Z Ward of Glenside Hospital was first opened in 1885 as the L Ward for Criminal Mental Defectives at Parkside Lunatic Asylum. Over time the name of both the hospital and the ward changed to Z Ward of Glenside Hospital. However its purpose was still to incarcerate mentally ill people who were a danger to themselves or the public.
After huge crowds attended the Open Days at Z Ward Glenside Hospital, the National Trust SA negotiated with new owners Beach Energy for extended access to the building before construction work was expected to begin in 2015. This has now been delayed, and tours are operating in the meantime.
Visitors can now choose a tour operated by the National Trust that suits their personal interests, and the Day Tours at Z Ward have become very popular. The Night Tours concentrate on paranormal investigations, and the Photography Lock-in provides an opportunity to photograph the building, but the Day Tours are focussed on telling the story of Z Ward and life within its walls.
Day Tours are led by tour guide David Buob who worked at Glenside Hospital for many years and has an exceptional depth of knowledge of his topic. and is also actively conserving its history as part of the Glenside Hospital Historical Society. He has a relaxed and casual approach to the tour as he guides groups around the Z Ward building and grounds. Visitors are encouraged to ask questions, and it's surprising how much one question leads to another.
David Buob smiled when I asked him this question - it seems to be one that he has also been asked. But he assured me that there is neither a tunnel or cellars under Z Ward. After all, why make it easier for inmates to escape? It seems that some people have confused the white ant traps cut into wooden floors as evidence of a cellar, but there is simply bare earth a couple of centimetres beneath.
However, there ARE tunnels underneath the original Administration Building of Glenside Hospital, and you can read about them here.
Another common question is about the stairway down to the unique ha-ha wall on the southern side of the grounds. Tour guide David explained that food was originally cooked in hospital kitchens near the main Glenside Hospital administration building and then brought to Z Ward. It was only in the mid twentieth century that a dining room was built just outside the Z Ward wall, and the stairs led into the dining room until it was demolished.
While patient confidentiality prevents personal details being discussed, Z Ward has many unique stories to be told. Daily life in this institution was very different from today, and the two hour Day Tours at Z Ward are a fun way to get a personal insight of how treatment of mental illness has changed over the years. There's also the chance to wander off and explore on your own, but serious photographers should consider the Lock-in option if that's your interest.
All tours are scheduled on demand and new tour dates are advised in email updates on the Heritage Watch website. More Day Tours will be scheduled as required subject to access permission from Beach Energy. The tours cost $15 for adults and $5 for children (plus booking fee).