Mayday Hills Hospital/Beechworth Asylum
is a major part of Australia's history of mental health treatment.
Opened in 1867, the facility of many dozen buildings, large and small, has had a series of owners since the Victorian State Government first sold it in 1997 to La Trobe University.
It is currently privately owned by a number of entities. Asylum Ghost Tours, aka Geoff and Dawn Brown, own, or are responsible for, approximately 6,000 square metres of the facility. The ages of these buildings vary, with the massive, two-storey women's ward and the even larger Bijou Theatre/Store/Recreation Hall both dating back to the 1860s. All the buildings Geoff and Dawn are responsible for are historically, aesthetically, socially, and culturally vital to the State of Victoria and to Australia as well.
Right now, most of the profit from the tour business, after expenses, goes into doing much-needed repairs to the buildings. But it just isn’t enough.
Through your help and generosity, we hope to raise vital funds necessary to help stabilise, repair, and restore the buildings as quickly as possible, before the damage becomes too significant. If we don’t act now, we could lose some of the buildings’ unique features that are simply irreplaceable. Worst case scenario? We lose the buildings entirely, which would be a significant blow to the heritage of Victoria.
The women’s ward in particular is a unique example of a complete 19th Century ward system, and is unlike any other building in Australia. It is too important to allow to fall into ruin.A unique site of national importance
When Geoff and Dawn first decided to accept guardianship of the beautiful facility, it was always their intention to stop the degradation of the buildings, keeping the history of this unique site alive. The trouble is, the project is just too big to be able to get it done in the way we first thought possible. The expenses have mounted up, including protecting the site from vandalism. It has been a massive undertaking simply securing the Bijou Theatre/Store area to the extent where it is safe. Although the Bijou had been partially refurbished in the 1940s and again in the late 1980s, we still need to stop water damage caused by poor drainage in the hospital’s extensive underground system. Key to this stage of the restoration is saving the stunning polished timber floor in the recreation hall, which is warping due to moisture retention under the building.Why does this matter to you?
The hospital is historically and socially important for the way it documents 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, it charts the history of how mental illness has been tackled through the ages. The hospital is 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. In short, it is a major tourist attraction due to its unique nature. And for those who want to discover more about their history and heritage, it’s a crucial link to the past, as well as a site of real character.
This importance, on so many levels, means the hospital is irreplaceable. To allow these buildings to be lost would be an unforgiveable act. But you can help us save this unique building for generations to come.Where will the money go?
100% of the funds raised by this project will be used to repair the rooves, the eaves and guttering, and the underground drainage of the women’s ward and the Bijou Theatre. This will stabilise the structures, and prevent any more water damage to the buildings.
It is vital this is done as soon as possible, to minimise the damage that the coming winter weather could cause. Every year, more and more damp attacks the buildings, and water soaks into the wooden and plaster areas, causing massive damage to the structure.Every cent counts
No matter how small the donation, every cent counts. Your help is vital to the survival of one of the most important buildings in Victoria, if not the whole of Australia. It also means that we can continue to open the doors of Mayday Hills to tours, so you can experience the unique atmosphere and historical importance of this remarkable building for yourself.Thank you!
We give you our promise that we will do our very best to ensure all funds raised are targeted at the most important aspects of stabilising the buildings. We’ll keep you updated on the success of the venture with regular reports and updates, as well as photos so you can see how your money is being spent.
We cannot do this without you. So will you help us save one of Australia’s most important historical sites?
Thanks for reading.
Geoff and Dawn Brown
Mayday Hills Hospital