Sydney Architecture Images-The Inner West

Callan Park former lunatic asylum, now Sydney College of the Arts


James Barnet  and Dr. F. Norton Manning


Callan Park, Lilyfield Road, Lilyfield




Victorian Italianate




Government asylum
The only known Aboriginal sites within Leichhardt, eight altogether, are located in two areas: at Callan Point within the grounds of Rozelle Hospital, and at Yurulbin Point's parts of the municipality's natural shoreline that have remained largely undisturbed. Evidence of whatever other sites existed has been destroyed by extensive reclamation of the shoreline and development. The five sites identified at Callan Point are shell middens in sheltered areas close to the water's edge where groups camped or stopped for a meal. These middens which, like other sites in Port Jackson, contain rock oysters, cockles, mussels and Terrebralia shells, have been dated at about 4,500 years old. The three other sites have been identified on private land at Yurulbin Point. Two are midden sites located under rock overhangs, and the other is an art site with hand stencils and a charcoal outline of a shark.
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Garry Owen Estate

Callan Park was initially a combination of purchases by Crown Solicitor and Police Magistrate John Ryan Brenan. In 1839 he bought what he then named the Garry Owen estate. 

His residence, Garry Owen House, built about then and possibly designed by Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis, was on an elevation overlooking the Parramatta River, with a tree lined avenue (part of which survives) from wrought iron gates on Balmain Road through spacious gardens. In 1841, Brenan bought an additional three acres west of his estate and built Broughton House, which he sold with its extensive grounds in 1845. 

For many years, Garry Owen was a focus for social life in the area until Brenan's bankruptcy in 1864 forced him to sell the estate to Sydney businessman John Gordon. Gordon renamed the property Callan Park, and in 1873 subdivided the land for auction as a new waterfront suburb.

The beginning of Callan Park Mental Hospital

Instead, with remarkable foresight, the Colonial Government bought the whole 104.5 acres as a site for a new lunatic asylum to be designed according to the enlightened views of the American Dr Thomas Kirkbride.

Colonial Architect James Barnett worked in collaboration with Inspector of the Insane Dr Frederick Norton Manning to produce a group of some twenty neo-classical buildings, completed in 1885 and subsequently named the Kirkbride Block, offering progressive patient care.

Built of sandstone mainly quarried on site, the buildings have slate roofs, timber floors, and copper down pipes. Spacious rooms lead to verandahs linking several courtyards. The verandahs are supported by hundreds of cast iron columns acting as down pipes for water which is fed into an underground reservoir.

Architecural Masterwork

Dominating the complex is a venetian clock tower with a ball which rises and falls according to the water level of the reservoir. Essential to testament was the calming influence of natural beauty and pleasant parklands, designed by Director of the Botanic Gardens, Charles Moore.

Further landscaping in the 1890's included the planting of palms and and rainforest trees, and the conversion of an informal pond to the curious sunken garden, which although waterless, survives.

Present day Callan Park

The Kirkbride complex continued to be used for patients until 1994 when the last remaining services were transferred to other buildings in the expansive grounds, towards the Broughton Hall (southern) end of the site. After massive renovations, the Sydney College of the Arts took possession in 1996.

The historic sandstone buildings and linking courtyards have been beautifully restored and new occupants provide an illustration of sympathetic use of a heritage complex. Some of the other historically significant buildings on the Callan park estate were not so fortunate, being allowed to fall into disrepair after being vacated.

Garry Owen House

John Brennan's Garry Owen House was also used by Callan Park patients for many years and later became a nurses training School.

It too had undergone extensive internal and external refurbishment and now houses the NSW Writer's Centre. Although many alterations were made over the years, enough of the original 2-storied Greek Revival House remains to make one of the most important heritage buildings in the municipality.

Broughton House 

Sadly Broughton House has not fared so well. A two-storey Georgian house with circular drive, it was built in 1842 and is the sole survivor of three grand houses in this precinct. It had several owners after being sold by John Brenan in 1845.

From 1864 to 1905, Broughton House and nearby Kalouan (demolished in 1932) were the family homes of Sydney businessman John Keep. 
The house became a 20 room mansion, called Broughton Hall by its owner, and extensive pleasure gardens surround both houses.

Annadale timber merchants William and Frederick Langdon bought the combined properties in 1912, and in a patriotic response to the Anzac casualties of 1915, offered the site as a convalescent hospital for shell-shocked soldiers. 

Broughton Hall functioned as No. 13 Australian Army Hospital until 1921 when it became NSW's first psychiatric clinic for voluntary patients. The founder was Dr Sydney Evan Jones who developed a leading teaching hospital and incorporated the existing 25 acres of lawns, fish ponds, and summer houses into his landscaped therapeutic gardens.

Broughton House underwent many additions and functions until it was vacated in 1978, two years after Broughton Hall psychiatric clinic amalgamated with the adjacent Callan Park Mental Hospital to form the Rozelle Hospital. Current theories on mental health have resulted in under-funding for institutional care, leading to the gradual closure of wards, vandalism and fire damage of Broughton House, and serious neglect of the heritage gardens.

