Historical information

Following a Royal Commission in 1854, the building of a new Asylum at Kew began in 1864. It was built to replace the Yarra Bend Asylum on the Fairfield side of the Yarra River. Work started in 1864 and was completed in 1872 at a cost of ₤198,334. Operating over a period of 116 years, and often renamed to take account of public sensitivities, the ‘Kew Lunatic Asylum’ was one of the largest asylums built in Australia. ‘Willsmere’ was finally closed in December 1988 and sold by the Government of Victoria in the late 1980s.

The photograph is by Charles Nettleton. He arrived in Victoria in 1854. In Melbourne he joined the studio of T. Duryea and Alexander McDonald and specialized in outdoor work. ... Nettleton opened his own studio in 1858. His souvenir albums were the first of the type to be offered to the public. However, when the dry-plate came into general use in 1885 he knew that the new process offered opportunities that were beyond his scope. Five years later his studio was closed (Source: ADB)


A rare silver albumen photograph by the Victorian photographer Charles Nettleton.

Physical description

A framed original silver albumen photograph by Charles Nettleton showing the front of the Kew Lunatic Asylum.

Inscriptions & markings