AGY-65 | Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum (1838-68) / Gladesville Hospital for the Insane (1869-1914) / Gladesville Mental Hospital / Gladesville Hospital (1915-93)

NSW State Archives Collection
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On 13 January 1835 Governor Bourke sent a despatch to Britain stating "A lunatic asylum is an Establishment that can no longer be dispensed with. In this Colony, the use of ardent spirits induces the disease called delirium tremens, which frequently terminates in confirmed lunacy. The present asylum is a wretched hired Building without outlet of any kind." (1) In his reply dated 3 August 1835, Lord Glenelg conveyed the British Government's authorisation for expenditure of NSW Colonial government funds for this project. (2)

On 24 April 1837 Governor Bourke reported that the new asylum was approaching completion, and since he considered it impossible to find persons qualified for its superintendence in NSW, he requested that a married couple be engaged and sent out from England as Keeper and Matron. (3) The new Superintendent and Matron, Mr and Mrs Digby, took up residence at Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum on 18 August 1838, with the first patients transferred from Liverpool Asylum and the Female Factory, Parramatta, arriving on 19 November 1838. (4)

Following the recommendations of the Select Committee on the Lunatic Asylum in 1846, changes to administration, staffing, and record keeping occurred. Of major concern was the perceived lack of expert medical direction, resulting in the appointment on 1 January 1848 of a medical superintendent, Dr Francis Campbell, to administer the institution. (5)

Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum subsequently underwent several changes of name, Campbell's successor, Dr Frederick Norton Manning, signed his first yearly report in October 1868 from the Hospital for the Insane, Tarban Creek (6), and the following year from the Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville. (7) In the Inspector General's Report for 1915, the title Hospital for the Insane was replaced by Mental Hospital (8), and by the mid 1960s the institution was known simply as Gladesville Hospital.

Initially all admissions were by order, but from 24 July 1839 a medical certificate was required to accompany all orders for admission (9), and after a successful legal case for wrongful detention in 1843, two independent medical certificates and recommendations by two magistrates were required for the admission of free persons. (10) On 12 December 1843 the NSW Legislative Council passed the Lunacy Act,1843 "for the safe custody of, and prevention of offences by persons dangerously insane, and for the care and maintenance of persons of unsound mind". (11)

The Lunacy Act, 1898 enacted comprehensive procedures and regulations for certification, detention, and record keeping requirements, and made limited and restrictive provision for voluntary admissions (12), which were revised by the Lunacy (Amendment) Act, 1934, which specifically provided for the reception of voluntary patients into hospitals for the insane and licensed houses. (13) Subsequently, patients were admitted under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1958 (Act No 45, 1958), the Mental Health Act 1983 (Act No 178, 1983), and the Mental Health Act 1990 (Act No 9, 1990).

Overcrowding was repeatedly cited as a major problem at Gladesville Hospital (14), but as the emphasis changed from in-patient care to expansion of community based services and the development of psychiatric units in general hospitals, the in-patient population of psychiatric hospitals diminished. (15)

On 29 January 1993 premises at Gladesville Hospital and Macquarie Hospital were revoked as hospitals, and were amalgamated to form the Gladesville Macquarie Hospital. (16) By 1997 all inpatient services were consolidated onto the Macquarie site at North Ryde. (17)

1. Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol.17, p.631.
2. Ibid., Series 1, Vol.18, p.58.
3. Ibid., Series 1, Vol.18, p.736.
4. Bostock, J., The Dawn of Australian Psychiatry, Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Glebe, 1968, p.44 - with reference to a letter from Dr Hall to the Colonial Secretary dated 20 November 1838.
5. Ibid., p.112.
6. Hospital for the Insane, Tarban Creek, Report for the year 1868, NSW Votes and Proceedings 1869, Vol.2, p.623.
7. Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville, Report for the year 1869, NSW Votes and Proceedings 1870, Vol.2, p.591.
8. Inspector General of the Insane, Report for the year 1915, Votes and Proceedings 1916, Vol.2, p.893.
9. NSW Government Gazette, 24 July 1839, p.800.
10. Bostock, op cit, pp.77-78.
11. Lunacy Act, 1843 (7 Victoria Act No 14).
12. Lunacy Act, 1898 (Act No 45, 1898) s. 24A.
13. Lunacy (Amendment) Act, 1934 (Act No 39, 1934).
14. Hospital for the Insane, Tarban Creek, Report for the year 1868, op cit, and Inspector General of Mental Hospitals, Report for the year ended 30 June 1951, NSW Parliamentary Papers 1952-53, Vol.1, p.626 - (as examples).
15. Report of the Health Commission of NSW for the year ended 30 June 1976, NSW Parliamentary Papers 1976-78, Vol.7, p.731.
16. NSW Government Gazette, 29 January 1993, p.308.
17. Report of the Northern Sydney Area Health Service for the year ended 30 June 1997, p.16.

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