The history of Willow Court is complex, controversial and stained with melancholy. Today, the silent voices of thousands linger in the air and dark shadows cast an unsettling mood down abandoned hallways.
It’s a story that’s intrigued Sharmaine Mansfield since she first toured the site herself four years ago. “Willow Court pre dates Port Arthur,” Sharmaine explains. “Its history is just as intriguing but lesser known outside of Tasmania. Prior to its closure just over 20 years ago, it was one of the largest mental asylums in the Southern Hemisphere and the oldest mental hospital still in use in the country.”
“Back in those very early years the complex served three different purposes,” continues Sharmaine. “It was a general hospital for the district, a hospital for invalid convicts, and also an asylum for the insane. The first ‘lunatic’ patient was admitted in 1829 with many more soon to follow. By the 1850s the hospital was used exclusively for the mentally ill, with records of the time indicating that it then housed around 180 patients.”
Sharmaine now runs Willow Court Asylum Tours.
“Growing up in the Derwent Valley, Willow Court has always had a presence in my life. One of my relatives even spent some time here in the 1980s. It’s definitely a place that’s woven deeply into the fabric of the local community and one whose history I am determined to respect.”
Take a tour of Willow Court with Sharmaine. History comes above after dark – Read the full article here