Bedlam - Beechworth Lunatic Asylum c1878 - The HDR Experience

Philip Johnson

Newport Beach, Australia

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Beehworth is located in the historic gold mining area of the Australian State of Victoria

Beechworth Hotel, built in 1876 and largely intact, was once Beechworth Lunatic Asylum. All it took to be classified a lunatic was to refuse or be unable to answer a judge’s or police sergeant’s questions!

A story is told of a 11 year old boy who was sentenced to the Asylum, he died there at the age of 84 !

The asylum was later renamed Mayday Hills Hospital and operated as one of country Victoria’s major asylums until 1995. A walk around the property has 15 interpretative sign boards providing historical facts.

It is now a campus of La Trobe University, run as a hotel and conference centre. Its magnificent gardens date to 1878, the result of the hard work of landscape gardener John T Tozer and inmates of the asylum. Improvements were undertaken in 1912 and again in 1930 when many exotic shrub and tree species were planted. Some of its native eucalypti are believed to be over 200 years old and one 55-metre Douglas fir is the tallest tree in the garden. Extensive plantings of rhododendrons and azaleas have thrived. The Grand Oak drive is one of the garden’s most outstanding features.

At its peak the asylum that dates back to 1867, held 1200 patients. More then 3000 people died within it’s 3m- high walls. Some died peacefully, but there are others, like the women thrown from one of the towers by her fellow patients, that haunt the imagination and, according to one visitor, the main building.

This picture shows the Women’s block, which is closed due to the state of the building, which still has the original cells.

Ghost tours are run of this site by lantern light well worth the expense

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