Z Ward: A story in drawings...

Z-ward plansReaders may be aware of the recent media attention the ‘Z Ward’ building at Glenside Hospital has received. The sale of the complex to Beach Energy has caused curiosity about its future – particularly in regards to how its historical significance will be preserved.

In response to the public interest State Records released a range of plans of the building on its Flickr page. The plans were drawn by W. Pett and Son Contractors and signed off by the Commissioner for Public Works in 1884. Of interest, W. Pett and Son are the same contractors which drew up the plans for Adelaide Arcade, and others.

Parkside Lunatic Asylum posterOn first glance, the plans of the once-called ‘L Ward’ appear innocent, beautiful and inviting. The watercolours have that tendency to draw you in. You notice that the architect of the envisioned building has produced an awe-inspiring level of detail in the way of carefully sketched bricks, girders and frames.

It is easy to forget the afflicted history of the building at this point.

Looking more closely, it is easy to notice the features of the building which allowed for strict control over the patients in the ward. A ha-ha wall measuring 16 feet high from inside the grounds. Cement walls. The iron bars of the wicket gate. Cells no bigger than a modern-day bedroom which held multiple inmates.

Wider reading of the reports of the conditions and events which took place complete the picture.  This was not the restful palace to which one would wish to be confined. James Black wrote to the Daily Herald  (17/08/1918) about how ‘ashamed’ the South Australian public would be to see the conditions under which inmates lived. In 1933, Richard Blight mysteriously died from a small wound in his chest while being held in a cell. The death of Blight remains a mystery today.

The plans of the Z Ward provide a clear picture of what many members of the public hope will be retained when Beach Energy utilises the site.


Copies of the plans of the Z Ward are available for viewing on our Flickr page.

The original plans may be found in the following series:

  • GRG38/64 Plans of government buildings - Colonial Architect's Department and successors.

Further records on the construction work of the Z Ward may be found in the following series:

  • GRS/4418 Specifications and contracts, numerical series - Engineer and Architect's Department and successors.

Further information on the night tours at the Z Ward may be found on the Heritage Watch website.   

Note on the author: A recent convert to the wonderful world of bicycles, Adam the Archivist also has a personal interest in the practical power of archival records and information to enhance the lives of citizens.  You will find Adam working with senior school students on their Research Projects during 2015, facilitating their learning and development through tours and workshops.

Comments

Thanks for posting this well written and evocative piece!

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