Ararat Lunatic Asylum

Tours are conducted by a volunteer group of this now closed institution given the friendlier name of Aradale. Bookings are made at the Ararat Information Centre and I was just in time for the 2.00 tour on my way back from Natimuk.

You enter at the rear, so the support buildings are seen first. The asylum was established in 1867 along similar lines to those built in Kew and Beechworth. It was self sufficient with farm, market gardens, orchard, vineyard and piggery. Just about anyone who did not conform to social norms could be admitted to an asylum, from people with intellectual disabilities and the insane, to prostitutes, alcoholics, men struck with ‘gold fever’, and the depressed, the abandoned and the aged.

In front of the hospital building is an ancient peppercorn tree.

A rotunda still has its original shingles under the tin roof. The fever ward was designed for lots of fresh air.

This is how it looked in 1896. The administration building is connected to the wards to the left and right by arched walkways over the gates that lead to the many courtyards.

Inside the complex the dormitory wings connect via verandahs. Running beneath these and throughout the buildings are steam pipes that powered and heated everything. Large boiler houses kept it all running. Beneath the lawns are water tanks and the towers are really tanks as well.

Outside the gate the public area had beautiful landscaped gardens. The low wall on this side has a deep brick faced ditch on the other, presenting an unclimbable obstacle to those  inside.

It is a very interesting and challenging place to visit.



2 responses to “Ararat Lunatic Asylum

  1. These places seem to hold a lot of sadness. One of my aunts died at the age of 26 in an asylum. I don’t know what her official diagnosis was. She was involved with a married man before she was committed, and I wonder if that was the “insane” behaviour that lead to her being locked up.

  2. Jenni Strachan

    For such a sad and depressing place, the actual building is quite beautiful for that era.

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