Mental health facilities guide

This guide describes the different types of patient records available and where to access them. It also provides a brief history of mental health care administration.

Mental health care terminology

Past terminology

You will notice terms such as 'asylum''lunatic''lunatic asylum' and 'mental hospital' are used in both the records and in our finding aids. These are terms that were used when the records were created.

Mental health care

Mental health care involves assessing persons believed to be mentally ill and providing them with appropriate treatment in hospitals, community housing or while remaining members of the community.

Care for the infirm and destitute

The NSW Government has also managed the care of the poor and infirm, who were not mentally ill. Asylums, hospitals and homes were built to house and care for them. For records of people cared for in these institutions and how to access to them please see the Infirm & destitute asylums guide.

Brief History of the administration of mental health care

In 1811 the NSW government established what was known as a 'lunatic asylum' in Castle Hill for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. The facility moved to Liverpool in 1825. The first purpose built institution for the mentally ill was opened at Tarban Creek (Gladesville) in 1838.

After 1838 and until 1876 the government managed several mental health care establishments in an unregulated manner. In 1876 an Inspector of Mental Hospitals was appointed to coordinate and regulate the conduct of the hospitals.

A Master In Lunacy was appointed in 1879 as an officer of the Supreme Court to determine whether persons were mentally ill and to make arrangements for the care of the mentally ill and their affairs.

From 1811 up to the latter part of the 20th century, institutional care in specialised hospitals was the primary means of service delivery. From the 1970s onwards, this progressively gave way to a focus on community-based care, and greater use of psychiatric units in general hospitals.

Mental health facilities

We hold records of patients of the following State managed mental health facilities.

Agency No.
Mental Health Facility
Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic (No.13 Auxilliary Military Hospital)
Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic
6362 [not published in catalogue]
Orange (Bloomfield Mental Hospital)
69 and 1836
Callan Park Mental Hospital
Temporary Hospital for the Insane, Cooma
Reception House, Darlinghurst
Kenmore Mental Hospital
Gladesville Mental Hospital (formerly Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum)
Lunatic Asylum, Liverpool
Morisset Hospital
Newcastle Psychiatric Hospital
Newcastle Psychiatric Hospital Reception House
Parramatta Psychiatric Centre
Peat and Milson Island Hospital
Rydalmere Psychiatric Centre
Stockton Mental Hospital, and
Bay View House Tempe

Note that many records of mental health facilities are incomplete.

Using the catalogue to find record series

Records of individual facilities

For further information about our holdings you can consult our catalogue (Tip: use the Agency links in the table above for quick access).

You can also search for the Function 'Health'. The information provided includes a list of agencies exercising that function.

Records listed under 'Inspector General of Mental Hospitals'

As well as records of individual facilities, we also hold records of the Inspector General of Mental Hospitals (see under Agency No. 60 in our catalogue).

Typical records of mental health facilities

Control records


Indexes are arranged alphabetically by the name of the patient. Records that have been indexed include registers of patients, admission books and medical case books.

Registers of patients and admission books

These volumes are arranged chronologically and generally give the following details: date of last previous admission (if any); number on register; number for the year; date of admission; name; sex; age; social condition; number of children; occupation; nativity; residence; religion; form of mental disorder; supposed causes of insanity; insane relations; previous attacks; duration of existing attack; age at first attack; date of discharge; if recovered, relieved, not improved or died; time in hospital; observations; bodily disorders; suicidal tendencies, etc.

Registers of discharges, removals and deaths

These volumes are arranged chronologically by date of death, discharge or removal of patients. Details given include: date of last admission; number in Register of patients; name in full; if recovered, relieved, not improved or died; assigned cause of death; age at death; and observations (eg. transferred to another hospital etc.).

Case papers/medical case books/admission files

Admission files

These papers give details of patient's name, occupation, place of abode, date of admission, age, marital status, native place, religious persuasion and a brief outline of case history up to the time of admission - previous admissions, insane relations, doctors' and relatives' observations on the patient's behaviour. Some files also include correspondence, eg. letters from other institutions noting transfer and letters to the hospital from relatives concerning belongings, visiting, etc.

Case papers

These files provide a record of a patient's treatment. They contain such information as admission and discharge details; a medical summary; progress notes; behaviour and treatment records; test results, personal effects lists and correspondence.

Medical case books

Entries in these volumes are arranged chronologically by date of admission. The patient's physical and mental condition before, and at the time of admission, is described and the final entry for each case notes whether the patient was discharged, transferred to another hospital or died. Other details given include: age, weight, social condition, number of children, occupation, nativity, residence, religion, form of mental disorder, supposed cause, duration of attack, previous attacks, date of last admission (if any), treatment and summary of medical certificate. Notes are then made at irregular intervals on a patient's behaviour and condition while he remains in the hospital.

Colonial Secretary's papers

There are no surviving registers of patients for Castle Hill Lunatic Asylum (1811-1825), however there are numerous references to patients being admitted to the asylum in the Index to Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825.

There are references in the Colonial Secretary's correspondence to patients being admitted to mental health facilities during the 19th century, after 1825. Documents include warrants of admission. The Colonial Secretary's correspondence can be accessed using the indexes and registers and Joan Reese's Index to Convicts and Others.

Records held elsewhere

A number of State managed mental health facilities have not transferred all their records to NSW State Archives. These facilities include Bloomfield Hospital at Orange, Stockton Hospital at Newcastle and Kenmore Hospital near Goulburn. If the records are found not to be part of the State Archives Collection we will refer you to the appropriate agency to make further enquiries.


Patient-identifying records more than 110 years old are Open to Public Access (OPA). You can access the records in the reading room.

Patient-identifying records are Closed to Public Access (CPA) for 110 years

NSW Health has made an access direction that closes all patient identifying records. The direction includes records of NSW run mental health facilities.

Find out how to obtain access to closed records.

Plans of mental health facilities

This plans is from NRS 4335 - plans, elevations, sections and details of public buildings such as police stations, court houses, gaols, government offices and schools.