The About Time Tours – 2013

Glenside Historic Walk

Stitched Panorama

Image taken by photographer Stephen West and shows the downstairs Music Therapy space used on the tours.

  • Parkside Lunatic Asylum 1870-1913
  • Parkside Mental Hospital 1913-1967
  • Glenside Hospital 1967 to 2013

278 people attended 4 walks through the historic buildings at Glenside Hospital during the About Time Festival in May and June 2013.  The walks were the result of a partnership between the Glenside Historic Society and mindshare and took interested participants through a variety of buildings at the Glenside Hospital that were used prior to the 1980’s.

The buildings visited included ‘The Elms’ the women’s ward built in the 1870’s which is currently being used for World War 1 film by the SA Film corporation, Erindale the ward for difficult men also built in the 1870’s, the historic chapel, the outside surrounds of the SA Film Corporation building and the newly renovated equivalent of the Elm’s the men’s ward which is now part of the Central School of Art.

The Art School are now also in the men’s and staff dining rooms and have plans to renovate Erindale as part of the new art school.  The mysterious Z Ward the previous ward for the criminally insane is also intended as a building to become part of  the Art School in 2020.

The people who attended the walk included people working in the sector, previous residents at Glenside, retired staff, students studying mental health, nearby residents and the general public.  Most people came out of curiosity and for access to the historic buildings.

Footage from the Parkside Carnivals between the 1940’s and 1950’s were on display on the day and also on the mindshare web site along with images from the hospital’s heyday poetry and a few personal stories.

As coordinators we were overwhelmed with the interest that the walk gained in general and we recognized that the public were indeed extremely interested in the stories and history of the hospital.  What may did not realize was that Glenside had not just been a mental health hospital but also a home and refuge for people living with disabilities, which included a young children’s home, geriatrics and also people with nowhere to go as our society had no welfare system and these people were interned in the hospital in it’s early days.  It was not until the 1970’s that the hospital became dedicated to mental health services.

There where a range of interesting fact’s that I did learn on the tours.

At the time of the Elm’s and the Glenside Administration (now the SA Film Corporation Building) construction they were the latest state of art buildings.  With the Elm’s building trialing new internal stairs that ensured in the event of a fire that the people living in the building would escape safely. There was internal heating with the use of water pipes in the ceiling and the buildings always remained cool in summer with their thick walls and canny construction.  No expense was spared in the building of both the Administration and Elms buildings.

Fire was a big fear in the 1800’s and early 1900’s with all dining rooms, kitchens and washing areas kept separate from the main buildings but these were incorporated back into these buildings in the 1950’s.  Most of the wards had surrounding high or Ha Ha walls to keep people inside.  There is one full Ha Ha wall left in SA which surrounds the Z Ward at the back of the Glenside campus.

Many of the attendees on the walk recoiled at the idea of outside washing area’s and not too vigorous bathing regimes but in truth if you lived in Unley, Prospect or Burnside you too would have not bathed daily or had a proper toilet.  The buildings at Glenside are a reflection on the life style of people living in side and outside of the establishment.

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Image taken by Stephen West

Men and women were kept segregated for many years with only male staff for men and females for women, they would meet up rarely during the year at the Parkside Carnivals or special fete days. Training sessions as a new nurse would have lasted for 3 hours at the maximum before you were expected to work with those staying in the building.

If someone was able to live externally from the hospital for a week without issue they were considered well enough to live a normal life, but husbands did intern their wives (some wrongly) and some people did live at Glenside for their entire lives.  One woman commented that her Aunt lived on site for 4 years when going through menopause in a period of time when medication was not available.

Two people on the tour had spent some time in the Elm’s ward and where visiting it for closure.  Many attendees’ were highly interested in the tour and happy to lap up the knowledge of the Glenside Historic society’s tour guide David Buob who has a wealth of knowledge on the site since his commencement as an employee in the 1970’s.

The society had to get rid of a lot of the treasures they had saved and stored over they years but they maintain a presence there still with their office and new premises in the old Mortuary in the new hospital precinct and the information on the mindshare web site will soon be transferred to a blog at www. https://glensidehistoricsociety.wordpress.com

For me the Glenside campus is a hodgepodge reflection on the changes in the treatment of illness in our society.  And you can clearly see the changes in the buildings as patients were moved into newer facilities over time.

The brand new hospital is being built to the southeastern side of the block and it is now approaching finalization with a range of services already in operation. New accommodation for long-term patients now includes their own small flats with kitchen facilities instead of wardrooms and all feedback on the new hospital space is that it is going to be a truly peaceful space.  As once again architects search out the latest in developments from overseas to build the best facility they can.

Staff from the new units behind the older historic buildings have mentioned that some of the new flats are falling apart and it does make you think of the durability of buildings like the Elm’s and the Z Ward, which are around 140 years old.  I don’t feel that in our quick fix society that the newer Glenside Hospital will still be standing in 140’s years.

Around 95% of those attending the Glenside Tours thoroughly appreciated the history presented and reflected on the fact that reviewing history and keeping the past in mind when developing the future was a key factor to the success in the treatment of mental health in our society.

This week sees the beginning of the demolition of the Eastwood Lodge a building opened in 1954 as the site’s nurse’s lodge, Cleland and Paterson House (built in similar periods) are also headed for end.  Some part of me hopes that we take stock of where we have been as move into the future.

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