Willow Court has been known by many names; Invalid Barracks, Colonial Hospital, Madhouse New Norfolk, Her Majesty’s Lunatic Asylum, Mental Diseases Hospital, Lachlan Park and Royal Derwent Hospital. Thankfully attitudes towards mental health have changed a bit over the years!
The complex opened in 1827, 3 years before Port Arthur, making it the oldest asylum in Tasmania. It was used as a general hospital for the region and an invalid depot for convicts in the early years before being used solely as an asylum for the mentally ill from 1848. It was a self-sufficient compound with a chapel and school, kitchen, community house, surgery, pharmacy, bowling green, pool, dairy and orchard. It even had several of its own ‘dead houses’. The institution closed in 2000 when patients were assimilated into the community, and its grounds and buildings are now in various states of disrepair.
The day we visited, we were invited to take a look inside part of The Barracks, which housed the surgery and doctor’s room. Derwent Valley Arts and Salamanca Arts have been granted permission to use The Barracks as a gallery space. I like the idea of this, but it would be good keep the original character of the place intact.
I’m looking forward to going back to learn more, and perhaps book a Tasmania’s Most Haunted Ghost Tour with Sharmaine. The place certainly has a ‘feel’ about it.
Willow Court takes its name from a willow tree planted by Lady Jane Franklin, said to be a cutting from the grave of Napoleon. The tree was felled in 1962.
The Barracks is the oldest part of Willow Court Asylum | New Norfolk | Portra 160
Dev/scan | Ikigai Camera.