Porirua Psychiatric Hospital

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Porirua Psychiatric Hospital
Construction Began 1886
Opened 1887
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Cottage Plan
Alternate Names
  • Porirua Lunatic Asylum
  • Porirua Mental Asylum
  • Porirua Mental Hospital


Porirua Psychiatric Hospital was opened in 1887 on 140 acres of rural farmland outside of Wellington, New Zealand. The hospital was constructed as a farm colony for the nearby Mount View Asylum. Fresh air and open land was considered beneficial for patients, and the colony had extensive vegetable gardens, an orchard, and a 6000 gallon water reservoir that were built before the first buildings of the hospital had opened.

The first building, the H-Cottage Ward, was finished on March 11th of 1887. This building would later become a doctors residence, and then as a convalescent ward for women. On May 31st, 1887 Dr Thomas Radford King was appointed medical superintendent of both Wellington and Porirua Asylums.

In 1891, a new central block was built to accommodate 500 new chronic patients. Construction was completed one year later, and the new wards included dormitories for both male and female patients. By 1900, the construction of the original design of the asylum to accommodate 513 patients was almost completed with dormitories, day rooms, and single rooms for the noisy patients provided on both the male and female sides. According to Proirua Hospital Museum and Resource Centre Trust, "there was criticism of the materials used for the building such as the use of unseasoned timber which was shrinking, plaster breaking down, and the use of sea sand in the mortar making it friable." In 1908, the hospital's nursing staff was composed of 30 nurses and 32 attendants.

F-Ward was a ward constructed during the 1900 hospital expansion which housed disturbed and violent women. The ward contained a sun shelter and a grassy courtyard, surrounded by a security fence. The ward housed 103 women, and in a letter of 15th of December 1943, a nurse who worked there in 1925 remembered: "The patients in F Ward were terribly violent. They screamed and yelled all night and half the day. There were no drugs - they were locked in single rooms and you couldn't go near them." [1]

In 1942, a severe earthquake resulted in the evacuation of the entire Porirua campus. All 700 patients and 300 staff were sent to the Chateua and Wairekei Hotel. Damages to the main building resulted in its demolition one year later. New villas, 11 in total, were constructed in its place.

The onset of deinstitutionalization in New Zealand resulted in the closure of parts of the Porirua campus. F ward was finally judged "unfit for continued inpatient use and uneconomical to restore for such use." The building was converted into occupational therapy and an in-service training center. By 1987, F-Ward had been preserved and converted into a museum containing much of the original equipment from the ward.

Porirua Hospital Museum[edit]

After the conversion of F-Ward into a museum, other building were marked for category 1 NZHPT classification by the Historic Places Trust. These buildings, though outdated for patient use, were also preserved and converted into museum structures. The museum contains many original artifacts from the hospital, and stresses the spread of awareness and education about mental health diseases. From the Porirua Hospital Museum

"The main aims of the Society are:

-To ensure the continued survival and ongoing management of the Porirua Hospital Museum in the immediate future and to promote its further development.

-The promotion of understanding of mental health and services for those with mental illness and disability.

-The collection, preservation and presentation of materials relevant to the history of the hospital, its place in the development of Porirua City and of mental health services.

-The preservation of the Porirua Hospital Museum buildings and the site on which they stand."

Images of Porirua Psychiatric Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Porirua Psychiatric Hospital


  1. Proirua Hospital Museum and Resource Centre Trust. 2011. Accessed October 22nd 2013.


Porirua Hospital Museum