Cover image for Royal Derwent Hospital
Royal Derwent Hospital
Agency Number:
Start Date:
01 Jan 1827
End Date:
30 Nov 2000
To provide in-patient treatment and rehabilitation of mentally ill and mentally handicapped persons, including treatment of alcoholics. 

Lunatics were sent to the Asylum in Sydney until the separation of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land in 1824. Thereafter they were housed in the Colonial Hospitals. 

An Invalid Depot, with a small hospital to treat periods of acute illness and serve the local community, was established at New Norfolk. The first invalids were admitted on 2 June 1827. A Lunatics Ward was added two years later and the first admissions were on 8 April 1829. Initially the inmates were all male. The first female admission, to the lunatic ward, was on 14 January 1831. In 1832 Lt-Governor Arthur decided to concentrate all lunatics at New Norfolk. The new buildings, finished in 1834, could house 110 male and 20 female invalids and 40 lunatics of each sex. 

As a result of overcrowding the invalids were transferred to other invalid stations attached to convict depots in 1837 and thereafter the establishment at New Norfolk was used predominantly for the treatment of mental diseases.

Changes in the name of the Institution since that date have reflected changes in community and/or government attitude towards mental illness.The principal name changes, dated as accurately as possible, are as follows: 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, Royal Derwent Hospital 1968 - 2001. Developments within the Asylum/Hospital also reflected changing community attitudes. 

In the early years, however, the most notable influence on the Asylum was the cyclical nature of the Colonial economy. Pressure on the Asylum's resources was only resolved by further discharges of invalids. All female invalids were transferred to Hobart Colonial Hospital in 1846 and the remaining male invalids in 1848. That year general hospital treatment for the local community also ceased. Henceforth New Norfolk was exclusively a mental institution. 

Both free settlers and convicts were treated at New Norfolk, although violent convicts were transferred to the Asylum established at Port Arthur. On 1 October 1855 the Asylum was transferred from the Imperial to the Colonial establishment. Overcrowding was again relieved by transfers, all remaining convict inmates being moved to Port Arthur. From then on overcrowding could only be relieved by new buildings or extensions to existing ones, a constant source of tension between the Colonial Government and the Board of Commissioners appointed to supervise the operation of the Asylum. Indeed, as late as 1880 the Commissioners felt compelled to point out, in their annual report, that the need for a Hospital for the Insane would not pass with the passing of the generation of ex-convicts. 

The Insane Persons Hospital Act, 1858 (22 Vict. No. 23) reconstituted the Commissioners and established a legislative framework for the Hospital. By 1864 the Commissioners were able to report that separate cottages had been erected for men, women and boys of the "better class", that many of the walls had been removed and that recreations had been introduced. These changes were not permanent, however, as economic pressures constantly forced changes.
Tensions with Government came to a head in 1883 with the establishment of a Royal Commission. Its recommendations were ignored, most probably because it criticised the Government for its neglect and poor funding. The following year a Specialists Committee was established and its report repeated the critisisms of the Royal Commission. The Government's response was to legislate in 1885 (49 Vict. No. 35) to abolish the Commissioners. Much of their executive power devolved upon the Medical Superintendent and Official Visitors were appointed. The duties of the latter were largely limited to reporting on periodic inspections. 

During the 1890's the surviving convict insane, who had been housed at the Cascades since the closure of Port Arthur, were transferred to New Norfolk. The majority came in 1890. Those classified as criminally insane were initially transferred to a Hospital for the Insane established within the Campbell Street Gaol.This was closed in December 1893 and its 27 patients were transferred to New Norfolk. Once again New Norfolk was the only Hospital for the Insane in Tasmania.

After World War I a complementary institution was developed on land belonging to the Millbrook Estate which had been suggested for addition to New Norfolk on several occasions. The Millbrook Rise Psychopathic Hospital opened in 1934 and for the first ten years its medical staff were provided by what had become Lachlan Park Hospital. The relationship continued to be a close one, with patients moving between the two hospitals according to their condition and needs. Lachlan Park became the Royal Derwent Hospital on 27 March 1968 and absorbed Millbrook Rise on 1 July that year.

