Local precinct steeped in a historically significant and somewhat dark past, Willow Court is a must-see place for visitors to New Norfolk.
The construction of Willow Court for use as an asylum was completed before the even more famous site at Port Arthur. At the time of its closure in 2001, it was the oldest operational mental hospital in Australia. At its peak, it was the largest asylum in the Southern Hemisphere. From 1827, the asylum consisted of a collection of wooden huts and served several purposes; as a general hospital for the district, as an invalid depot for convicts and as the single asylum for the insane residents of the colony (the first patient arrived in 1829).
Originally a male-only (predominantly ex-convict) institution, the first female patient arrived in Willow Court in 1830. At that time there were a total of 65 patients and 23 staff. There were many changes over the years including its usage an naming - but the site was still operating as an asylum at the time of its closure in 2000.
Visitors to town are encouraged to talk a walk to the precinct to see what remains of the site including some examples of the old building being re-used for commercial purposes. It is hoped that further development can improve the visual aspect of the area while respecting the history of the site and the lives of those that lived and worked there.
More online information about the history of Willow Court can be found on these websites: