Ward 1 Cumberland Hospital

Female Factory clock

Once located in the central arch above the entrance to the main barrack building the original Female Factory clock  was 1 of 5 clocks gifted to the colony by King George IV in 1822. Manufactured by Thwaite and Reed, Clerkenwell London, the clock was later moved to its present location in the north tower of Asylum Ward 1 around 1885.

The clock was displayed as an insignia on items belonging to the Factory. 

Criminal Ward Parramatta

Criminal Ward:Photo courtesy of T. Smith.

Female Factory entrance

Female Factory/Asylum entrance. Photo: courtesy Ralph Hawkins

Parramatta Mental Hospital admin

Parramatta Mental Hospital - Administration 1901 block built on footprint of FF entrance gates. Photo courtesy T Smith.

Parramatta Lunatic Asylum 

In 1847 the Female Factory was re-purposed an Asylum for Lunatic and Invalid Convicts. From the outset the inadequate facilities and the general poor standard of the buildings were criticised. These concerns were not addressed until 1852 when a Surgeon Superintendent Dr Richard Greenup introduced a number of reforms particularly concerning patients held in isolation cells and in the use of restraints. He also raised concerns about the number of troublesome criminals transferred from gaols to the asylum which contributed to further overcrowding. His more humane methods, ironically perhaps, lead to his own death from stabbing wounds inflicted to him by an unrestrained patient in 1866. 

Ward 1 Parramatta Mental Hosp

Ward 1 c1885 Parramatta Mental Hospital 


Work commenced on a new sandstone ward for the criminally insane in 1861 with a second floor added by March 1864 and a third in 1869. These additions did little to improve conditions and by 1872 the institution was in a very poor state. In 1876 a Parliamentary Select Committee of Inquiry heralded in an era of improvement which eventually saw the building of a large two storey sandstone range (Ward 2) in 1877. 

In August 1883 the main barrack building was approved for demolition and by June 1885 Ward 1 (below) was erected partly over its footprint. A large clock which once graced its central pediment was relocated into a purpose built tower in the new building.

During the 1890’s the Asylum went through an intense period of reconstruction with ward  for the dangerous and refractory non-criminal patients built in 1889-90. Until then the Third Class (1838) penitentiary building had been used for female patients but this too was demolished when a new weatherboard division was built.

Many of the later additions were designed by government architect Walter Liberty Vernon including the former main admissions building (completed in c1910) which was constructed directly over the original main gates of the Female Factory. 

Acquisition & Expansion

Overcrowding remained a persistent problem and in 1888 the former Protestant Orphan School at Rydalmere (now UWS campus) was converted into a hospital for the insane and was annexed to the Parramatta Asylum until 1892. In 1918 the hospital took over the adjacent Parramatta Gaol. This was reversed in 1922 when it was decided that the gaol was unsuitable for the care of the mentally ill. 

In 1923 a Royal Commission recommended that the adjacent Parramatta Girls Industrial School be used as a hospital for the criminally insane, however this did not eventuate. By the 1970s, the emphasis changed from in-patient care to community based services and the development of psychiatric units in general hospitals.

Cumberland Hospital

In 1983 the institution was renamed Cumberland Hospital and remains today under the management of the Western Sydney Area Mental Health Service (WSAHS).


For information on Asylum records here

Other Names:  Parramatta Convict Lunatic and Invalid Establishment, Lunatic Asylum, Hospital for the Insane, Mental Hospital, Psychiatric Hospital, Cumberland Hospital & NSW Institute of Psychiatry.

Reference & Links

Hidden Heritage, 150 years of Public Mental Health Care at Cumberland Hospital, Parramatta 1849-1999. Smith, T. WSAHS, 1999

Benevolent Asylum an eclipse of historical fiction - a creative work produced by Lily Hibberd Fremantle Arts Centre & Arts Space Sydney 2010.