Z Ward Glenside
UPDATE June 2016
Beach Energy has kindly offered the National Trust a further 12 month extension of our access to Z Ward building, for public tours and special events.
Find out more about Z Ward events at www.zward.com.au
UPDATE July 2015
Beach Energy has kindly allowed the National Trust to keep Z Ward open to the public for regular historical tours, night tours and special events.
Find out more at www.zward.com.au
Originally published August 2014
South Australia’s former Hospital for Criminal Mental Defectives known as Z Ward was sold by the State Government in August to local company Beach Energy. It had been hoped that this important State Heritage listed building designed by Edward John Woods, SA Architect in Chief from 1878 to 1886, would become a South Australian medical museum. The new owners are in the process of appointing a heritage architect to oversee their plans to re-use the building as office space. They have met with the National Trust and the Glenside Hospital Historical Society to discuss the site’s future. We are looking forward to working with Beach Energy to achieve an adaptive reuse which respects the building’s significant history and provides for regular public access to parts of the building.
Z Ward is an imposing building. The construction of Z Ward for Criminal and Refractory Patients commenced in 1884 with the contract being let to William Pett & Son, builders. One of the particularly significant features is the Ha Ha wall which shielded the inmates from those passing without the need for added security measures at the top, the wall effectively being twice as high on the inside. A condition of the building contract was that it “had to be built at the same height at the same time.”
The polychromatic brickwork technique used by Woods in its design is the most elaborate, sophisticated example of this architectural style in South Australia. Additionally, Woods incorporated ventilation flues into each room and cell as he had done in designing Old Parliament House, the Mortlock Library and Martindale Hall. Fresh air being considered an important element in curing mental illness, the intent was to draw stale air out of each room.
Lack of staffing and financial resources prevented the new facility for 45 inmates from opening until 1888. being opened until 1888, three years after its completion. Only a minority of patients who were accommodated in Z Ward were Governor’s pleasure patients: those acquitted of their crime on the grounds of their insanity. The majority were people charged and convicted of a minor offence, but exhibiting sufficient signs of psychiatric instability that it was thought more beneficial for them to be placed in an asylum rather than in a gaol to serve their sentence. Another small group of patients were those who were considered to be dangerous to themselves or to others and were placed in there for the protection of the Asylum’s other inmates.
Originally known as “L Ward”, the name was changed to Z Ward following the installation of telephones throughout the hospital in the 1900s. The mishearing of the name when the telephone was answered led callers to mistake the ”L” for the word “Hell”. Adding a horizontal line to the “L” to form a “Z” was done to reduce the cost of remarking the ward’s laundry. Z Ward closed on the 13th December in 1973 with the 10 occupants being transferred to the Yatala Security Hospital.
The National Trust lobbied to save Z Ward from being demolished in 1974. Shortly after, the building was re-allocated to the Department of Mines and Energy who used it as a core sample library until it became too small for this use and was closed in 2003. It has remained empty since that time. In the 1980s attempts were made to have it considered as a medical museum for SA, an initiative endorsed by the Director of the Wellcome Medical Museum of London who visited Z Ward at our invitation and pronounced it admirably suited to that purpose. The proposal failed to find favour with the State Government, notwithstanding the successful re-use of similar former institutions Ararat and Beechworth in Victoria as tourism attractions. The challenge of preserving Z Ward and its extraordinary history has now been entrusted to a new pair of hands.
Beach Energy have invited the National Trust and the Glenside Hospital Historical Society to work with them in the planning for their new use of the site.
In order to meet the public interest in viewing Z Ward in its original condition, Beach Energy have scheduled an open day for Sunday November 2nd.
UPDATE: Please note, due to the huge interest shown in today’s open day, Beach Energy have agreed to a second open day on Saturday November 15th.
You can also find about more about Z Ward on Facebook.