Saturday, 15 December 2012
Willow Court & The Barracks
In 1830 the old site Willow Court site accommodated 45 Invalids, 20 Lunatics and a total of 23 staff all but 3 of them were ex convicts. In 1831 the construction of the Barracks was completed, part of which still stands today. The Barracks was described as a hollow square of a building for the insane attached to a three sided court for invalids. The Barracks has eight large single storey wards all with doors into the court yard. The barracks was designed by colonial architect John Lee Archer. The Barracks is a Palladian style with a series of pavilions interconnected by wards that form a central courtyard. The building was divided into male and female divisions. It included surgery, store room, dispensary, kitchens, wash house, mortuary (dead house), chapel, and offices.
The name Willow Court comes from a Willow Tree that was planted in the court yard by Lady Jane Franklin from slips taken from the Willow Tree at the grave of Napoleon. The Barracks courtyard is paved with bricks from the demolition of old wards during the 1960’s. By 1952 all patients were transferred out of the Barracks into other Wards and it was used as a workshop for occupational therapy.
Lunatic Asylum, New Norfolk 1829 – 1859
Hospital For The Insane, New Norfolk, 1859 – 1915
Mental Diseases Hospital, New Norfolk 1915 – 1937
Lachlan Park Hospital 1937 - 1968
and Royal Derwent Hospital 1968-2001.
The Willow Court Asylum Complex is of national historical importance as the longest continuously operating mental health institution in Australia. The Royal Derwent supported up to about 1600 patients and 1500 staff at its maximum. It was a contained town in itself with a dairy, pharmacy, heating plant, farmland, orchards, recreational facilities and kitchen. In 1893 when the Campbell Street Gaol that housed the ‘criminally insane’ was closed, the New Norfolk Hospital for the Insane became the only mental institution in the entire state of Tasmania.
Willow Court officially closed its doors to its staff and patients in October 2000, to the joy and despair of many.
Unfortunately, in the 12 years since the site closed, it has suffered at the hands of vandals who have caused immense damage to the buildings, in some case, burning them down. Some buildings are now under private ownership and small businesses such as antique shops are starting to appear on the site. The local council is now taking a more proactive approach to the preservation & restoration of the site, in particular the more historically important buildings such as the barracks area.
For more information on Willow Court, visit the website:
You can also see what is being done to restore & reuse the site as an interpretation site on the Willow Court Advocacy Group website: