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.


A rare and historically significant photograph of female staff of the Kew Hospital for the Insane, in front of the central wing. The photograph is one of a pair donated to the Kew Historical Society by Frances Dorothea Van Brummelen (1931-2011) in 1994. Following her graduation as a social worker, Fran Van Brummelen joined the staff of Kew Cottages in 1969, and became senior social worker there in 1971. She remained at the cottages until she retired in 1994. Earlier, In 1987, with psychiatrist Cliff Judge, she founded the Kew Cottages Historical Society becoming its president. In 2002, the pair collaborated on the book Kew Cottages: the World of Dolly Stainer, which was later commended in the Victorian Community History Awards.

Physical description

Panoramic photograph of group of female staff in north courtyard, in front of Administrative Wing