Friday, October 19, 2012

Gladesville Mental Hospital

During my childhood days my family frequently drove past Gladesville Hospital (once known unfortunately as the Lunatic Asylum) on the way to my cousins’ home at Eastwood. For some unaccountable reason I was always intrigued by the notion of asylums and Gladesville’s appearance and somewhat clandestine history always appealed to my wild imagination.

It claims some architectural and historical significance, being the first purpose built lunatic asylum in the colony. It was constructed between 1880 and 1884, and received its first patients in October 1884. Originally named Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum in January 1869 Manning had it renamed the Gladesville Hospital for the Insane. The grounds cover a substantial area and contain a variety of incredible ruins from the 1870s. One which seems more derelict than the rest is a grey stone structure surrounded by a cyclone wire fence and totally overgrown with lantana. It is approached up a set of stone steps. The hospital was in effect decommissioned in 1997 when all in-patient services were transferred to Macquarie Hospital, North Ryde.
 Peter Colthorpe (Coordinator of the Friends of Gladesville Hospital) claims it began as a folly, an extravagant garden structure often built by the wealthy. It had been used as a staging post, where officers of the Colony could stay overnight on their way from Parramatta or back, and also as part of Frederick Norton Manning's (Superintendent of the Gladesville Hospital in the mid eighteen hundreds - a pioneer in the more humane treatment of the mentally ill) intent to use nature to help treat mental health patients. They had no drugs at the time. Today, the building is officially declared a 'garden remnant'. It was difficult to obtain a clear shot due to the wire fence and I was conscious that climbing amongst the lantana was probably not the most sensible of actions given my recently broken ankle. It would be a magical location for some light painting :-)

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