RESEARCHERS PLEASE NOTE
We do not have access to
patient or staff records.
The Book - 'A PRIVATE WORLD ON A NAMELESS BAY'
- a History of Morisset Hospital
is now available in a spiral bound format.
The book can be purchased for $25 from the Morisset Newsagency, Dora St, Morisset or contact Morisset Hospital History Sub-committee if you would like to purchase a copy and have it posted to you.
Newcomers to the Southlake area would not be aware of the unique community within a community that Morisset Hospital once was. Dr Les Darcy, a former Medical Superintendent wrote in his Foreword to the book, “A Private World on a Nameless Bay” - two aspects of Morisset Hospital which stand out are family tradition and service to the community.
Morisset Hospital is a psychiatric hospital
situated on Lake Macquarie, which is the largest coastal saltwater lake in
Australia. The lake itself is four times the size of Sydney Harbour. Near the
township of Morisset in New South Wales, Australia, the hospital is
approximately a 90-minute drive north of Sydney and an hour south of Newcastle.
The Morisset Hospital Historical Society was formed in 1997 by a group of
people interested in preserving the history & heritage of Morisset
Hospital. That group has now merged with Lake Macquarie & District
Historical Society Inc. and is now known as Morisset Hospital History
Sub-committee of Lake Macquarie & District Historical Society Inc. Our aim
is to collect and preserve the history & heritage of Morisset Hospital. We are
particularly interested in obtaining copies of historic photographs, documents
and small items to display in our display cases at the Morisset Multipurpose
Centre. Please contact us if you have photos or other items suitable for adding
to our collection.
MORISSET HOSPITAL -
A BRIEF HISTORY
Often clouded by falsehoods and ignorance were public perceptions of
mental illness. Care and treatment of mental health problems is intriguing,
intricate and often difficult to understand without an appreciation of the
historical, social and political background. According to Shireav, 1979:6,
psychiatry in NSW can be divided into four periods of varying administrative
policy and treatment (Shireav, 1979:6).
1788 to 1839 - The Primitive Era.
1839 to 1860 - The Moral Treatment Era. (The Romantic)
1860 to 1945 - The Physical Treatment Era. (The Classical)
1945 to the
present day - The Modern Era. (The Revolution in Therapy) The classical and
revolution in therapy were the periods in the history of Morisset Hospital.
1900 1,300 acres of land east of Morisset reserved for the purpose of an Asylum
for the Insane.
1901 The “insanity Act” provided the approval for the
construction of the Morisset Asylum for the Insane. 1906 A staff of 3 male
attendants and 6 patients lived side by side in tents. Clearing and construction
commenced. First thing constructed was a jetty, then a dam. First temporary
ward completed. Building material was transported across the lake by barge.
1907 The first Manager, George Edwards, was appointed, he supervised the
clearing of the land and preparation of the hospital site. Arthur John Wilson
was transferred from Kenmore Mental Hospital in Goulburn to supervise
construction of roadways to enable access for building. One of the roads he
constructed, known as ‘The Avenue’ was planted with Yellow box and Turpentine.
Further plantings occurred in later years. 'The Avenue' is the main road
leading in to the township of Morisset.
1908 On the 17th August a Newcastle and
Miners Advocate article describes the construction of Ward 1. A 16th November
1908 Newcastle and Miners Advocate article reports that construction of the
Recreation Hall was commenced.
1909 The first patients arrived on the 9th May
1909. There were 78 male patients. Ward 1 opened on the 6th September.
Construction of further buildings was well under way.
1910 157 male patients.
Temporary calico dormitories erected. These buildings consisted of a wooden
frame, calico side panels, wooden floors and a canvas fly over the whole
building. Manager's residence constructed.
1911 Cricket oval, poultry yards
& gardens completed.
1912 243 male patients who were mostly housed in the
Calico Wards. The first Medical Officer, Dr Samson, commenced duty. Prior to
this medical services were provided by a doctor from Gosford, one day a week.
1913 A patient population of 288.
1914 Building programme largely suspended due
to the outbreak of World War 1. Patient population had increased to 375. The
hospital fishing fleet was assembled.
1915 Patients & staff went out each
Thursday in the hospital fishing fleet and provided fish for the traditional
1916 Main store built, remains standing (Jan 2006)
male patients, 93 in excess of the accommodation.
1919 13th August Victory Ball
held in recreation Hall to celebrate the end of World War 1.
1920 A new ward
opened - population rose to 512, all male. Overcrowding was very bad. The
theatrical stage, which slopes from back to front, was added to the Recreation
1930 Land was set aside at Morisset for the establishment of a hospital
for the Criminally Insane.
1933 672 patients now at Morisset. The ward for the
Criminally Insane was now commenced.
1934 The first female patients and nursing
staff arrived in March.
1936 Only tank or dam water was available at the
1938 New Male Refractory wards were opened.
1939 World War 2 breaks
out & a lack of funds holds up all construction work. Serious drought
resulted in acute water shortage at Morisset. An emergency service from
Pourmalong Creek constructed
1954 Hospital War Memorial Chapel foundation stone was laid.
1957 The Chapel was officially opened and dedicated on the 24th August. The
hospital was renowned for it’s flock of peacocks wandering about the grounds.
1960 Patient population reaches 1403.
1962 The new dairy was used for the first
time on the 12th July 1962. The first hospital fete - the Festival of Flowers
(abundance of flowers in bloom at the hospital at fete time)
was reported as 1490.
1965 Integration of male and female wards commenced,
number of admissions decreases, & rise in the discharge rate. Pressure on
hospital beds began to decrease. Large wards began to reduce the number of
1970 Patient numbers were declining due to more patients being eligible
for disability pensions, more effective medications, treatment programs, and a
change in community attitudes. Early 70’s, the ‘boys’ from Peat & Milson
Islands started being transferred to Morisset.
1972 Morisset Hospital grounds
were proclaimed as a Wildlife Refuge.
1974 “The Denby”, launch used for taking
patients out on the lake, was transferred to Peat Island. The end of the
patient work gangs and outdoor male nurses.
1985 The special community that was
Morisset Hospital underwent major changes with the division of the hospital in
to two distinct & separate entities – Psychiatric Services and
Developmental Disability. Ward 18 closed, Ward 16 closed, Ward 19 closed &
Ward 20 closed.
1991 Ward 21 ‘The Crim’ closed. Wards 19 & 20 demolished.
1992 Ward 9 closed. Ward 11 patients moved in to old doctors & paramedical
staff cottages. A new state of the art forensic psychiatry security unit is
built on the site of the demolished wards 19 & 20.
1997 Hospital Reunion
organised and the Morisset Hospital Historical Society was established.
August - “A Private World on a Nameless Bay – a history of Morisset Hospital”
published by MHHS.
2002 The historic hospital lantern restoration was completed
at a cost of $5,115.
2005 In October, 11 months after the official
opening of the Morisset Multipurpose Centre, showcases containing the lantern
& hospital memorabilia were installed in the centre at a cost of $3,000.
Our web site was also established.
2009 Morisset Hospital History Sub-committee
of Lake Macquarie & District Historical Society Inc. and Hunter New England
Mental Health worked together in planning the highly successful centenary
celebrations held at Morisset Hospital on the 9th May 2009.