Dictionary of Sydney

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Callan Park Mental Hospital

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Callan Park

Callan Park Hospital for the Insane was the first purpose-built hospital for moral therapy treatment in Australia. It was constructed between 1880 and 1884, and received its first patients in October 1884.

Garryowen estate

The hospital was developed on Garryowen, the former estate of John Ryan Brenan. Between 1839 and 1854 Brenan acquired land grants that had been made to Lawrence Butler (100 acres, 40 hectares) and to Francis Lloyd (50 acres, 20 hectares) in 1819, and the 50 acres (20 hectares) that had been granted to Luke Ralph in 1821. [1]

Brenan was born in Ireland and practised as a solicitor there before arriving in Sydney in 1834. [2] He became a coroner and magistrate, and in about 1840 built the stuccoed brick two-storey Garryowen House in the Victorian Regency style. The designer was possibly the colonial architect, Mortimer William Lewis. [3]

Heavily in debt, Brenan lost the estate to his main creditor, the Sydney merchant Frederick Fanning, who auctioned the property in 1864. [4] Sydney businessman John Gordon became the new owner and renamed the property Callan Park. [5] Intending to move to Victoria, Gordon subdivided the land and put it up for sale on 19 December 1873.[6] The sale took place at about the same time as the government voted £75,000 to pay for a new lunatic asylum. [7]

Frederic Manning, medical superintendent

Frederic Norton Manning (1839–1903) was the enlightened medical doctor responsible for the establishment of the new asylum. He had studied at St George's Hospital, London, in 1860, and the University of St Andrews, Scotland, in 1862. [8] On a visit to Sydney in 1867, Manning was invited to become the medical superintendent at the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum at Gladesville.

Manning accepted on the condition that he spend 1868 on a tour of institutions in England, France, Germany and the USA. He wanted to study a variety of international methods of patient care and the design and construction of hospitals for the insane. On his return to Sydney, he submitted a report which was to revolutionise the care of the mentally ill in New South Wales.

Manning was appointed to Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum on 15 October 1868. In January 1869 he had it renamed the Gladesville Hospital for the Insane. More importantly, he transformed the institution to a place where the patients received treatment for their illness rather than confinement in a 'cemetery for diseased intellects.' [9]

On 1 July 1876 Manning was appointed Inspector of the Insane for all mental institutions in New South Wales, with the exception of the Parramatta criminal asylum. One of his greatest struggles was to try to break down indifference and deep-rooted prejudice, by encouraging visitors to the hospitals under his care, and organizing public discussions on the causes and treatment of insanity.

The new hospital

The colonial architect James Barnet chose the Callan Park site for the new hospital. [10] It was exposed to winter sun and summer breezes, it was close to the city, and isolated by the nature of its boundaries. The site also had a long north-facing frontage to Iron Cove. Barnet recommended that the government purchase the 100-acre (40-hectare) property from John Gordon and Samuel Deane Gordon, a merchant, pastoralist and politician, for £12,500. [11] Barnet received the keys of Garryowen House on 19 July 1874. [12]

In 1876 Garryowen House, sometimes called Callan Park House, was transformed by James Barnet into a branch of the overcrowded Gladesville Hospital under Dr Manning. In making way for 44 male patients, some of the original architecture was unfortunately destroyed.

While waiting for Barnet's design for the new permanent hospital to begin, continuing overcrowding at Gladesville forced Manning to insist upon additional temporary accommodation. Accordingly, Barnet called tenders in 1877 for weatherboard wards to hold 100 patients, and other temporary buildings, gates, gate lodges, and fences. [13]

Callan Park Hospital for the Insane was proclaimed a separate institution from Gladesville on 1 August 1878. [14] The temporary wards were occupied in 1879 and provided accommodation for 48 patients from Gladesville, one from the Parramatta Hospital and 16 admitted from the Water Police Court, making 114 patients. [15] One of these wards became Male Ward 7. It was still standing in 1960. [16]

Design and layout

The design for the permanent hospital was a collaborative effort between Manning and Barnet. Manning had toured overseas a second time and in 1876 brought back the drawings of Chartham Down Hospital for the Insane, near Canterbury, Kent, upon which the design of Callan Park was to be based. During his overseas trip, Manning had become convinced by the principles of moral therapy, in which 'insanity was no longer a general bodily problem, but a problem particular to the mind, the seat of morality'. [17]

The asylum was the 'institutional linchpin' of moral therapy and the appropriate design of the building was crucial to the success of the therapy. [18] Pleasant surroundings and well designed, comfortable, small-scale buildings were imperative. These aims were embodied in a pavilion-type layout, where small buildings had all-weather connections and the spaces in between were landscaped as courtyards for outdoor activities. Manning chose Chartham Down because it was a pavilion-type layout in which separate ward blocks enclosed airing courts. Ultimately, the combination of Manning's understanding of moral therapy, Barnet's architecture, and the outstanding site at Callan Park, produced a design of a higher standard than Chartham.

Together they designed five male and five female wards, to accommodate approximately 600 patients. The wards were symmetrically arranged about the main cross axis on which the official buildings were planned. [19] Eight of the lofty, airy wards, had large airing courts – some with a view to the Blue Mountains. The other two had high retaining walls caused by the slope of the land. A remarkable continuous covered veranda linked the buildings.

Construction began in 1880 and the first male patients occupied the wards in October 1884. Moral therapy treatment had begun earlier in 1876 with the 44 patients in Garryowen House. Yet constant overcrowding, staffing difficulties, and inadequate funding increasingly made the hospital a place of incarceration.

