By Janine Laity, Graduate Diploma of Archaeology and Heritage Management student
Willow Court, in all its glory, is a site full of history and intrigue. Since the hospital’s opening in 1827, Willow Court has been a place shrouded in secrecy and largely unknown to those outside its walls. It is partly because of this sense of mystery that many felt the need to break in and explore the now empty buildings of the old asylum.
Vandalism has been a great threat to the site since its closure in 2001. For years the site has lain dormant without an active presence on the grounds and with many of the buildings closed off to the general public. Destruction has been a constant issue even to this day, with graffiti scattering the external and internal walls.
Buildings such as Wards C (Carlton), A (Allonah), and the Occupational Therapy theatre have been affected significantly, with many of the roofs kicked in and windows broken. Copper infrastructure has also been a target for thieves. Walking throughout these buildings in particular, you could see the toll vandalism has taken.
Local councilmen shared their concerns and deep fears of vandals burning the remaining buildings down, as evidence of past attempts could be seen. Luckily for buildings such as Wards A and C, their sturdy construction makes it near impossible for them to burn down; however, this is not the case for buildings such as the early Frescati House, built in 1834, which are significantly less sturdy.
The issue of vandalism will hopefully be reduced as current restoration plans are carried out and access becomes more of an option. Educating the new generation and getting them more involved can also be the key to reducing further acts of vandalism.