A collector’s paradise inside a former lunatic asylum
How would you fancy a toy baby dressed in a demonic-looking rabbit suit? Or an original 19th century Tasmanian prison door? What about a 1920s hair salon chair, complete with pull-down hairdryer enclosure? And if that's not odd enough, how about buying it from the former nurses' accommodation of an historic mental asylum?
You just want to cuddle this adorable creature, don't you? Hmm.
If your tastes rival that of Wednesday Addams, or if like Lydia from Beetlejuice, you would describe yourself as "strange and unusual", you'll probably raise one of those black, drawn-on eyebrows of yours in interest at Monkey Morf Antiques and Such. It's housed at the Nurses' Quarters at the former New Norfolk "lunatic asylum", half an hour west of Hobart. If it's weird, beautiful or slightly sinister, you can bet your copy of Flowers in the Attic you'll find it here.
Sure, it looks innocent enough from the outside...
The nurses who once lived here were staff at none other than what was once possibly the largest "lunatic asylum" in the southern hemisphere. Willow Court and Royal Derwent Hospital was originally conceived as a hospital in 1827 for infirm and lunatic convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land (the original name for Tasmania), but quickly became the New Norfolk Insane Asylum – for anyone deemed to be deserving of being placed under lock and key due to mental impairment.
The history of Willow Court is at times not particularly pretty, and quite unbelievably, only closed down in 2001. The site has been subject to vandalism and arson, and many believed it is haunted. These days, major renovation and restoration works are underway, and the former buildings are now being occupied by boutique stores such as Monkey Morf.
The nurses no doubt needed a stiff drink after work.
Run by creative Scottish lad Rufus Offor, Monkey Morf is an artistic, creative and sensitive re-use of the former nurses' accommodation into something really pretty special. The store uses all 17 of the rooms inside the house, and each has a theme – including the retro room, the kitchenware room, and the clothing room. They're all full of treasures and gems. Screaming baby pepper shakers, anyone?
So what exactly will you find here? Teapots, strange and odd lampshades, stunning French chez lounges, wedding dresses, up-cycled furniture, 19th century pill jars, jewellery – anything and everything you could want to make your living environment unique, beautiful, and just a little weird.
No doubt you won't be able to leave Monkey Morf without a pinball game or a frightful laughing clown ornament. But part of the beauty of this place is the building itself – the Nurses' Quarters is an example of Federation architecture, built in 1911. It's red brick with sandstone foundations, a number of chimneys, and a blackwood staircase. The nurses who lived here were often close friends and had plenty of stories of their own.
Some of the girls who lived and worked at Willow Court from days gone.
Tread gently on the memories of misfortune in this somber place.
There was nothing endearing about this hospital's past.
As a medical student in the late 1980's we observed broken lives in our study of psychiatry.
Exercise humility and respect rather than sensationalize peoples suffering.