Port Arthur Insane Asylum

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Port Arthur Insane Asylum
Opened 1868
Closed 1877
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Single Building
Location Port Arthur
Alternate Names


The asylum was the last major structure to be built at Port Arthur before it closed in 1877. Its construction was paid for by the British Government. Because of the age of the few remaining convicts on-site, the authorities had to employ tradesmen to build it. It was completed in 1868. The Asylum originally had four wings radiating from a central dining room. The front of the building was trimmed with an open veranda, which fronted onto a large fenced garden. It was flanked by a keepers’ quarters and a bakehouse, both of which were ‘L’ shaped. To the rear was a long wooden building that served as accommodation for the Asylum’s more rowdy occupants. In keeping with the times, treatment for the patients (many suffering from depression or mental afflictions) was rudimentary at best. Convict patients were provided with a ‘soothing’ atmosphere, where they were allowed exercise and mild amusement.

After Port Arthur closed 1877, the Asylum remained in Government hands until 1889, when it was handed over to the Carnarvon Town Board for use as their town hall. Bushfires in 1895 damaged the building’s clock tower and north wing. The north wing was never rebuilt, but the clock tower was promptly repaired and re-pointed at a different angle. The Asylum was subsequently used as a community hall and a public school. The local council also used the building as its chambers until 1973. Today, the Asylum features a small museum and a coffee shop.