About

MAYDAY HILLS MENTAL HOSPITAL

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin

Over the past centuries mental illness has been “hidden” and earlier generations didn’t want the stigma or shame of having madness in the family. Newer generations are keen to understand the circumstances of their family members and find out what happened in their lives and seek to connect by visiting places where their relatives lived and died.

Mayday Hills hospital has been an iconic presence in the North East Victorian community for more than 150 years, closing in 1995. Even after its closure as an asylum and mental hospital the stories from its history and its folklore continue to have an impact on how community members view and remember the physical space of Mayday Hills.

This website was started with a seed grant from Telematics Trust and provides virtual tours through the grounds of Mayday Hills and the Beechworth Cemetery.

About Mayday Hills


Snapshot

721

Patients (1968)
At Mayday Hills

348

Staff (1968)
At Mayday Hills

10,326

Patients (1968) across all Victoria mental institutions

WHAT IS SIGNIFICANT?

The Mayday Hills Hospital was initially constructed as the Beechworth
Lunatic Asylum between 1864 and 1867 by contractor Abraham Linacre probably to the design of Public Works Department architect JJ Clark. The buildings from this early period are cement rendered, one and two storeyed Italianate structures set within what is now an extensive parkland containing mature exotic and native trees and remnants of the original encircling ha-ha wall. The main asylum building features typical covered walkways and airing courts. The detached cottages which were constructed in the 1880s have enclosed courtyards. The nurses’ quarters and the ward now known as Turquoise were built to the design of Public Works Department architect Percy Everett in 1936. In the post-war era the treatment of the mentally ill underwent radical change and many buildings were added to the hospital and earlier buildings modernised. Despite this, the hospital displays a high degree of physical integrity and is in generally good condition.

HOW IS IT SIGNIFICANT?

Mayday Hills Hospital is architecturally, historically, socially and aesthetically important to the State of Victoria.

Mayday Hills Hospital is historically and socially important for its physical manifestation of the changing approaches to the treatment of mental illness in Victoria

WHY IS IT SIGNIFICANT?


Mayday Hills Hospital is architecturally significant as a particularly fine example of an extensive complex of Italianate asylum buildings dating from the 1860s, and in the case of the cottages, the 1880s. The design is based on the influential asylum at Colney Hatch in England and, in common with other contemporary institutions notably Willsmere in Kew and Aradale at Ararat, displays key characteristic features such as the E shaped plan of the main administration, kitchen and dormitory block with its airing courts, covered walkways, as well as the gatehouse, mortuary and ha-ha wall. The restrained design of the 1860s buildings is attributed to the important Public Works Department architect, JJ Clark.

Mayday Hills Hospital is historically and socially important for its physical manifestation of the changing approaches to the treatment of mental illness in Victoria from institutional confinement to treatment and rehabilitation, and from barracks, through cottages to wards. Beechworth was a key component in a system of nineteenth century asylums which included those at Kew and Ararat. The Mayday Hills Hospital has been crucially important in the social history of Beechworth and has, along with the gaol, contributed significantly to the economic viability and survival of this historically important town. Its size and prominent siting have had an important and long lived social and economic impact on the town and region.


Mayday Hills Hospital is aesthetically important for the beauty of its
picturesque setting on a prominent hill among extensive parklands made up of native and introduced trees and shrubs. The curved drive with its avenue of large oaks is particularly noteworthy.


Source
Former Mayday Hills Hospital, Conservation Management Plan Review. Lovell Chen, Architects & Heritage Consultants.

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