Parramatta Female Factory & Asylum: history of the site

Parramatta Female Factory History

The Cumberland Precinct in North Parramatta is home to some of the most significant heritage sites in New South Wales. Most of it has been under continuous occupation by Europeans from the 1790s and the ‘female factory’, built in 1818, was one of the earliest government buildings on the site. The history of its transformation into an insane asylum, and then mental health precinct, provides us with insights into nearly 200 years of convict and medical history in Australia. Like many other government institutions the change from the prison style ‘female factory’ in the early 1800s to a nineteenth century asylum for mental health patients was not an easy one. From 1848 through to the middle of the 1880s buildings for a new style of asylum were erected, but Greenway’s 1821 Female factory building, and the prison cells built by Governor Gipps, remained unchanged at the heart of the precinct. In 1850 the old ‘female factory’ officially became the ‘Parramatta Lunatic Asylum’ and … read full post This set of resources has been compiled by the Parramatta City Council, Heritage and Research Services.

Timeline: Parramatta 'Female Factory' and Asylum 1816-1963
1803 – 1821, First ‘female factory’ at Prince Alfred Square 1800-1816, Samuel Marsden continually writes letters to the social reformers Wilberforce, Bathurst, Elizabeth Fry and later Governor Macquarie 1816 Francis Greenway report on first female factory in Prince Alfred Square 1817, January, Macquarie places the construction of a new Female Factory building on the list of essential public buildings 1817, March, Greenway given orders to do ground plans and elevations for the original female factory building 1817 December, Major Druitt called for tenders based on Greenway’s plans and specifications 1818, April, contract given to William Watkins and Isaac Payten 1818, 9 July, Governor Macquarie laid the foundation stone 1821, January, Female Factory’ building completed 1821, 1 February, Macquarie and Commissioner Bigge visit the new building 1823, Governor Brisbane adds a two-story building in a separate yard to the north-west 1828, a pump and internal water system installed removing the need for women to go outside to get water 1828, height of the perimeter wall increased 1838, June work begins on a new range of cells outside the existing walls 1839, September 1839 new range of cells completed 1840, transportation to NSW stops 1841, assignment of convict women ceased to the factory ceased 1846, only 250 women in the factory and the government begins to move asylum inmates into the precinct 1848, the administrative positions of the ‘female factory’ including those of matron had been abolished 1849, Dr Patrick Hill chairs a committee to consider locations for patients with mental health issues 1850, the precinct renamed the ‘Parramatta Lunatic Asylum’ 1852, Patrick Hill became the first Surgeon Superintendent of the Asylum 1855, the asylum acquired twenty-three acres from the Government Domain 1856, November, 16 ft high wall separating the refractory women from the gardens falls down 1861, ‘Criminal Lunatics Building’ added to precinct 1866, Purchase of forty-three acre ‘Vineyard Farm’ from George and Ellen Blaxland 1866, July Dr Greenup murdered by a patient 1869-1870, ‘Male Weatherboard Division’ erected 1871, Description of the Parramatta Asylum 1875-1876, a range of stone buildings replace some of the old female factory buildings 1882, August, approval given to destroy 1838-1839 ‘Female Factory’ cells constructed by Governor Gipps 1883, William Cotter Williamson appointed 1885, new ‘Institute of Psychiatry Building’ completed, uses sandstone blocks from 1838-1839 cells and incorporates original 1821 ‘female factory’ turret clock 1885, Dining Block behind the Psychiatry Building was completed 1885-1886, main ‘female factory’ building demolished 1889, Ward 4 built 1909, Old female factory/asylum entrance removed 1910, new office and visiting block completed 1963, ‘Criminal Lunatic Ward’ demolished

… more posts about the ‘Female Factory’ and Asylum

Interactive Map Female Factory Precinct
The First Female Factory 1803-1821
Female Factory & Asylum 1821-1850
“Parramatta Lunatic Asylum” 1848-1878
“Hospital for the Insane” 1878 -1983
Thwaites and Reed Turret Clock 1821
Room to recover: hospital expansions
Cumberland Hospital – Garden Precinct
The First Land Grants