Gladesville Hospital

Gladesville Hospital

Gladesville Hospital constructed with historic sandstone was a psychiatric hospital established in 1838 in the suburb of Gladesville, Sydney, Australia. Its original name was Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum.

Prior to 1838, people with mental or emotional problems in the Sydney area were housed in a “lunatic asylum” in Liverpool, a suburb on the south-western fringes of Sydney, or at the Female Factory inParramatta, twenty-four kilometres west of Sydney. In the 1830s, construction of a purpose-built asylum began on the banks of the Parramatta River, in the area now known as Gladesville. The originalsandstone complex was designed by the Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis, between 1836 and 1838. Patients were then transferred from Liverpool and the Female Factory.

The first supervisor was John Thomas Digby, who sought to improve the treatment of the mentally ill, as did his successor, Frederick Norton Manning. On a visit to Sydney in 1867, Manning was invited by Henry Parkes to become medical superintendent of the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum. Before accepting, Manning went overseas and studied methods of patient care and administration of asylums; on his return to Sydney he submitted a notable report. He was appointed to Tarban Creek on 15 October 1868 and immediately reported on the isolation of patients from their relations in accommodation best described as ‘prison-like and gloomy’, the inadequate facilities for their gainful employment and recreation and the monotonous diets deficient in both quantity and quality. In January 1869 the asylum’s name was changed to the Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville, wherein patients were to receive treatment rather than be confined in a ‘cemetery for diseased intellects’. By 1879 radical changes in patient care and accommodation had been made. Gladesville was extended and modernized and an asylum for imbeciles set up in Newcastle and a temporary asylum at Cooma. Manning minimized the use of restraint and provided for patient activities.