Frequently Asked Questions

One of the display boards
Q. Is J Ward accessible for people with disabilities?

A. Yes. But it should be remembered that J Ward is an historic building and this subject was not much considered in the early days. Many successful tours have been conducted for people in wheelchairs, but the normal entrance is via steps. If this is a difficulty arrive early and ask for assistance, other entrances will be made available. Some people choose to avoid the stairs into the underground kitchen when on tour. Nor is it necessary to climb to the upper gallery to get a full appreciation of J Ward. If a group booking is being made for people with disabilities please advise us at the time and we can tailor the tour to your needs.

Q. Who was the oldest patient at J Ward?

A. There seems to be little doubt that Mr. Bill Wallace was the oldest patient. He died not long before his 108th birthday.

Q. Who was the longest serving patient at J Ward?

A. This one is a little harder, strangely enough we know it was not Bill Wallace, he was here 64 years. Charles Fossard came to J Ward in 1903 (aged 21 years). He died in the parent hospital (Aradale) 19/6/74 aged 92. He was therefore held for 71 years but perhaps not all of that time was at J Ward itself. The Friends of J Ward do not have access to detailed patient records, even if they still exist.

Q. How old was the youngest patient at J Ward?

A. We are aware of two patients who were twelve years old when they first came here. It is possible that these men are still living and they will not be named here to protect their privacy. One of these lads was sent to J Ward because he had escaped from every other institution in Victoria.

Q. How many men were hanged at Ararat's J Ward?

A. This is a question that we are often asked during school tours. The answer is simple. No men were hanged at J Ward. J Ward was a hospital ward to treat the Criminally Insane and as barbaric as some people think the place was, sick people are not and never were put to death in the state of Victoria. However, the complex started its life as the Ararat County Gaol and three men were hanged here in those days. Their bodies are buried in un-consecrated ground within the walls of the complex.

After 27 years as a goldfields prison known as the Ararat County Gaol between the years 1861-1886, the building which became known as J Ward was converted by the Lunacy Department to house the criminally insane operating from 1887-1991.