Patchwork Cafe

A long history has been had for the demountable building that we know today as the Patchwork Cafe in the privately owned section of the hospital grounds at New Norfolk.

In the documentary that recorded the last six months (Six Months to go and counting) before the closure of the institution there is a scene where you can see the steam rising from the grate just in front of the door of what is now the cafe, in it’s current location. This was part of the steam loop heating system that went to each Ward of the Hospital. Many people have a vivid memory of steam rising up in the middle of winter in the hospital grounds.

The demountable building was first located beside K1 (building with the clock tower) then moved after the construction of K2 (current Masonic Lodge). It wasn’t in the plan in 1883 but appears in the picture above and it is the building with a pitched roof located about one third along in the photo from the left.

Some people have only ever know this buildings as Patchwork Cafe and others have known this demountable building as a school and an Occupational Therapy building. Today it sits in it’s third location and still bears the marks of being part of the Institution. If you look carefully inside at the windows you will notice that the glass on some of the lower pains is quite thick and around the wooden window frame there is are holes where metal bars once were installed to stop escapes.

This picture shows the building in it’s current location before the gardens and the strange and sometimes controversial old car bodies that currently surround it. The picture below shows the side and rear view and lacks the gardens that have been put in around the Cafe.

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Last week was a tremendously powerful week for evoking memories and reflection with “Remembrance Day” activities being broadcast on the television and ceremonies being held in our community. It was also a week that I found out that a number of people I knew had died.

This has had me thinking about remembering, reflecting and the social normal methods we share and speak to each other about the death of friends, relations and colleagues.

It wasn’t that long ago that I noticed another cherished colleague, too many at the Royal Derwent Hospital, had died and as expected there was a wonderful response and out pouring from past friends and colleagues, all sharing their condolences and stories of who that person was to them and their loss and sadness felt. As a small community there was a joint grieving that could be felt even through the digital social media that we commonly use today.

This has made me think as I was dealing with grief, the grief and loss of two people. This was on top of the news of the last six people in a short space of months that have died and yet some of this news I hadn’t heard for weeks afterwards.

There had been no opportunity to show that out pouring of grief, no opportunity to attend public funerals to celebrate the lives of these people and the contribution they had made to society and the people around them. There was no Facebook group to share this knowledge, no place to write your thoughts. It was allowed to quietly pass.

This is the life (and death) of the past Residents of Willow Court.

What is stopping this from happening? Doesn’t true inclusion look the same as other people’s lives or is the need to maintain the “Organisation’s” privacy and confidentiality policy stopping real inclusion, even in death?

The only characteristic that is different was an intellectual disability. Maybe we have a long way to go.

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Troubled Asylum For Sale (NOW SOLD)

This copy has now been sold.


We have too many copies!

For sale, a second edition copy of “Troubled Asylum” by author Ralph Gowlland. This second edition, soft cover edition was published in 1996.

This version contains an extra forward by the then Minister for Community and Health Services, Peter McKay MLC.

This is a very clean copy with some writing on the inside cover (see picture below).

This is a hard to find book which covers the troubled history of the hospital from 1827.

All profits go toward the maintenance and continued research of this website.

$200.00 plus postage

Please contact me through my email address:

Payment details PAYPAL 

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Bed styles at Willow Court

From the early 1830’s patients and beds go hand in hand at the hospital over the 174 years of operation and the styles have changed over that time.  In the 1830s, due to a critical shortage of beds, the District Surgeon Dr. Officer ordered iron beds from NSW (50 arrived) along with permission to make more iron beds on site. This type of bed was used at Willow Court until the 1960s ref: (‘Troubled Asylum’, Gowlland,1981, p13-14). 

This bed could be folded in half for easy storage and transportation. The picture below shows what was commonly used as a mattress right up to the 1960’s. 

‘There was no mattresses or rubber beds; they were all straw, every bed was straw and you had to go out and fill these jolly things. When they go flattened a bit, you know; when they started to get comfortable … you had to go and fill them up again’.

(ref: June Purkiss, ‘Living In Living Out’ exhibition).  

The next style is a bit of a mystery as to the time it was used in the hospital. This clever style could also convert into a seat. It is thought it could’ve been used in the 1900th century. It is a folding, tubular metal bed (chair) with side rails with an adjustable head height. Fabric strips tie the metal base to headboard. 

Not dissimilar to the Port Arthur patterned bed but built with modern white square tubular steel and a wired spring base. This late 20th century bed was used throughout the hospital. Similar beds are seen in a 1970’s photo of a dormitory at the Royal Derwent Hospital, taken for display in the Tasmanian Agent General’s Office, London.