Later additions

In 1905 Inspector-General Eric Sinclair, Manning's successor, opened special admission wards for curable cases in the Manning/Barnet designed Female Cottage Hospital, which was separate from the main hospital. Between 1907 and 1910 a new admission ward, designed by the architect Walter Liberty Vernon, brought the number of cottage wards to four. The new admission facility was the forerunner of voluntary treatment without committal. The Callan Park special admission wards, along with those at Gladesville, were the first of their kind in New South Wales.

In 1905, under Sinclair's direction, Callan Park become the first mental hospital to have a laboratory and clinical rooms for 'scientific work' where the first steps in studying the pathology of mental diseases in New South Wales began.

To deal with the overcrowding and downgrading of patient care, alterations were made and new buildings constructed. The period 1894–1922 saw the relocation of the main gates and the erection of the high brick boundary wall, made necessary by the widening of Balmain Road.

In 1923 an official enquiry began into overcrowding but little eventuated. The problem remained and emerged again in 1930 when patient numbers reached 1500. The Depression and World War II saw only basic repairs and additions to the Manning/Barnet buildings.

Postwar development

After the war, in the face of shortages of materials and labour, a constant program of stop-gap alterations and additions began, a program which continued into the 1970s. Each of the Manning/Barnet ward blocks received additional toilets and other basic facilities were crudely attached to Barnet's elegant buildings. In 1948, another inquiry was held into conditions at Callan Park, but it had little effect on the stop-gap program.

In 1955, conditions in mental hospitals Australia-wide were investigated under the Stoller report. Stoller recorded the overcrowding, the squalor and the stench at Callan Park. The government provided some much needed financial support to the institution and more stop-gap work commenced, mostly on ward blocks not connected to the Manning/Barnet buildings. The long delay in design and construction allowed more overcrowding to take place. The Cerebral Surgery Research Unit, the most important facility of the period, opened in 1961.

In that year a Royal Commission into Callan Park echoed in more detail Stoller's findings on overcrowding and squalor. Again it is doubtful that the inquiry made any difference to the stop-gap program but, by the number of new buildings and services added, ensured its funding. One of the recommendations was the demolition of the 'infamous Male Ward 7', a survivor of the 1877 temporary wards. [20]

In 1976 Callan Park was amalgamated with the adjoining Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic to become the Rozelle Hospital, and building work on the original hospital almost ceased.

The Richmond Report of 1983 put the Manning/Barnet buildings in jeopardy. New treatments meant that many patients could be assimilated in the community and parts of the hospital grounds were to be sold. A period of vandalism and building neglect ensued.

Renewal and reuse

In 1991, however, a program of urgent maintenance commenced and the main block, known as Kirkbride, was adapted as the new home of the Sydney College of the Arts, a division of the University of Sydney. It opened in 1996.

Since then, there has been constant resident action to preserve and upgrade the remainder of the hospital as a centre for mental health. The end came however, on 30 April 2008, when the hospital was closed and staff and patients were transferred to a mental facility at Concord Hospital. [21]





[1] Land and Property Information NSW, Land Grants, serial 11, p 86 (Lloyd); Land and Property Information NSW, Land Grants, serial 11, p 50 (Butler);Land and Property Information NSW, Land and Property Information NSW, Old System Title book 74, no 545; Special Land Grant serial G2, p 1–4 (CH Chambers and J Davidson, Trustees for Mrs Jane Ralph, 23 Nov 1841)

[2] 'Brenan, John Ryan (1798?–1868)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 1, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1966, p 149; Sydney Empire, 7 April 1856

[3] J Broadbent, 'Introduction', in Colonial Greek, the Greek Revival in NSW, catalogue of the exhibition, Elizabeth Bay House, Sep–Dec 1985

[4] Land and Property Information NSW, Old System Title book 77, no 354

[5] Land and Property Information NSW, Old System Title book 97, no 547

[6] Sydney Morning Herald 17 December 1873, p 11e; Richardson and Wrench, Plan of Callan Park Estate, Balmain, Mitchell Library, ML M2/811.1821/1873/1

[7] Sydney Morning Herald, 23 April 1883, p 7c

[8] DI McDonald, 'Manning, Frederic Norton (1839–1903)' Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 5, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1974, p 204; DI McDonald, 'Barnet, James Johnstone (1827–1904)'Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 3, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1969, p 100

[9] DI McDonald, 'Manning, Frederic Norton (1839–1903)' Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 5, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1974, p 204

[10] DI McDonald, 'James Barnet Colonial Architect', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, vol 55, pt 2

[11] Sydney Morning Herald, 23 April 1883, p 7c; Land and Property Information NSW, Old System Title book 140, no 825

[12] Crown Solicitor to Col Sec (key to Callan Park), Archives Office SB 4/818.3

[13] State Records NSW 4.818.3, Barnet to Under Sec, 13 June 1877; 1/2308, 18 Sep 1877

[14] Attorney General WJ Foster, 4 June 1878 (from copy held by G Edwards, Nurses Training School, Rozelle Hospital, 1984

[15] Inspector General for the Insane, Annual Report, 1879, p 17

[16] Sydney Morning Herald, 21 October 1960, p 2

[17] S Garton, Medicine and Madness: A Social History of Insanity in New South Wales, 1880–1940, University of New South Wales Press, 1988, p 14

[18] S Garton, Medicine and Madness: A Social History of Insanity in New South Wales, 1880–1940, University of New South Wales Press, 1988, p 14

[19] PL Reynolds, Kirkbride Block, Rozelle Hospital, Callan Park Hospital for the Insane, Historical Development, 1819–1992, A report to the New South Wales Department of Public Works, Heritage Group, State Projects, 1993, pp 4–5

[20] Sydney Morning Herald, 21 October 1960, p 2

[21] Inner West Courier, 22 April 2008, p 7