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Featured Article Of The Week

Seacliff Lunatic Asylum


The Central Otago Gold Rush in the 1860′s brought about a huge expansion of the Dunedin area of New Zealand. The local asylum at the time became severely overcrowded, and it became clear that another facility was necessary. In 1877, the central government supported plans to build a new farm asylum, and construction began 20 miles north of Dunedin on the eastern coast of the South Island. The dense forest provided a serene location, but the Director of the Geological Survey declared the site to be unsafe to build the asylum. The surrounding hillside was known to be unstable, and concerns were raised over what that would mean to the operation of the asylum. Despite such concerns, the building went ahead, and by 1884, all of the patients from the local asylum were transferred to Seacliff Lunatic Asylum.

The building was designed by Robert Arthur Lawson, and it was modelled on the Scottish baronial style, which Lawson frequently used in his designs. He was also renowned for his range of work in the Gothic Revival style, and he combined both aspects to the Seacliff Lunatic Asylum. With turrets and corbles on every corner, large towers and a spire, the building contained four and a half million bricks (made from local clay.) The great central tower was 50 metres in height, and overlooked the hospital as an observation tower, in case patients attempted to riot or escape. The asylum was built initially to accommodate 500 patients and 50 members of staff, and cost £78,000 to construct. Click here for more...