Rest for The Weary Mind - Rozelle /Callan Park Asylum - The HDR Series

Philip Johnson

Newport Beach, Australia

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Before the close of 1850 many fundamental issues relating to the treatment of the mentally ill had been established and there was a determined effort to provide decent conditions.

The history of The Rozelle Hospital provides a fascinating account of the development of a mental health service and the changing societal attitudes which accompany the care and treatment of the mentally ill.

In 1873, due to severe overcrowding at the Hospital for the Insane at Gladesville, the Parkes Government purchased the “Callan Estates” (then a rural setting) of just over 100 acres for £12,500; with the express purpose of building a large lunatic asylum. There was some opposition by local residents but this was rejected by the Goverment and in 1884 the new asylum for the insane at Callan Park was officially opened. The main group of stone buildings was named the Kirkbride Block and were described by the press of the day as a “magnificent pile of buildings, forming a conspicuous object of the locality and visible for many miles around”.

A contract was awarded to Low and Kew for two hundred and fifty thousand pounds to build the asylum. Building started on 23 April, 1880 and by January 1885, the vast complex of buildings was completed. The buildings became known as the ‘Kirkbride Block’, named after the eminent American, Dr. William Kirkbride, who was renowned for his pioneering work and thoughts on progressive mental health care. Kirkbride’s concepts provided for a self-contained community, with a variety of wards designed to provide separate accommodation and activities to match the various stages of a patient’s illness and convalescence

The hospital is located in picturesque parkland on the shores of Iron Cove Bay. Today these parklands are used by the local community for recreational and sporting events.

A ‘Pleasure Garden’ for the patients was created in front of the Kirkbride Block. The surrounding 11 acres of ground were planted with mainly native trees and shrubs and landscaped by Mr. Charles Moore, Curator of the Botanic Gardens in the 1880s.

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Artwork Comments

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