The bed base is missing from this round aluminium tubing headboard with 3 vertical struts and footboard.  Similar beds are seen in a 1970s photo of a crowded dormitory in the Royal Derwent Hospital, taken for display in the Tasmanian Agent General’s Office, London. In the photo, round tubing framed beds like this alternate with square tubing framed beds (above photo). (Ref: Archives Office of Tasmania AA193-1-291)

A bed wouldn’t be complete without a bedside table like this one. This cream metal bedside cabinet with a single drawer and door is marked with ‘under pants’ written on masking tape on the drawer and ‘track pants’ on the door. The Acne beds name plate is on the rear. 

This late 20th Century wooden and steel framed bed has two drawers under the bed and had a mottled green vinyl on the headboard and footboard. There is one of these in C ward but it is in poor condition.

This ‘Hendicare’ adjustable brown metal framed bed has a metal grid base and is on casters. It has flexible pull out mesh on one side of the frame and melinex footboard slots into the base. Most likely dating from the late 20th century.

Another modern bed, this adjustable steel bed, on casters has a pull out flexible mesh sides and wood grained plastic laminate headboard. Manufactured in Australia by Siltex Engineering Pty. Ltd. Patent No. 544268, it was supplied by Joyce Hospital Equipment, c.1970-1980s.

Lastly this Child’s metal cot with adjustable height base. Similar cots are seen in a 1970s photo of a children’s dormitory in the Royal Derwent Hospital, taken for display in the Tasmanian Agent General’s Office, London.

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Return to the Community

This book isn’t that rare, but the stamp, “WILLOW COURT PARENTS & FRIENDS ASSOCIATION” on the front cover makes it rare.

RETURN TO THE COMMUNITY, THE PROCESS OF CLOSING AN INSTITUTION was a published book from a case study on how to close an institution and return those who were residents to their community.

Published in 1987 in Canada, the book documents the closing of Tranquille, which institutionalised people with intellectual disability.

The follow text explains the complex context that all institutions started the closure process and Willow Court was no exception as evident by the presence of this book and another copy that was used by the Management.

The book is available by clicking on the image below. 

Closing an institution for people with disabilities must be seen in the context of several interrelated social trends.

• During the 1970s and 1980s the disability field in Canada has literally seen an explosion in emphasis on human rights. People with disabilities are increasingly seen as a significant minority group who have been marginalized in almost every area of life. The International Year of Disabled Persons and the Canadian Charter of Rights proclaimed in 1982 raised awareness about the discrimination faced by people with handicaps. Rights activists have also advocated for more institutional closures and community living alternatives (Day, 1985; Savage, 1985).

• Since Goffman’s (1961) classic work on the total institution twenty-five years ago, numerous critiques of institutions and ‘back wards’ have been vividly presented (Blatt, 1970; Rivera, 1973; Rothman, 1981; Wolfensberger, 1975.) This body of work has raised awareness about the limits of the asylum, including the fact that institutions labour under too many conflicting models of service. This knowledge is widely used by citizens demanding community options to institutionalization.

• Normalization and community living increasingly became accepted as the guiding ideology for services for people with handicaps. These principles have emphasized the value of people with disabilities having ordinary life experiences (Wolfensberger,1973). Proponents of normalization have been very critical of institutions and have strongly supported community integration and participation (Perske, 1980; Ri.chler, 1981).

• In the last decade, research and planning efforts associated with deinstitutionalization in the United States and Canada have produced a wide range of reports and understandings. By 1983, there was a growing sense that we knew how to effectively implement deinstitutionalization by redesigning community service systems (Provencal, 1980; McWhorter and Kappel, 1983).

• The era of fiscal restraint that swept over British Columbia and other parts of Canada in the early 1980s seemed to be a further impetus to accelerate the deinstitutionalization process. Capital and operating expenditures for total institutions were enormous and, increasingly, governments, and advocates saw the economic benefits of community living (Canadian Council on Social Development, 1985; Copeland, 1982).

These trends have encouraged widespread interest in closing institutions
and in related policy initiatives.


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New document released

A couple of months ago I received a beautiful copy of Troubled Asylum to be sold on behalf of a friend. I receive, what I would consider the best copy I have yet seen and inside found a four page document. The document is original and is clearly marked “Royal Derwent Hospital, New Norfolk, Tasmania” and is titled

“Historical Notes. Present Day Statistics, Objectives and Functions”.

It was written by the then Psychiatrist Superintendent

Dr R. V. Parton, dated, August 1978.