About Callan Park

The Rozelle Hospital site in Sydney's inner west is 61 hectares of exceptionally beautiful, undulating waterfront parkland, preserved by historical accident, but still under threat despite the Callan Park Act being put in place late 2002.

Its legal owner, the NSW Department of Health, is continuing a long process of closing or shifting the hospital's services, with a planned close date of 2005. In the meantime many of the buildings and the heritage gardens are undergoing demolition by neglect. Hence the need for a Callan Park Trust.

The site incorporates many layers of archaeological, Aboriginal, historical, cultural, aesthetic, and environmental heritage. It contains many heritage buildings, including the original houses (1839 and 1842) of the two estates on which it is based; and the magnificent Kirkbride Block, completed in 1885 for the Callan Park psychiatric hospital (now the campus of Sydney College of the Arts).

The community, through the Friends of Callan Park, is campaigning to have the psychiatric hospital services maintained there, and the whole site formally dedicated as a multi-purpose metropolitan regional 'working park'.

Callan Point 

Callan Point on Iron Cove is one of many beautiful heritage sites which branch off from the Parramatta River. 

Before western colonisation the area was an abundant food source for the Eora people. Although there is no physical remaining evidence of aboriginal cultural production at Callan Point, shell middens found in the area suggest the Eora people had found an ideal site in Callan Point.

During colonial times Callan Point was busy with sea traffic. Remaining rock carvings (not aboriginal) seem to reflect events that occured from the late 1800's through to the early 1900's. The carvings suggest the passing of many cultures through Callan Point.

Since the construction of the Iron Cove Bridge taller ships have been unable to access the area. 

Special thanks to 


Services for people with a mental illness have been provided on the Rozelle Hospital site since 1876.    Rozelle Hospital was formed in 1976 from the amalgamation of Callan Park Hospital and the Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic.

The History of Rozelle Hospital is in tandem with the historical, social and political context of the mentally ill of a new colony and the progressive maturity of a nation. The progressive changes between 1870 and the present day evidence this maturity as social attitudes gradually changed towards the care and treatment of the mentally ill.

In the early days of the colony the mentally ill were incarcerated in gaols or convict hospitals as no distinction was made between deviancy and illness. As time progressed in the colony an attitudinal change occurred and there was a determined effort to provide decent conditions and treatment for the mentally ill. The administrative policy of the day saw the need for purpose built lunatic asylums in order for the people to be treated, at the very least, humanely as distinct from convicts and social deviants.  

The State Government purchased the site, then known as “Callan Estates” in 1873 with the express purpose of building a large psychiatric hospital to ease the severe overcrowding at the Gladesville Psychiatric Hospital. The proposal was met with some opposition from the local residents as the land, some 100 acres in area, had originally been advertised for sale as a residential subdivision.

In 1876, Garry Owen House, the original homestead on the site was used to accommodate the first patients at the new hospital. This building is now the NSW Writer’s Centre. 

The fine group of sandstone buildings on the site was officially opened in 1884. These buildings, known as the ‘Kirkbride Block’ were named after the eminent American, Dr William Kirkbride who was renowned for his pioneering work on progressive mental health care. The buildings were originally designed to accommodate 666 patients however, by 1890 the hospital was seriously overcrowded with a total of 1078 patients. A further group of buildings were built around the turn of the century close to the Kirkbride buildings to ease the overcrowding problem.

The hospital grew in stature, and in 1900 the hospital was ranked as one of the finest institutions in the Commonwealth for the housing and treatment of persons suffering from mental disorders.

Following the end of the First World War, a further six wards were built on the lower part of the site near the foreshore to accommodate war veterans with mental disorders.

By 1955, severe overcrowding and poor building stock was again an issue and in 1961, around the time of the Royal Commission into Callan Park, there were some 1,750 patients in residence.

In 1915, the Langdon family placed their 24 acre estate known as, Broughton Hall at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government to accommodate wounded soldiers and those suffering “shell-shock” from the First World War.

With the building of the war veteran’s accommodation at Callan Park, these functions were transferred to Callan Park in 1920 and Broughton Hall became a psychiatric clinic for people seeking mental health services but who were not certified under the Mental Health Act. The clinic provided accommodation for around 100 patients in addition to running a large outpatient clinic.                                        

A number of new buildings were built on the site during the early 1920’s and a day hospital and teaching complex was completed in the early 1960’s.

As a result of the 1961 Royal Commission’s enquiry into certain matters affecting the hospital additional wards were built on the site and the high brick fences around the site were removed in an attempt to ‘de-institutionalise’ the hospital.

In 1976 Callan Park amalgamated with Broughton Hall to form Rozelle Hospital. Rozelle Hospital has continued its services through the intervening years up to the present day in these historic buildings.  Rozelle with its long and rich history has provided  a milieu of progressive learning in treatment and care of the mentally ill with which it can be justly proud.