Porirua Lunatic Asylum

Porirua Lunatic Asylum (alternates: Porirua Asylum, Porirua Hospital, Porirua Psychiatric Hospital; currently: Porirua Hospital Museum) was a psychiatric hospital located in Porirua. Established in 1887, it was at one time the largest hospital in New Zealand.[1] The patients ranged from those with psychotic illnesses, to the senile, or alcoholics.

Porirua Lunatic Asylum
LocationPorirua, New Zealand
Coordinates41°08′28″S 174°49′55″E / 41.141037°S 174.831952°E / -41.141037; 174.831952Coordinates: 41°08′28″S 174°49′55″E / 41.141037°S 174.831952°E / -41.141037; 174.831952
SpecialityPsychiatric hospital
Former name(s)Porirua Asylum, Porirua Hospital, Porirua Psychiatric Hospital
ListsHospitals in New Zealand


"It was not really barbaric - they were not shut in and forgotten - they were moved to a clean room every twelve hours - there was no medication - there was nothing else we could do." (Nurse Helen Reilly Ngaere Thompson)


Land was acquired in 1884 for a hospital farm that would offer 'work therapy' to relieve overcrowding at Wellington's Mount View Lunatic Asylum.[3] Construction of a one storied 7,000 square feet (650 m2) building containing 24 apartments, H Ward, began in 1886. Porirua Lunatic Asylum, as it was originally named,[4] was opened in the following year and Dr. Thomas Radford King was appointed as its medical superintendent, though in less than a year, he was replaced by Dr. Gray Hassell.[2]

By 1905, Porirua Hospital had 700 beds.[5] In the early 1900s, the facility had 2000 staff and patients, affording a major effect on the Wellington Region's development. By 1928, nurses moved into their own two-store, 100 room building. The resident population was 1,500 in the 1940s.[6]

After the 1942 Wairarapa earthquakes, 800 patients had to be moved to other hospitals.[7] Subsequently, the main building was demolished and eleven new villas were constructed.

Most patients were released into community-based care in the late 1980s after the release of the Wellington Hospital Board White Paper on psychiatric care. The first built ward, F Ward, was closed in 1977, considered unfit and uneconomical. In 1980, the Puketiro Centre operated as a regional base for children with developmental problems. In 1987, the hospital celebrated its 100-year anniversary, opening the Porirua Hospital Museum in F Ward.[3]


  1. ^ "The History of Health Care in Porirua". Porirua City Council. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  2. ^ a b "The Porirua Lunatic Asylum (Porirua Hospital) 1887-2007". Porirua Hospital Museum and Resource Centre Trust 2010. 2010. Archived from the original on 28 May 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Chronology Of Events". poriruahospitalmuseum.org.nz. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  4. ^ Australasian Medical Association (1887). Australasian medical gazette: the journal of the Australasian branches of the British Medical Association (Now in the public domain. ed.). L. Bruck. pp. 208–. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Porirua City". porirua.net. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  6. ^ Maclean, Chris (November 18, 2009). "Porirua psychiatric hospital". Wellington places. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  7. ^ Rogers, Anna (2013) [1996]. The Shaky Isles: New Zealand Earthquakes (2 ed.). Wellington: Grantham House. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-86934-119-0.

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