What is significant?
The Former Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital (Hospital for the Insane) was constructed initially between 1906 and 1913 in the pavilion form of hospital design. The architect SE Bindley of the Victorian Public Works Department used the Federation Domestic Queen Anne style. The surviving buildings include the Male and Female Acute Wards (1907-09), Male and Female Convalescent Wards (1907-09), Dining Room/Recreation Hall and Kitchen (1907-09), Female Attendants? Block (1907-09), Female Workers' Block (1907-09), Male Attendants' Block (1907-09), Male Workers' Block (1913), Pathology/Mortuary Block (1909), the Workshop (1909-10), the Paint Store/Morgue (c.1920) and the remaining connecting walkways. The parkland setting of the hospital, the remains of the former airing courts, the rear roadway and significant trees and plantings are important as part of the site's history. The hospital is the earliest example, though significantly altered, of a hospital for the insane as distinct from a lunatic asylum, in Victoria. The alteration of the Lunacy Act in 1911 made possible a further change from Hospital for the Insane to Mental Diseases Hospital, allowing for the housing of (chronic) working patients apart from the acute cases. Working patients worked unpaid on the farm and in the laundry, as well as doing other necessary tasks around the hospital.
The Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital was part of an integrated system of psychiatric treatment introduced under the first Inspector General of the Insane in Victoria, Dr Ernest Jones in the early years of the twentieth century. It was the first psychiatric hospital to be established following the introduction of the Lunacy Act of 1903 and was intended for the treatment of patients with transient and recoverable disorders. The Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital site does not now include the Receiving House building (1905-06) which is located further to the east within Royal Park. The Hospital consisting of Receiving House and Acute Wards was part of a wave of reform which emphasised early diagnosis and swift hospital treatment for mentally ill patients.
How is it significant?
The Former Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital is of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Former Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital is of architectural significance as a relatively intact complex of early twentieth century buildings designed for the purpose of hospitalising and treating people with psychiatric conditions.
The Former Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital is of architectural significance for the scale and cohesive architectural style of the main accommodation buildings and the setting within a landscaped parkland environment.
The Former Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital is of historical significance as demonstrating early twentieth century approaches to patient assessment and cure, with an emphasis on early intervention. It is also of historical significance in the history of psychiatric care in Victoria, as the place where research into the clinical use of lithium, discovered earlier by Dr John Cade, and other treatments, took place. The mortuary/pathology block is significant in the history of science in Victoria for its associations with research and training in the treatment of psychiatric illness. The workers' blocks (patient accommodation) for unpaid patients demonstrate the reliance on patients' work in the running of the hospital as well as the idea of therapeutic work in recovery from mental illness. The female attendants' (staff) accommodation block (1907-09) was the first nurses' home provided within Victoria's mental hospital system, an initiative aimed specifically at improving the professional standards of nursing in psychiatric care. The remains of the airing courts attest to the daily routine of patients confined within a custodial institution and the belief in the therapeutic value of garden surroundings.