J Ward at Ararat, Victoria

J Ward 6

We recently visited J Ward at Ararat, a former jail and mental asylum which now operates as a museum.

Ararat is a small town in western Victoria, which was founded in a gold rush in the 1850’s. Soon after the gold rush began, a prison was required, so the original blue stone facility was erected and opened in 1861. The jail only operated for about twenty years, because the gold in the area ran out. In that time, three prisoners were hung at the gaol.

J Ward 3

The facility became a prison for the criminally insane  as part of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum. It became known as J Ward.

Not all of the occupants were criminals, although they all had good reason to be there. Some of the stories of the occupants and their crimes are harrowing.

J Ward 4

The picture above shows an example of graffiti on the bluestone walls which was done by an unknown artist.

The photos above show the stairs and the old kitchen. Ghost tours and overnight stays are also held at J Ward, with some people sensing a presence on the stairs. I didn’t.

Ken, who guided our tour, was knowledgeable and told some great stories. J Ward closed in 1991, so some of the occupants had ‘made the news’ in fairly recent history. The issues of mental health were treated by Ken, as a Friend of J Ward, with a great deal of respect.

J Ward 5

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  1. eastrichardson5

     /  November 16, 2019

    I have a friend who was an “‘old boy” during its asylum period. He lives in Geelong nowadays and has some (disinterested) fascinating memories of the place.

  2. eastrichardson5

     /  November 20, 2019

    He (Geoff) has lots of information about his asylum days but unfortunately you have to drag it out of him. He’ll tell about it but is not interested. I was much amused by his story of an old bloke there who had only one eye (the other had been destroyed in an assault by another patient). This one-eyed chap became something of a guard dog, sitting outside the office door watching the yard. He actually alerted staff when Geoff tried to go over the wall.

    I’ve passed the place a few times (Ballarat — Horsham) with Geoff and taken photos of him there.

    I’m stuck with three user names at present, eastrichardson5 courtesy of Gravatrar (in order to comment on the cars), Robert Alan Hayden (to comment on Whispering Gums – and actually my real name), and RH (which I’ve used for years, mainly on a blog called Copperwitch). I’ve recently made a brief return to Copperwitch after a long absence. She’s a lovely old bird, rather disabled due to age and being overweight, but her wit is marvellous! My recent comments there as well as those in the deep past would probably serve as a pretty good “About Me”.

    • That is a funny story Not surprised your friend doesn’t want to talk about his time there, sometimes it’s better to live in the present. I haven’t read Copperwitch’s blog, will look out for it.

  3. eastrichardson5

     /  November 21, 2019

    It doesn’t bother him, it’s just a matter of someone’s past being interesting to other people but not to themselves.


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