J Ward at Ararat, Victoria

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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.

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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.

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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.

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