Even in the 20th century there were periodic Royal Commissions and Committees of Enquiry and progress was slow and halting. Specialist training for the staff was commenced in 1919 but abandoned two years later. Although "activities" had been provided since the 1860s occupational therapy was not formalised until 1936 and occupational therapists were not appointed until 1946. The first social worker followed in 1949. The most recent enquiries into the Royal Derwent were in 1972 and 1979.

Possibly the most dramatic change was the establishment, by the Mental Health Services Act 1967, of a Board of Management for the Royal Derwent. The Board, which came into being on 1 July 1968, brought the Royal Derwent into line with the other hospitals in the State.

Changing attitudes led to the separation of facilities for the intellectually disabled from those for the treatment of mental illness and responsibility for the former was transferred to the Department of Community Services in 1990 as the Willow Court program.

During the 1990s attitudes to the long-term treatment of mental illness changed and the wards at the Royal Derwent were progressively closed as treatment and support were made available through health facilities located in the wider community and wards were opened in the Royal Hobart and Launceston General Hospitals to treat acute psychiatric cases. The institution was effectively shut down in November 2000.
Legislation Administered:
The legislation governing the hospital has always been administered by the agency controlling it.;;
Legislation Creating:
Administrative action (Imperial) created the original lunatic asylum but subsequent name changes had a legislative basis.;;By proclamation under the Insane Persons' Hospitals Act 1858 (22 Vict. No. 23) the name was changed to the New Norfolk Hospital for the Insane (HTG 4 January 1859, p. 39).;;The Mental Diseases Hospitals Act 1915 (6 Geo. V No. 8, Section 2) changed the name to Mental Diseases Hospital as of 28 October that year.;;On 20 May 1937 the Governor revoked the 1859 proclamation and, again using Section 2 of the 1915 Act, proclaimed that the hospital now be known as Lachlan Park Hospital (TGG 25 May 1937, p. 1013).;;The name Royal Derwent Hospital was granted by Royal Decree on 27 March 1967.
Legislation Abolishing Agency:
Administrative action. Sale of the site was authorised by the Royal Derwent Hospital (Sale of Land) Act 1995.
Functions Performed:
Health care
Previous Agencies:
Hospital for the Insane, Cascades (TA336)01 Jan 187731 Dec 1890

Hospital for the Insane, Hobart (TA885)06 Aug 189031 Dec 1893

Millbrook Rise Psychopathic Hospital (TA469)21 Feb 193401 Jul 1968
Subsequent Agencies:
Royal Hobart Hospital (TA441)01 Jan 1820

Board of Management - Royal Derwent Hospital (TA155)01 Jul 196830 Nov 2000

Willow Court (TA1649)01 Jul 199030 Nov 2000

Community and Rural Health Division (TA1606)18 Sep 199801 Jul 2002
Series Created By Agency:
HSD247 Patient Records - Admission Register.01 Jan 183028 Feb 1954

HSD254 Patient Records - Register of Death, Transfer or Discharge of Patients.04 Jan 183011 Jul 1966

HSD104 Alphabetical Monthly Register of Patients and Attendants, with Details of Diet.01 Apr 184131 Aug 1842

HSD55 Patient Records - Case Books.01 Nov 184230 Nov 1843

HSD285 Patient Records - Admission Papers.04 Feb 184327 Nov 1964

HSD256 Staff Records - Register of Attendants.17 Nov 184430 Dec 1854

HSD246 Patient Records - Case Books (All Patients).01 Jan 184531 Dec 1854

HSD57 Monthly Returns of the Non-Medical Establishment and Patients.01 Apr 184530 Jun 1846

HSD258 Staff Records - Register of Nurses and Wardswomen.03 Oct 184509 Aug 1854

HSD51 Patient Records - Case Books (Male).01 Apr 184931 Jan 1874

HSD58 Finance Records - Stores Issue Register.13 Feb 185031 Dec 1866

AB923 Miscellaneous Returns.01 Jul 185230 Apr 1854

HSD52 Patient Records - Case Books (Female).01 Dec 185431 Jan 1872

HSD257 Staff Records - Staff Register.01 Jan 185531 Dec 1885

HSD45 Medical Superintendent's Letterbook.16 Oct 185511 May 1867

HSD284 Patient Files.05 Jul 185723 Dec 1993

HSD271 Copies of Returns Submitted by the Medical Superintendent to the Colonial Secretary.01 May 186130 Apr 1864

