History

History

This section follows a brief history of Porirua Hospital Museum, from Asylum to Museum.

Please note that the information contained within is a ‘best effort’ only. We would welcome any additions or corrections to the history, so please feel free to get in contact and let us know your thoughts.

Chronology of Events

1844The building of a pauper ‘lunatic’ asylum attached to the Wellington jail.
1845The Lunatics Ordinance was the first legislation concerned with the mentally ill in New Zealand.
1852The Constitution Act placed the responsibility for health services on the Provincial Governments.
1853The Karori Asylum to care for the mentally ill opened on 1 January based on ‘moral management’.
1868Official Visitors were first appointed to act as independent critics of asylums.
1873Mount View Asylum, Wellington, opened on 22 May.
1874Following the abolition of the Provincial Government in 1876, the social services of the colony were reorganized and the Lunacy Department was formed as a department of state which brought the asylums under central control.
1875Dr W.A. Skae appointed as the first Inspector of Lunatic Asylums for the Colony of New Zealand. His appointment was a turning point in the development of mental health policy in New Zealand.
1876Parliamentary inquiry into the lunatic asylums of the colony.
1881Royal Commission to investigate charges of unnecessary violence against patients at Mount View Asylum.
1884Purchase begins of land at Porirua for a Hospital Farm for ‘work therapy’.
1887H Ward, the first ward at Porirua Hospital is opened to relieve overcrowding at Mount View Asylum.
1891Construction begins of the main central block at Porirua Hospital designed to take 500 patients in a rural environment. Opened in 1895.
1894Mrs. Grace Neill was appointed the first Official Visitor for Porirua Hospital, an appointment which was made possible by the Lunatics Amendment Act of the same year which allowed women to be Official Visitors.
1903Government policy changes to promote the villa system, which helped in the classification of patients illness.
1905Organized training for psychiatric nurses started and in 1907 the first formal examination in psychiatric nursing took place.
1906‘Reception houses’ were established as self contained communities for the assessment and early treatment of patients admitted to the hospital in the hope that they could be cured and discharged without having to be committed.
1925Dr Truby King appointed to the position of Inspector General and made recommendations which took acute care closer to the community for the first time, by establishing psychiatric outpatient clinics in General Hospitals.
1928A new nurses’ home built at Porirua Hospital, a 2 story brick building containing over 100 rooms. Before this nurses had to sleep in the main building and around the wards.
1930’sIntroduction of malarial fever therapy for tertiary syphilis, the first specific therapy for a mental illness.
1939Insulin ‘sub-coma’ therapy and convulsive therapy introduced for treating schizophrenia and depression by Dr R. Medlicott.
1942A severe earthquake damages the Main Building at Porirua and had to be evacuated. 700 patients were transferred. 300 with staff were sent to the Chateau and 100 to the Wairakei Hotel which were requisitioned for the purpose.
1943The Main Building was demolished and work on constructing 11 new villas begun.
1944Electro convulsive therapy introduced by Dr. Medlicott.
1955The introduction of effective pharmacotherapy for mental illness. Drugs such as chlorpromazine and largactil allow large numbers of patients to be discharged to the community.
1967Mr. McKay, Minister of Health, said that in order to leave psychiatric Hospitals free to concentrate on their primary function of treating patients, they would no longer be engaged in farming activities. Porirua Hospital Farm handed over to the Department of Lands and Survey. Also from this time resettlement of long stay patients into community hostels started.
1972Wellington Hospital Board assumed control of Porirua Hospital and it was integrated into the Boards facilities. Outpatient and community facilities expanded. Wellington Hospital continued with its own ward as an acute care facility for mental health patients. Resettlement of long stay patients into community hostels began at this time. Outpatient and community facilities continued to expand and an active rehabilitation service was developed. Wellington Hospital had long had a ward for treatment of people with mental illness and a closer relationship developed. (Note that Wellington hospital had long had acute care – but they did open a new ward at that time.)
1977F ward was finally judged unfit for continued inpatient use and uneconomical to restore for such use. Instead it became used for occupational therapy, and as in-service training centre. In 1987 part of it was converted to a Museum housing memorabilia from the hospital as it was downsized. The other section was used for staff offices. Also in this period a psychogeriatric unit was established so that only those requiring specialised services were admitted.
1980The Puketiro Centre was opened at Porirua providing a regional base for multi disciplinary services for children with developmental problems, not just intellectual disability.
1980’s – 1990’sPorirua Hospital continues to contract its inpatient services and expand its services to patients in the community as they are discharged. Acute psychiatric services are developed in the Hutt valley and later at Kenepuru hospital.
1987Porirua Hospital celebrates its centenary and opens a museum of its history in F Ward.
1997The formation of the Friends of Porirua Hospital Museum as an Incorporated Society.
1997The Museum buildings; F Ward, the Shade Shelter and the Courtyard, were given a category 1 NZHPT classification by the Historic Places Trust.
2003The Gorbey Report which has formed the basis of the Museum’s subsequent development.
2006The formation of a Trust with representation from the Friends of Porirua Hospital Museum, Porirua City Council and the Capital and Coast District Health Board, The Porirua Hospital Museum & Resource Centre Trust.

Visitor info

Opening Hours

Every Tuesday, from 1pm – 4pm.

We can accommodate groups outside these hours by arrangement, just get in contact.

Facilities

Available facilities include:

  • Wheelchair access
  • Toilets
  • Guided Tours
  • Parking

Unfortunately we do not have recreational facilities for children.

Exhibits

The Museum collects artefacts relating to Porirua Hospital and the services provided by the Hospital.

Some of the displays that you will see when you visit the museum are:

Farm implements – a reminder of the hospital’s agricultural past. At one stage Porirua Hospital was a self sufficient farm – also a feature of other psychiatric hospitals of the time. Working on the farm was considered good therapy for physically able patients and many responded well to the rewards farm labour offered.

Yoke – used to carry milk from the hospital cow sheds to the wards. At one stage a nurse discovered that the person whose job it was to deliver the milk half-filled the cans with milk and then topped them up with water near the ward!

Insulin treatment chart – the first real treatment for psychiatric patients in the the 1940’s.

seclusion room

Inside the seclusion room used to house psychiatric patients

Seclusion room – used right up until the late 1960’s. A shutter was placed over the window to prevent violent people from harming themselves. The mattress on the bed and blanket are made of heavy canvas to prevent them from being torn up.

The door is very thick and heavy – there are marks in door where a bed end has been bashed against it. The light switch is outside the room. A peephole at the side of the room allowed the nurses to observe the person in the room even if they were standing directly in front of the door. The walls are filled with pumice to deaden noise and as a fire protection measure.

Shock treatment machines – some were made at Porirua Hospital. ECT is still used as an effective treatment today.

Keys – female keys opened all doors on the female wards, male keys for the male wards, and the grand master keys held by the superintendent that opened all doors.

A morgue box containing everything you need to lay out a deceased patient.

Photo: Zoe Melling

Locked medication baskets – medication was put in trays and then sent to the wards.

F Ward Block Building – the F-Ward was built in 1910, and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust has listed the building as an historic site of national importance.

Home

The Porirua Hospital Museum contains a unique historic collection recording the development of mental health services in this country over the last 150 years. It is the only museum in New Zealand providing such a history so is of importance both regionally and nationally. Read more.