The former Kew Lunatic Asylum, was commenced in 1856 and opened in 1872. At various stages of the institution's history it was named the Kew Lunatic Asylum (1872-1956), Kew Mental Hospital (1956-1960s), Willsmere Mental Hospital (c.1960s-1982), and the Willsmere Unit (1982-1989). The Kew Idiot Ward/Asylum (1887-1929) was initially part of the Asylum. Later it was called Kew Children’s Cottages (1929-62), Kew Training Centre (1962-c.97), and Kew Residential Services (c.1997-2008). Most of the records relating to these former institutions are held by the relevant Government Department or by the Public Record Office Victoria. Due to the location of these two institutions in Kew, the Kew Historical Society also holds an extensive photographic archive as well as significant collections of personal papers collected by staff who worked at these institutions.
This photograph is one of a series donated to the Society by the photographer, taken following the closure of the Willsmere Unit, and before its redevelopment as a private residential complex. The series is historically significant in that it depicts interior and exterior views of the former institution that were subsequently altered or demolished during redevelopment. A number of the 'views' are socially significant as they allow us to examine the ways in which public institutional architecture in the 19th and 20th centuries responded to the needs of those with perceived mental health issues.
Colour snapshot of a part or section of the former Willsmere (Kew) Mental Hospital, taken following its decommissioning and before its sale and redevelopment.