A copy of this four page document is stored in the Archives of Tasmania LINK, however there are differences of the creation date. It is believed that the copy of Trouble Asylum was given to the then local Anglican Minister of New Norfolk as a thank you for his ongoing support to the Author, Ralph W Gowlland. It is believed  that the four page document was owned and used by the author, Ralph Gowlland for his book.

Historical Notes, Present Day Statistics, Objectives and Functions

Dr Parton was the Psychiatrist Superintendent from 1976 (acting) 1977 and wrote the Forward to a Troubled Asylum a book containing the history of Willow Court from 1827 til 1981 when the book was first published. The soft cover second edition which contains extra information was published in 1996.

On another Troubled Asylum note, the last copy sold from “Just Tassie Books” in Campbell Town Tasmania was sold to David Walsh, owner of the Mona Museum and was reported to have been purchase for the Museum’s Library.

It is great to know that there is a copy available for the public to read besides those at the Tasmanian Library.


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Looking for a “Dirty Weekend” of PD?

Willow Court, Dirty Weekend Facebook Page

Getting ready for 2018 at Willow Court means a new Archaeology Dig. As part of that there is a professional development event for teachers who wish to get down and dirty onsite at a real archaeological site and event. Information is available on the two above links.

Attention teachers of History!

One season just wasn’t enough and the ‘Dirty Weekend’ of archaeology for teachers is on again for 2018!

Have you ever wanted to participate in a genuine archaeological excavation, but never thought you would have the opportunity?
For those who dream of getting their hands dirty, a joint project between Flinders University and the University of Tasmania will give you the opportunity to get in the trenches with real archaeologists and help uncover Australia’s material culture history.

The Dirty Weekend of Archaeology for teachers will be held at Willow Court, New Norfolk, Tasmania from 9th – 12th February 2018.

There are 8 places allocated for in-service teachers! Applications close Friday 15th December 2017. The first step is to fill in the Expression of Interest form at:

Expression of Interest Document

After completing this, a link to pay a $600 Professional Learning Fee (PLF) will be emailed to you so you can arrange electronic payment. This will secure your place on the team. Full payment of the PLF is due by Tuesday 19th December 2017. Once we have confirmed your place in the program and you have paid your fee it will not be refundable.

The PLF will cover:
• Preparatory video lectures and site orientation.
• Information booklet and suggestions for classroom activities.
• On-site instruction and supervision from archaeologists and team leaders.
• Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
• All excavation equipment.
• Certificate of Completion from the University of Tasmania as evidence of your participation in Professional Learning.

The Dirty Weekend of Archaeology at Willow Court is an amazing opportunity for teachers to learn practical archaeological skills, more about Australian history, and how to translate this learning into classroom activities to engage students.

Here is this year’s Southern Cross coverage of the open days that went with this event.


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APIU, DVC may approve tour of “Satan’s House”!

Last night the Derwent Valley Council (DVC) discussed a proposal for the (APIU) Australian Paranormal Investigation Unit (collection of friends) to conduct After Dark Tours (Paranormal Tours) of Frascati House. Previously the Group have referred to the house as Satan’s House in a podcast interview with Naked Zombie TV.

They also have told the interviewer about their experiences of “mild possession, unexplained scratches, evil presences, ghosts following people home”

While the group say they are not prone to over exaggeration or being disrespectful the above comments and naming of the place as “Satan’s House” would have to be questioned.

Frascati has a wonderful and long history starting with it’s construction in 1834, later it was the home of the many Medical Superintendents and then a Training Centre for some of the Residents.

“This request comes about as a result of the APIU recognising that Frascati House plays an important role in the history of the Willow Court precinct.
The APIU has indicated that they have had a discussion with a member of Friends of Frascati and at the time of writing was intending to attend a committee meeting of that group to discuss the After Dark Tours.

The APIU has advised that if the Council approves its request the use of Frascati House will not be advertised in its promotional material, rather it will be referred to as a ‘secret location’.

This will assist in preventing unwanted attempts to access the building prior to the tours. Further to this the APIU will ensure that the area will be patrolled during the tour operations to ensure that the site is kept secure.
All profits made from the tour will be donated to the Council for use in restoration activities on the site.

Should the APIU wish to conduct additional tours on any part of the Willow Court site a further report will be presented to the Council.”

Item 10.7 DVC agenda



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Lachlan Park Hospital circa 1960.

Lachlan Park Hospital circa 1950-60.

This footage shows the Barracks from the rear enclosed yard which was demolished in the early 1960’s, H Ward and I Ward which were both female Wards, the old clock tower and accommodation rooms on the west side of the hospital including the old metal fold up bed which came from Port Arthur. Black & White silent footage.