HSD48 Memorandum from the Colonial Secretary Secretary Seeking a Return of Patients.01 Jan 186931 Dec 1869

HSD56 Patient Records - Weekly Medical Journals.14 Jun 186928 Nov 1964

AB365 Patient Records - Case Books (All Patients).01 Jan 187231 Dec 1938

HSD252 Patient Records - Alphabetical Register of Patients.01 Jan 188831 Dec 1974

AB922 Patient Records - Register of Female Patients.01 Jan 188831 Dec 1897

HSD288 Patient Records - Card Index to Patient Files.01 Jan 189431 Dec 1965

AB479 Patient Records removed from Case Books.25 Jan 189420 Apr 1979

AB515 Patient Records - Register of Patient's Next-of-Kin.01 Jan 189731 Dec 1979

AF532 Index to Case Books (All Patients)01 Jul 189831 Mar 1932

HSD286 General Correspondence.01 Jan 189931 Dec 1949

HSD289 Correspondence Register.01 Jan 190931 Dec 1941

AB389 Staff Records - Personnel Files.01 Jan 191431 Dec 1984

HSD263 Daily Ward Reports - Female Division.01 Jan 191812 Oct 1978

HSD50 Patient Records - Heredity Charts of 11 Named Patients.01 Jan 191831 Dec 1919

HSD290 Staff Notices and Memorandum Book.01 Jan 191831 Dec 1940

HSD266 Finance Records - Record of Payments for Patients.01 Jan 192031 Dec 1944

HSD233 Finance Records - Register of Drugs issued from the Store.01 Nov 192330 Jun 1932

HSD59 Finance Records - Register of Provisions and Medical Extras issued.01 Jan 192731 Dec 1931

AF597 Publications01 Jan 193431 Dec 1990

AF594 Register of Patients under Restraint or in Seclusion01 Mar 193407 May 1938

HSD287 Copies of Outward Correspondence (Incomplete).01 Jan 193631 Dec 1942

HSD291 Patient Records - Reports on Insulin Coma and Somnifane Therapy.01 Jan 193931 Dec 1965

HSD262 Daily Ward Reports - Male Division.13 Mar 193922 Nov 1978

HSD267 Finance Records - Cash Book.27 Jun 194019 Dec 1944

HSD272 Finance Records - Record of Payments for Goods and Services.01 Nov 194030 Jun 1942

AB530 Patient Records - Register of Mental Defectives.01 Jan 194109 Oct 1959

HSD264 Daily Ward Reports - Government Institution for Defectives.23 Oct 194116 Mar 1965

HSD261 Record of Daily Patient Strength (Lachlan Park and Millbrook Rise).01 Jan 194630 Oct 1974

AF581 Parklan News09 Dec 195930 Dec 1961

HSD248 Patient Records - Admission Register.01 Dec 196405 Jan 2001

HSD249 Patient Records - Register of Admissions for Treatment.02 Dec 196430 Jun 1966

HSD250 Patient Records - Register of Admissions for Observations.03 Dec 196429 Jun 1966

HSD268 Finance Records - Livestock Ledger.01 Oct 196531 Jul 1971

AF601 Medical Superintendants Charts of Patient Numbers01 Jan 197231 Dec 1973

AF602 Occupational Therapy Request and Record Card01 May 197220 Feb 1975

AF593 Daily Ward Reports - Male and Female Divisions23 Nov 197815 Jun 1980

AF529 Divisional Executive Committee Minutes and associated Papers02 Apr 198506 Jun 1988

AF598 Nursing Service Committeee - Minutes of Meetings04 Jun 198511 Sep 1985

AF530 Clinical Projects Committee Minutes and associated Papers01 Jan 198831 Dec 1988