After nearly 130 years the public were finally allowed into Z Ward Glenside Hospital recently for the first time. The forbidding former asylum for criminal mental defectives proved to a major attraction, receiving around 6,000 visitors over two open days.
On the first open day the queue of people waiting to see Z Ward stretched 100 metres to Conyngham Street, and at one point almost as far as Greenhill Road. The second open day was a ticketed event and queues were kept to a minimum, although there was still a need to queue at times.
Architects and archaeologists, nurses and mental health professionals, photographers and fans of the paranormal, families and local residents all flocked to take advantage of the unique opportunity to peer inside the high ha-ha walls, explore cells, and hunt heritage graffiti. But with an average of three hundred people inside the building at any one time, it was difficult to capture the cells in solitary silence. No sooner did people pull out their cameras than somebody was already in the frame of their photo.
One visitor was able to use extremely long exposure photography quite creatively - by leaving the lens open for a long time most people passing the camera were not recorded, or only appear as a blur. The effect was quite interesting, and certainly generated some discussion online.
Unfortunately no more free open days for Z Ward will be organised by the National Trust of South Australia. The new owners (Beach Energy) have indicated that they plan to re-purpose Z Ward's interior for use as offices early in 2015, and the building will inevitably change in appearance then. In the interim however, Beach Energy have permitted National Trust SA to run paid tours before renovations commence.
There will be three types of paid tours on offer - a Photography Lock-in, history focused day tours, and night tours more suited to people with an interest in the paranormal. Income from the tours received by the National Trust will be used to produce oral histories from people who lived and worked in Z Ward Glenside.
The Photography Lock-in is aimed at serious photographers and videographers who wish to have access to an exclusive area within Z Ward, allowing them to take their time framing and shooting without interruption from others. Each Photography Lock-in session will be limited to 20 participants who will have sole access to Z Ward and its grounds for a maximum of two hours. The cost is $50 per person for each session, and tickets are available through Eventbrite.
At the time of writing the first Photography Lock-in is scheduled on Saturday November 22 from 4pm until 6pm, and more will be available if there is demand. There are limited facilities at Z ward, and you can find all you need to know about the tours on this page. The page also includes a link to the Eventbrite page to book a place on the tour.
To read more about the Glenside Hospital precinct and its colourful history, see this article.
If you would like more information about general heritage issues in SA, sign up for email updates at the National Trust SA's Heritage Watch website. The website is a growing resource for information about heritage in South Australia, and touches on other sites of historic importance including Fort Largs, and you can sign an online petition opposing the sale.