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Friends groups after same thing

A passion, willing to put in loads of volunteer work, learn new skills, travel, gain certificates, fund raise and bend the ear of the Local, State and Federal Politicians.

If this sounds like the thing you wish to do after a full working live, then you are in good company.

The Friends of Willow Court Annual General Meeting was held Wednesday night last week and Guest Speaker, Dallas Baker OAM from the Friends of Deal Island told us about the restoration works that they are doing and showed many pictures of the impressive works so far. Dallas has also served as caretaker on the island four time totalling 12 months of full time occupation of the light house and homestead areas.

The connection between Friends of Deal Island and the Friends of Willow Court is Mark Woodley the heritage plasterer who gave tours at Willow Court during a Heritage Month activity in 2016.

Mark has reported that one of the old homesteads on Deal Island is the best house in Tasmania, due to the fact that there was never any late alterations of plumbing or electricity, so the structure remained as it was first built.

It was clear that Heritage is very much an over looked and under funded area, but also an area that is in high demand through tourism.

Dallas informed us about the great history of the area, the need for the light house after the shipwrecks. The lighthouse is one of the highest and during fog is too high for ships to see. It has suffered the same fate as many light houses with the advanced navigational equipment available to ships today and sits as a reminder of the harder and dangerous times of sailing.

What is clear is that there are Friends Groups throughout Tasmania all full of active citizens working hard to preserve our heritage. Also in attendance was Ian Lacey who was the Tidy Towns representative. The two groups have recently announced a joint partnership with the conservation of the Willow Court perimeter wall. The job was stopped in 2015 due to the lack of funding but the joint partners have received  a small grant to purchase some scaffolding to continue the job.

Below is the Chair person’s report for the 2016-17 year from the Friends of Willow Court.

Friends of Willow Court
Chairpersons Report
Annual General Meeting
13 September 2017
It is with pleasure that I present this, the fifth report for the Friends of Willow Court special committee of the Derwent Valley Council.
Activities undertaken by the committee over the last 12 months include the following:
* Reviewed and accepted the revised Terms of Reference
* Three committee members participated in the Willow Court Access Working Group to
determine a cost structure and terms of access to the council owned part of Willow
* Held a BBQ at Woolworths to raise funds for Willow Court and to promote the work of
the committee to the public
* Liaised with Assoc Prof Heather Burke on working together to host the open day in
* Liaised with the DVC on conducting history walks during the open day at Willow Court in February
* Liaised with DVC to waive access fees to WC Barracks precinct for the open day tours
and Heritage Month Fiddle Excursion
* Visited Willow Court on two occasions to conduct onsite historical research of the
buildings and related social history to assist in the development of walking tour
information guides
* Conducted history walks during the open day that attracted 300-400 people to the site
* Co hosted the open day High Tea with Derwent Valley Players. This event was a huge
success with many compliment on both the play and the sumptuous high tea
* Hosted a BBQ for Associate Professor Heather Burke and her archaeology students
* Liaise with historian Peter MacFie to develop the Heritage Month Fiddle Excursion
* Hosted the Fiddle Excursion in May, which was an outstanding success and a real credit
to the committee, with many compliments from participants on the excellent
organisation of the event, and the wonderful exposure of a unique part of the Derwent
Valley’s history.
* Represented FoWC at the Built Heritage seminar at Parliament House. The seminar was
an outcome of the Legislative Council Built Heritage Report which identified that more
input in specific areas was needed.
* Met with representatives of Tasmania’s Most Haunted to discuss concerns with their
proposed project in the Willow Court Barracks precinct
* Successfully applied for a DVC Community Grant for the purchase of scaffolding that will
enable FoWC and Derwent Valley Tidy Towns to progress the lime washing of the Willow
Court perimeter wall that was started in 2015
* Unsuccessfully applied for a grant from the DVC Works budget to fund safety equipment
needed for the WC wall lime washing project
* Two committee members participated in the Oral History workshop to develop technical
skills and understanding of the procedures involved in recording oral histories. It is the
committees intention to continue to record histories to preserve the living history of
Willow Court for future generations

In closing I would like to take this opportunity to thank committee members for their ongoing support and enthusiasm for the projects we have undertaken this year.
I would also like to acknowledge the wonderful support provided by DVC staff to assist FoWC with the organization of the open day and Fiddle Excursion.
Thank you also to Councilor Pearce for his support of the committee throughout the last year.
Again, while we are a small committee we can be proud of what we have achieved for Willow Court in the past year.
Thank you
Anne Salt

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