Willow Court takes its name from two willows planted by Lady Franklin, the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor, which were reported to be cuttings from the grave of Napoleon on Saint Helena.
Willow Court pre dates the well known site of Port Arthur.
The complex was the oldest mental hospital in Australia still in use, at the time of its closure in 2000-01.
Willow Court was also one of the largest asylums in the Southern Hemisphere before its closure in 2000.
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).
In 1827 Governor Arthur requested that all Invalid convicts across all Tasmania to be transferred to New Norfolk to be accommodated in wooden huts until more suitable accommodation was built on the site.
The first invalid patient arrived later that year in 1827.
In 1829 the first Lunatic patient arrived.
The first female patient arrived in Willow Court in 1830.
In 1830 the Willow Court site accommodated 45 Invalids, 20 Lunatics and a total of 23 staff all but 3 of them were ex convicts.
In 1831 the construction of the iconic Barracks was completed, part of which still stands today.
Willow Court 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.
Willow Court as its most commonly known had many different names over the years. It was referred to as Invalid Barracks New Norfolk, Colonial Hospital New Norfolk, Madhouse New Norfolk, Her Majesty’s Lunatic Asylum, Mental Diseases Hospital, Lachlan Park and by a Royal Decree named Royal Derwent Hospital.
During the late 1950’s early 1960’s there were major changes at the site which included many buildings such as the Clock Tower demolished to make way for new modern Wards. It was also around this time that the Wards commonly known as Royal Derwent were built on the Eastern Side of the Rivulet.
Changes in Government policy with regards to de-institutionalisation led to activities at the complex being wound down and eventually closed in 2000. Most of the ex Patients are now living in group home settings within the community.