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Willow Court is located in New Norfolk, Tasmania about 30 mins north-west of Hobart.
Willow Court barracks (1830) pre dates the well known convict barracks site of Port Arthur.
Willow Court takes its name from two willows planted by Lady Jane Franklin, the wife of Lieutenant-Governor John Franklin who governed Van Diemen's Land from 1836 to 1843. The willows were reputed to be two cuttings from the grave of Napoleon on Saint Helena.
The complex and the adjoining Royal Derwent Hospital, was the oldest mental hospital in Australia still in use, at the time of its closure in 2000-01. It is said to be one of the largest Asylums in the Sothern Hemisphere.
In early years the hospital served three purposes; as a general hospital for the district, an invalid depot for convicts and an asylum for the insane (to serve the whole colony). It remained under military administration until the official Government take-over in 1855.
Eventually the hospital became virtually self-sufficient when farms on adjacent land were used to grow fruit and vegetables and produce sheep, cattle, pigs and poultry.
At the end of the 20th century, changes in Government policy led to activities at the complex being wound down and eventually closed due to de-institutionalization.
Willow Court Today
Willow Court & Royal Derwent Hospital currently comprise approximately 16 buildings set beside the Lachlan River.
Walking through the grounds and buildings is like stepping back in time when people with mental illness and disabilities were institutionalised. There is a vast range of architectural designs dating as far back as 1830s to the more modern Wards of around 1960.
There is a public road and footpath that wends its way through Willow Court and Royal Derwent, so you are able to see most of the buildings. These roads - The Avenue, Lower Road, Ring Road and Glebe Rod - are accessed from Burnett Street.
There are plenty of places to park the car if you would like to stroll through Willow Court. Along the Lachlan River there is a scenic walking track that takes you most of the way around the town of New Norfolk..
Some of the Wards in private ownership have been reused and are open to the public. The former Olga Ward is a good antique shop, while Alcheringa has been converted into the Willow Court Motel and the Olive Tree Restaurant. The old Church is now the Patchwork Café which is a quilting shop and café.
The Nurses Quaters is now home to numerous boutique business.
On the Royal Derwent Site (Ring Rd) is another excellent antique shop Ring Rd Antiques.
For those so inclined to believe, over the years there has been hundreds of paranormal activity in Willow Court. The most famous of these reports was the Ward 5 ghost in the Royal Derwent section back in the 1990's and was widely reported throughout Australia.
Several groups hold open days at Willow Court.
The Willow Court & Barracks Committee often holds a Willow Court Open Day, where several of the wards including the Barracks (1830) and Carlton House are open to the Public. There will be an open day during the Annual Derwent Valley Autumn Festival.
The Friends of Willow Court also hold regular open days and have extensive tours throughout the Barracks and Wards C, A, and B.
Several groups also have websites and facebook pages about Willow Court.