Morisset Hospital History Sub-committee
  Morisset Hospital Historical Society
 
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FAMILY HISTORY RESEARCHERS PLEASE NOTE

We do not have access to patient or staff records.

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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. (The Beginnings) 

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 Friday luncheon. 

1916 Main store built, remains standing (Jan 2006) 

1918 484 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 Hall 

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 hospital. 

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) 

1963 Population 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 beds. 

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. 

2000 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.

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