Contact Person Nick Jarvis

Colonial history on the market as listing renews calls for Government to reclaim Willow Court site



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AN 1860s building at Willow Court that served as a mental hospital for women is being sold online by its private owner. 

Willow Court antiques operator Hadyn Pearce, who owns six buildings at the former mental institution site, hopes to find a buyer for the building known as the ladies’ cottage.

The sale has renewed calls for the State Government to reclaim the site, which has been overlooked for heritage funding for years.

Mr Pearce said he bought the buildings to save them from vandals and arsonists, but doesn’t have the means to continue restoration.

The building has been advertised on online marketplace Gumtree as a 46-room “Georgian masterpiece”.

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Mr Pearce has done some restoration at the ladies’ cottage, but does not have the money to finish the immense task.

“We’ve been using most of the buildings and this one we haven’t got a use for,” he said.
“It’s just so expensive to keep them, I’m only one ­person.
“I have put in for federal funding and been knocked back.

“We want to find somebody who can love it and use it and enhance it and turn it into something for everyone.”

Mr Pearce originally listed the property at $875,000, but he has changed the price to “negotiable”.

University of Tasmania lecturer and author Nicola Goc said that the sale was another sad reminder of the way Willow Court had been hastily discarded by the State Government.

The ad says the cottage is the most important, gender-specific colonial site in Australia, and comes in “original and unmolested condition” with a large number of colonial ­artefacts.

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The notorious mental institution was closed in the early 2000s.

The sprawling site, which incorporates the colonial precinct and the 20th century Royal Derwent Hospital, was handed to the Derwent Valley Council, but it was unable to ­attract funding, so it sold parts of the site to private investors.

Dr Goc said a site as significant as Willow Court should never have left public hands, and that Mr Pearce’s decision to sell the cottage presented an opportunity for a part of ­history to be reclaimed.

“It would be wonderful if the Government could purchase it and bring it back into public hands and allow it to be restored,” she said.

A spokesman for the State Government said that the property would continue to be protected and preserved under the Historic Cultural Heritage Act, regardless of who owned it.