Established in 1887, the psychiatric hospital in Porirua has had a significant influence on the life of the city. In the early 1880s, the government decided to move Wellington’s mental health-care facility from the site now occupied by Government House to a rural setting in Porirua. This, it was thought, would protect patients from public curiosity, and give them plenty of fresh air and exercise from working on the hospital farm. The hospital would also gain a measure of self-sufficiency.
The hospital grew to become the largest in New Zealand, and the largest employer in the Porirua area. In 1904, it had 612 patients; by 1925, there were 1,261.
Sporting and social clubs soon grew to cater for the needs of the staff, which numbered 62 in 1905. The Mental Hospital Football Club was established in 1906, and cricket soon followed. In 1908, a local pundit reported that “the wicket at the Mental Hospital grounds at Porirua is as fine a one as he has ever seen, being beautifully level, and with a fine body of grass on it. If town players want to enjoy a game they cannot do better than take the Porirua lads on at their own ground.”
A bowling club was established in 1921. Like the cricket club, the bowling green catered for patients as well as staff. Sport was considered therapeutically important, and was seen as particularly valuable for the rehabilitation of the hundreds of damaged men and women who returned from the Great War.
By 1926, the year this photograph was taken by Crown Studios, the Porirua Hospital Association Football Club was a major force in the Wellington competition. The team reached the semi-finals of the Chatham Cup in the same year, losing to North Shore at the Basin Reserve. They would go on to win the cup in 1935.
The club became the Western Suburbs Club in 1956 and, after a couple of name changes in the 1970s and 1980s, it continues under that name today. Western Suburbs won the Chatham Cup again in 1971 and in 2006.