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1811 sydneygazette

Castle Hill Lunatic Asylum: May 1811

"HlS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR and Mrs. MACQUARIE made a visit to Parramatta on Tuesday last, and this day returned to Town.

His EXCELLENCY, commisserating the unhappy condition of persons labouring under the affliction of mental derangement, has been pleased to order an Asylum to be prepared for their reception at Castle Hill, whither they have been accordingly removed from their former place of confinement, which was in the town gaol at Parramatta, and every provision that humanity could suggest has been made for their accommodation and comfort."

Sydney Gazette, 1 June 1811 p.1c.

Background Notes
The Castle Hill Lunatic Asylum became the first official institution in Australia that was specifically organised to care for those suffering from mental illnesses. To establish the lunatic asylum Macquarie arranged for the modification of a large two-storey stone granary (previously used as a barrack). It stood on a site that formed part of the government farm known as the Castle Hill Agricultural Settlement.

The farm had been worked by convict labourers until 1810 and was located in a largely uninhabited area approximately seven miles north of Parramatta. The site is identifiable today in a valley NW of the junction of Old Northern Road and Old Castle Hill Road.

There were several buildings on the former farmland and the largest was a two-storey structure made of sandstone, with a shingle roof. The dimensions of the two floors of the main building were approximately 100 feet by 24 feet. It would function as an asylum until 1826 when an alternative site was established at Liverpool.

The exact date of the transfer of the insane inmates from Parramatta Gaol to Castle Hill is not known, but the sequence of events indicates that it took place during May 1811. In April 1811 Lieutenant Robert Durie (c1777-1825) [73rd Regiment of Foot] the Commandant at Parramatta was directed to ensure that "so soon as the Work shall be completed you will cause the six Lunatics to be removed thither from Parramatta, attended by Cullen their Keeper, and the Woman who now acts as a cook for them, both of whom are to continue in attendance on them at Castle Hill."

The Macquaries, accompanied by Lt. Col. Maurice O'Connell and his wife Mary (nee Putland), daughter of the former governor, William Bligh, visited the Castle Hill asylum on Friday 31 May. They returned to Sydney the following day, after a short three day residence at Parramatta. [see: Journal: 29 May].

'Campbell to Durie, 13 April 1811.' Colonial Secretary Out-Letters. CSOL, 4/3490 p.158. [State Records NSW].

BOSTOCK, John. The Dawn of Australian Psychiatry: an account of the measures taken for the care of mental invalids from the time of the First Fleet, 1788, to the year 1850, including a survey of the overseas background and the case notes of Dr. F. Campbell. Sydney: Australian Medical Association, 1968.

Neil, W.D. The Lunatic Asylum at Castle Hill: Australia's First Psychiatric Hospital 1811-1826. Castle Hill, NSW: Dryas, 1992.

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