Asylum was administered by the NSW Benevolent Society, which was established in 1818 as a philanthropic organisation caring primarily for the needy of Sydney. In a colony where so many had been separated from their families through transportation or emigration, it served a vital role throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries caring for the poor, abandoned, destitute and sick.
It was an asylum in the sense of being a place of refuge, it did not house the insane.
The Benevolent Asylum was located on George Street close to present-day Broadway. It backed on to the Old Sydney Burial Ground (Devonshire Street Cemetery) and was demolished to make way for the current Central Railway Station in 1901.
Prior to 1850 its chief purpose was to assist married women, especially those nearing confinement, older men and families. After the government resumed the Liverpool Hospital in 1862, men ceased to be processed through the Sydney Benevolent Asylum and went directly to Liverpool. Thereafter only male babies and small boys continued to be admitted to the Benevolent Asylum. Adult men went directly to Liverpool Hospital (these records are held with State Records NSW)
The focus of the Sydney Benevolent Asylum then shifted to helping pregnant women, both married and single, during their confinement.
The index available on this site will therefore be useful for finding a wide range of people who fell on hard times throughout the 19th century.
Bear in mind that no adult males were admitted to the Benevolent Asylum after the early 1860s.