Hillcrest Hospital

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Hillcrest Hospital
Opened 1929
Closed 1994
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Hillcrest, SA
Alternate Names
  • Northfield Mental Hospital 1929-1964


The Northfield Mental Hospital was opened by the government in 1929 at Northfield. There had been calls for a second Asylum due to overcrowding at Parkside Lunatic Asylum, later called the Parkside Mental Hospital, as early as 1909.

During the planning and construction of the Hospital the institution was known as William's Farm. It was proclaimed as the Northfield Mental Hospital in April 1929 and opened for the admission of patients on 11 September that same year. The Hospital was opened with two blocks. One section with 25 beds was set aside for ex-soldiers with mental illness. The second section, for civilians, was able to accommodate up to 70 patients. Further additions were made during the 1930s and 1940s.

Initially the Hospital was being used predominantly for so called 'harmless' patients but ongoing problems of overcrowding at Parkside in the 1930s led to changes to the kinds of patients admitted to Northfield. The Hospital was then required to accept all kinds of cases of mental illness and also people with intellectual disabilities.

By 1945 the Northfield Mental Hospital, the Enfield Receiving House and the Glenside Hospital were the only State-run facilities that accommodated children with intellectual disabilities.

In 1961 a report into State-run mental health services criticised the lumping together of the intellectually disabled with people suffering from mental illness, and the fact that young people continued to be housed with adult inmates. The report included disturbing statistics on the make-up of the population of the Parkside and Northfield Mental Hospitals and the Enfield Receiving House. Of a total population of 2500 patients, more than 600 were intellectually disabled and, of these, 142 were aged under 12.

From 1962 the patients at Parkside and Northfield Hospitals were classified as having either a 'mental illness' or a 'mental disability'. Two years later the Mental Health Amendment Act 1964 defined two types of 'mental deficiency'. These were 'intellectual retardation' and 'mental illness'.

The Hillcrest Hospital was the new name given to the Northfield Mental Hospital in 1964. It provided mental health services for inpatients, outpatients and day patients, as well as community services for the acute and chronically mentally ill, elderly patients suffering from dementia and related illnesses and people with alcohol dependence problems. Children, including some State children, continued to be sent to Hillcrest Hospital.

On 1st July, 1979, Enfield Hospital was incorporated with Hillcrest Hospital. Both Hospitals came under the control of a single board of management. By 1982 all Enfield Hospital patients had been transferred to Hillcrest.

In 1991 the Hospital was operating 370 beds and was also responsible for the administration of the Northfield Security Hospital and a rehabilitation hostel at College Park. Hillcrest Hospital closed in 1994.