Friday, November 18, 2011

Former Royal Derwent Hospital Ward Destroyed by Fire

Many wards at the former Royal Derwent Hospital have been lost by fire over the past couple of years or through demolition for site redevelopment.  The photo of the ward above was demolished soon after this photo was taken. 
The 1950s designed Ward 1 at the historic Royal Derwent Hospital complex was destroyed by fire this week. Fires have destroyed four hospital wards in the past couple of years, with others having been demolished for urban redevelopment. 

The wards that now remain from the mid 20th Century precinct are wards 10 and 12. Ward 10 is privately owned, whilst ward 12 is due to be demolished any-time. They are now the only remaining examples of wards that highlight this period of the hospital's history.

The massive complex that was the Royal Derwent Hospital (1830-2001) was the longest running institution in Australia and pre-dates Port Arthur, with buildings spanning from 1830 through to the 1970s. Georgian, Federation, Art Deco and Modernist buildings all existed on the site when it was sold off, but sadly mismanagement and neglect of the complex has seen many buildings vandalised, demolished or destroyed by fire.  

The 1950s designed western precinct of the former Royal Derwent Hospital highlighted a major shift in providing healthcare for for people with mental illness with it's open-plan layout.

Without the appropriate protection of Modernist buildings at the Royal Derwent Hospital, the diversity and linkage of architectural styles have been lost forever. Tasmania's 19th Century architecture is rightly admired and protected, but there is much catching up to do when it comes to our mid 20th Century architectural heritage. 

To view my photographic project of the former Royal Derwent Hospital click here and view a video of Ward 1 on fire and its demolition click here


  1. I went for a drive through Willow Court & the Royal Derwent complex about 12 months ago. It's amazing, like driving through 1980s Soviet Russia. I used to work with a guy who was in the disability sector, and some of his clients had come out of Willow Court when it closed in 2001 - most of them were glad to see the back of it.

    It's a fascinating slice of history, it's puzzling that it's just lying there, for the most part abandoned.

  2. I suppose it's no use crying over spilt milk, but what a great shame Thomas. I have looked at your other photos and I can't believe wonderful buildings like Lyprenny House, the Barracks and that awesome modernist church were left to rack and ruin and subsequently demolished. I just don't get it.

  3. Hey Kylie - Lyprenny House is privately owned but its future is in doubt as it currently stands abandoned and in a vandalised state, whilst the Barracks building is abandoned but plans are to have it as a tourist attraction. I agree the church is a great example of Modernist design, and it's future remains uncertain because it is smack bang in the middle of redevelopment.


About the project

Join me (Thomas Ryan Photography) on a photographic project documenting Tasmanian 20th Century Modernism from the 1930's to the 1980's. The entire project gallery of 1000+ images and counting can be viewed on my website under art projects. I have been undertaking this project for over a decade.

My portfolio of commercial and art projects can be seen on my website and I can be contacted here as well. All photographs are copyright of Thomas Ryan Photography. Unauthorised use is prohibited. Contact me for all enquires

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