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South Australia - Organisation

Colonial Lunatic Asylum (1846 - 1852)

  • Colonial Lunatic Asylum, Glenside

    Colonial Lunatic Asylum, Glenside, c. 1880, courtesy of State Library of South Australia.

Government-run, Home and Hospital

The Colonial Lunatic Asylum was opened in 1846 by the Colonial Government at Parkside. It operated as a temporary institution for people suffering from mental illness who were previously kept at the Adelaide Gaol. It is possible that children may have been among the patients. The opening of the new purpose built Adelaide Lunatic Asylum on North Terrace led to the closure of the Colonial Lunatic Asylum in 1852.


In Adelaide prior to 1846 people suffering from mental illness, which at the time often included people with intellectual disabilities, were confined at the Adelaide Gaol. A special ward at the gaol was set aside where these inmates were restrained. In 1845 eight male and four female patients, considered then to be lunatics, were segregated at the Gaol.

In April of 1846, bowing to public pressure, the government took out a two year lease on an eight room wooden house on one acre of land at Parkside in Adelaide's east. The property was officially appointed as an Asylum by the Lieutenant-Governor on 7 May 1846:

Very great inconvenience having been found to arise from the confinement of lunatics in the Adelaide Gaol-as well on account of the number of such patients now under restraint in that building, as from the interference, thereby occasioned, with the regular prison discipline-it has been considered necessary, as a temporary measure, to secure the house situated on the Eastern Plains, on Section 264, District A, for the accommodation and safe custody of persons suffering from mental derangement;

On the 21 May 1846 nine patients were moved from the Gaol to the Asylum. From 1847 the operation and over-site of the Asylum was the responsibility of the Colonial Surgeon.

The building used as the Colonial Lunatic Asylum, despite some alterations and additions, was quickly found to be too small. Many mentally ill patients remained incarcerated at the Adelaide Gaol. By 1849 plans for a purpose built asylum that could cater for up to 60 patients were underway. Construction began at North Terrace, Adelaide, in 1850.

Always intended to be a temporary institution it is possible that, during the six years of its operation, children with intellectual disabilities or suffering from mental illness may have been among those placed at the Colonial Lunatic Asylum.

When the new Adelaide Lunatic Asylum opened in 1852 all patients from Parkside were transferred to the new building and the Colonial Lunatic Asylum was closed.


1846 - 1852
Location - The Colonial Lunatic Asylum was situated at Parkside. Location: Parkside


 1846 - 1852 Colonial Lunatic Asylum
       1852 - 1902 Adelaide Lunatic Asylum



  • Piddock, Susan, A Space of Their Own: The Archaeology of Nineteenth Century Lunatic Asylums in Britain, South Australia and Tasmania, Springer, New York; London, 2007. Details

Online Resources


Colonial Lunatic Asylum, Glenside
Colonial Lunatic Asylum, Glenside
c. 1880
State Library of South Australia


Sources used to compile this entry: 'Advertising - Government Gazette Notices - Lunatics', South Australian Register (Adelaide, South Australia), 9 May 1846, p. 3,; 'Lunatic Asylum', in History of Disability in South Australia, Disability Information and Resource Centre Inc, 2007,; Goldney, Bob, Glenside Hospital: an historical perspective including its role in the management of depression, University of Adelaide, 26 February 2009; Piddock, Susan, A Space of Their Own: The Archaeology of Nineteenth Century Lunatic Asylums in Britain, South Australia and Tasmania, Springer, New York; London, 2007; State Records of South Australia, 'Agency Details GA1980 Parkside Lunatic Asylum, later Parkside Mental Hospital, later Glenside Hospital', in State Records of South Australia, ArchivesSearch,

Prepared by: Gary George