They Died in the Asylum

Parkside Lunatic Asylum is the original name for the building that was subsequently renamed to Parkside Mental Hospital, then Glenside Hospital and more recently Glenside Health Services.

Situated on Fullarton Road at Glenside, it is in one of Adelaide’s leafy eastern suburbs and is by outwards appearance, a magnificent place. But the asylum was far from that for the inmates at the asylum, and sadly for so many it was their last home.

The Parkside Lunatic Asylum was opened in 1870 initially housing men, but by the 1880s men, women and children were being housed there. It housed not only those suffering from mental illness, but also people with intellectual disabilities and medical conditions like epilepsy.

While browsing around on Trove, I found this article in the Adelaide Advertiser, 14 January 1910, and was saddened by the fact that there was so many who even in a six month period, died without family nearby.

Return of persons who have died in the Lunatic Asylum during the half-year ended December 31 whose relatives are unknown or reside outside the State:
 – Margaret Sinnott (81), died July 3 last, the cause of death being cardiac disease and senile decay
– Wilhelm Heinrich Dittich (71), July 5, pulmonary disease and cardiac failure
– Judy (aboriginal female), (60), July 10, gastritis and cardiac failure
– Guiseppe Castagneth (58), August 8, apoplexy and cerebral disease
– Rosalie Russell (63), August 20, hepatic disease and ascites
– Theodosia Byrne (78), August 20, apoplexy and senile decay
– Sarah Jane Hayes (35), August 29, phthisis and exhaustion
– Bridget (alias Annie) Evans, (42), August 29, suicide by hanging
– William Conway (36) September 1, general paralysis and apoplexy
– Dora Knout (80), September 2 cardiac disease and senile decay
– William Carruthers (75), September 5, diarrhoea and senile decay
– Thomas Paddock (70) September 17, cardiac disease and senile decay
– Alfred Perfect (48) September 18, apoplexy and paralysis
– George Henry Holmes (52), September 26, pulmonary tuberculosis and exhaustion
– Isaac Mowatt (69), November 2, empyæmia
– Mary McNulty (60), November 13, Pulmonary tuberculosis and exhaustion
– Oscar Genske (55), December 6, cardiac disease and paralysis
– John Kew Dawson (69), December 10, senile decay and exhaustion.
Another article I found in Adelaide’s Daily Herald, from 6 May 1910, gives you an idea of how big this place was …
In the course of his annual report the Resident Medical Officer of the Parkside Lunatic Asylum states:—”The asylum population during the 12 months ended December 31, 1903, showed no increase in numbers and, what was a curious coincidence, there was no alteration in the respective number of male and female patients. There were therefore resident in the Asylum—males, 597; females, 454; total, 1051. The average number of patients resident during the year was 1050—males, 593; females, 457. This is an increase over the number during 1908, when the average number resident was 1027—males 586; females, 441. The ratio per 1000 of lunatics, idiots, and persons of unsound mind to the population was 2.5 for both sexes males, 2.66; females, 2.32. The male ratio is the lowest for 20 years.”
The asylum is full of tragic sad stories, let alone the horrors of Z Ward which is where the “criminally insane” were said to be held.
Glenside Hospital, formerly the Parkside Lunatic Asylum

Glenside Hospital, formerly the Parkside Lunatic Asylum, taken 2015
Source: denisbin Flickr

And while none of the names listed above are relatives of mine, they are someone’s grandparent, great grandparent, or great aunt or uncle, and while I don’t know the stories behind any of them being in the Asylum, I felt they should be recognised and remembered, rather than just being another entry on a asylum admission register.
Parkside Lunatic Asylum on Find & Connect
Untold Stories of the Parkside Lunatic Asylum on Weekend Notes

7 Responses to “They Died in the Asylum”

  1. Jill Ball says:

    What a grand building that housed some sad stories.

  2. Carmel says:

    Indeed a sad place. I found the Glenside Historical Society very helpful in providing information regarding a great uncle who died there in 1903.

  3. crissouli says:

    Heartbreaking to know that so many died alone, and almost without acknowledgement.
    I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris

    • Alona says:

      You’re so right … and that’s what got me. And thankyou for the listing in your Friday Fossicking list Chris. It’s greatly appreciated.

  4. Judy Webster says:

    Many years ago (long before I began indexing records of mental asylum patients in Queensland) I bought a book called “South Australian Record Series No.7: Mental Patients’ Estates”, which is an index compiled by Jill Statton.

  5. Linda Staunton says:

    My uncle was admitted to Z Ward in the late 1940s and died in the place in early 1957 under mysterious circumstances, such a tragic situation, he was not legal age when admitted, he did not make 18 years. By today’s standards he would not have been admitted to such a place but treated in the community. RIP uncle.

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